Why E-Mail Newsletters Won’t Die

/// Why E-Mail Newsletters Won’t Die

May 9, 2013  |  Blog

Paul Berry is trying to build the news engine of the future, but, like many online media pioneers, he’s finding he just can’t escape the grubby format first used more than 40 years ago, e-mail.

Berry’s baby, RebelMouse, is state of the art new media, mashing information from your Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Google+ accounts into a custom “social front page” on the web. But less than a year after launch, the company decided it needed “RebelAlerts;” still a social mashup, but sent out the good old fashioned way, over e-mail.

Today the company will deepen its three-week-old foray into e-mail by integrating into MailChimp, which sends newsletters on behalf of clients like e-commerce host Shopify and the TED conference. The idea is to make it easy to populate those newsletters by using RebelMouse to suck in content already shared on Facebook and Twitter.

“As much as we’re told e-mail isn’t sexy, no one sends more e-mail than Facebook or Twitter,” says Berry, the former chief technical officer of the Huffington Post. “And the reason they do is we’re all on e-mail and it brings you back” to the site that sent it.

Berry is hardly the first to try and exploit what one startup adviser recently called “a newsletter renaissance.” After buying flailing news aggregator Digg, New York internet conglomerate Betaworks launched an e-mail newsletter called Daily Digg to accompany the original website as part of a Digg relaunch, which has been well received. It also attached the Digg brand to news.me, a newsletter that has won plaudits for smartly plucking the best stories from your Twitter and Facebook streams.

“E-mail is having a resurgence as news reading habits, informed by Twitter and Facebook, evolve from pull to push,” says Jake Levine, Digg’s general manager. “Twitter and Facebook are both streams, products where you accept that you’ll miss certain things. An inbox is the complete opposite. Your job is to clear it out. If something is important to you, e-mail products are the one reliable way to make sure you’ll see it.”

(Disclosure: Wired’s parent company owns Digg competitor Reddit.)

The urgency of e-mail relative to social media and websites has also made it attractive for commerce-friendly media. Following the footsteps of publishers like Daily Candy and Gilt, New York’s Thrillist Media Group has built an eight-year-old e-mail newsletter touting cool entertainment destinations and products into a veritable retail empire that now includes a bloggy product-news website, an in-house e-commerce operation, and an online shopping club.

Thrillist should do between $75 million and $100 million in revenue this year, says CEO and co-founder Ben Lerer. And it will do so thanks in part to the more than 6 million e-mails it sends each day; last year, more than 1 billion e-mails were dispatched by Thrillist.

“E-mail is a very action-oriented medium in general,” says Lerer. “So the idea with our e-mails is you’re supposed to not just be amused and entertained but also to go and do something following your consuming of that content.”

Of course, there’s a limit to how much media people will allow to be pushed in their face via e-mail. As Lerer acknowledges, the wrong content can make an e-mail newsletter into “a product that is incredibly annoying.” But the right content can make the newsletter into a daily habit. And nothing excites a business like the chance to create a profitable compulsion.

Link: Why E-Mail Newsletters Won’t Die

Wired – Ryan Tate, Senior Writer

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