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

Discoverability Disadvantage

Newsletters are largely not indexed by search, and search makes up nearly ~30% of all publisher traffic. When publishers focus their newsroom talent around the production of a newsletter, they are already placing the content at a significant discoverability disadvantage.

Declining Usage

Despite significant investment in the medium, consumers are getting their news from email LESS AND LESS. Every year the Oxford Digital News Report comes out and I immediately flip to this chart below, anxious to see if there has been a sudden spike in email newsletter usage. But alas, every year usage is either flat or declining. In the past eight years, the medium has seen a 21% decline in overall usage as it relates to news.

Eroding Analytics

Apple’s mail app is the world’s most popular email client, and Apple’s push toward privacy has presented significant challenges…

Gmail’s Domination

Gmail, which is the world’s second most popular email service has started to present its own challenges. Gmail now aggressively sorts emails for many users into five categories automatically (Primary, Social, Promotions, Updates, Forums).

Our Inbox Is Hell

On a very practical level, nobody likes their email inbox. It is a mish-mashed collection of spam, notes, important information, and ephemeral communication.

So What Should We Be Doing?

We must divorce the message and the medium. Untethering the great content of newsletters from the crumby medium in which we’ve deployed them in. Doing this will be critical to making the newsletter format work.



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Matt Karolian

Matt Karolian


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