newsletters publishing platform publishers paid content

Soon, we will no longer think about e-newsletters purely as distribution channels designed to generate traffic but instead as publishing platforms that allow up-close and personal access to the reader.

Over the past few years, newsletters were the distribution channel par excellence for many media outlets. Buzzfeed, the expert in generating web traffic, was one of the first to understand the value of the newsletter by putting together a team dedicated solely to creating multilingual newsletters.

Their strategy was so effective that by the end of 2017, The New Yorker (TNY) decided to poach Dan Oshinsky, Buzzfeed’s director of newsletters, to create their own department, their first devoted exclusively to producing newsletters. Since his arrival at TNY, Oshinsky has focused on improving internal synergies and performing A/B testing with audiences. As a result, his team launched improved formats that respond to the demands and needs of their market.

But TNY’s most interesting development is yet to come. This year, Oshinsky plans to create newsletters featuring exclusive content to gain subscribers rather than generating traffic (currently, about 12% of the traffic to the website comes from newsletters). Media outlets have started to realize that those receiving their newsletters aren’t only a fantastic source of traffic but are also more likely to subscribe to their publications. Newsletters allow for a much closer relationship with the reader by placing the writing at the center of the experience.

Paid Newsletters, on the Rise

Newsletters typically offer a carefully curated and ad-free selection of multimedia content, summaries, and analyses. It’s not surprising then that paid newsletters are on the rise, and that services like Substack and Revue that help writers create their own newsletters (and monetize them) are becoming very popular.

An example of a successful Substack newsletter is Sinocism, by Bill Bishop, which focuses on Chinese current affairs. This newsletter already boasts more than 50,000 subscribers, despite costing $15 a month. And, dear writers, there is also room for fiction in the newsletter world. US writer Mallory Ortberg recently launched The Shatner Chatner, also using Substack’s services, a newsletter that gives free rein to her imagination and wit, at a monthly cost of $5.

Newsletters seem to have evolved from a simple content distribution platform to a publishing one. Marketers should take note of this in the next few years, newsletter subscriptions will become more commonplace and a new source of revenue in the digital content sphere.