The collapse of the email newsletter is coming, long live the newsletter.

Email newsletters have been the darling of the digital media world over the past 3–4 years, but I’m increasingly concerned the industry has dramatically over-invested in the space.

The excitement about email newsletters came on the heels of a collapse in traffic from social, mainly Facebook, and the failure of the dreaded “pivot to video” movement. Publishers, twice burned by platforms, were on the hunt for a new digital play in a space they could own. To many, emails appeared to be the obvious next play, but this enthusiasm is misguided, here is why…

Discoverability Disadvantage

Declining Usage

Eroding Analytics

1. Analytics associated w/ open rates, etc are highly disrupted as iOS, iPadOS, and MacOS, block pixel tracking by default.

2. Apple introduced Hide My Email, which encourages users to provide publishers with a unique and disguised email address, making reconciliation with existing user data nearly impossible.

Gmail’s Domination

This optimizes the email experience away from newsletters.

Our Inbox Is Hell

Dumping the products of some of your most resource-intensive newsroom efforts into the wasteland of email inboxes is an outright silly thing to do.

So What Should We Be Doing?

If your newsroom is staffing up newsletters, put the damn newsletters on the front page of your site. Take an article template and format it appropriately for the newsletter content written for email — give it the benefit of SEO/social/internal tailwind.

Build newsletters into your apps! Instead of hitting send on email to compete with every other horrid thing making its way to your reader’s inbox, hit send on the push notification to readers to the experience. Substack is doing this wonderfully with their new app.

Lastly, if you are building a newsletter around a personality, promote access to the personality — not the thing they write, because they likely produce, and monetize, content in a spectrum of mediums.

As with all my medium posts, they’ve not been proofed or edited, please excuse any spelling or grammatical errors.



2018 Nieman Fellow @ Harvard. I make things happen on the internet for The Boston Globe &

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Matt Karolian

2018 Nieman Fellow @ Harvard. I make things happen on the internet for The Boston Globe &