David Carr, media columnist for The New York Times, today wrote a column titled “For Email Newsletters, A Death Greatly Exaggerated.”
My first reaction was, “Thank goodness, since I’m paid to write an email newsletter.” My second reaction was, “Wait. Huh?”
For the past twelve years, I’ve written a morning email newsletter focused on the venture capital and private equity industries. It began with a few dozen readers and now has over 50,000 (being completely rebuilt from scratch a few years back, after I changed employers). For most of those years it has been profitable, in that my salary is its only substantial expense. If email newsletters were on the precipice of the Great Beyond, no one bothered to tell me, my readers or my advertisers.
Look, I get Carr’s point. Email isn’t as sexy as snaps, as trendy as tweets or as pretty as pins. In theory, it should have gone the way of Palm Pilots. But the reality is that email newsletters not only have persevered, but never were actually under threat. The fact that so many new ones are launching now only reflects widespread recognition of a model that has worked for more than a decade, rather than some sort of unexpected reclamation project.
Today’s email newsletters provide the same value propositions as they did at the outset: Direct opt-in delivery into an essential communication channel, without artificial layout or length restrictions determined by a third party. It is a responsive technology, where producers can enable interaction with consumers — minus the trolling risks of a website comment section. Content can be curation, long-form prose or anything in between. Email also can provide exclusivity to a much greater extent than can social media channels. Finally, email newsletter analytics are, in many cases, as good as you can get anywhere else on the web.
Moreover, when exactly is it that email itself is supposed to have died? Remember that Groupon, a $4.5 billion company, was founded in late 2008 using email as its exclusive media. Or two years ago, when Google announced that there were 425 million active Gmail accounts (or, put another way, more than 6% of the world population). Obviously not today, when email newsletters as “on the march” (as Carr writes).
Indeed, the death of email newsletters has been greatly exaggerated. In that there was no decline in the first place.
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