Today’s media landscape evolves so quickly in terms of platforms, technologies and user preferences that it can be easy to overlook the tried-and-true vehicles that continue to deliver new audiences and monetization opportunities. But going into 2021, one of the longest-running staples of the digital publishing business is poised to play a bigger role than ever: the humble email newsletter.
Over the past year, the technological, cultural, societal and economic stars have aligned in ways that favor the well-understood simplicity and directness of newsletters, and publishers, journalists, influencers and brands alike are taking note. Let’s take a look at the key forces at play.
Publishers Need Greater Control Than Ever
Ever-shifting privacy legislation and major policy shifts among tech giants are driving a renewed focus on first-party data going into the new year. No longer can publishers stand by as social media and other third-party platforms serve as middlemen between them and their audiences, thereby retaining control over the knowledge of who these readers are and how best to connect with them. Nor can publishers rely on third-party datasets and technologies to find their readers across the greater digital landscape.
These days, publishers—and really any business that values staying connected with their audiences—must have a direct line to their readers. Enter the email address, which still embodies the most useful piece of personal data out there. Newsletters represent a simple, obvious value exchange whereby readers give a company permission to send them regular messages, in exchange for the information they find directly relevant to their lives. From there, deeper relationships can be forged in a privacy-compliant and infinitely controllable way.
Readers Are Exhausted by the Social Media Noise
2020 and its relentless onslaught of political and cultural turmoil exhausted consumers, and this exhaustion was felt most deeply within their daily social media feeds. Within these platforms, users wielded little control over the news and messages that clamored for their attention, and this lack of control piled on top of the already-out-of-control reality that many people felt they were living last year.
People’s email inboxes have proven to be a quiet place of media respite compared to the wider web—a place where they control what they receive and from whom. They have the ability to subscribe or unsubscribe, to open or not open, to read or not read. For publishers and brands, newsletters are the obvious entry point into this safe space for consumers—a place where they can be greeted as welcome visitors rather than hostile invaders.
Influencers Need a Direct Line to Fans
2020 and the years leading up to it also demonstrated the growing power that individual voices wield within our media spheres. At a time where everyone is shouting for attention, people are necessarily turning to a trusted few voices when it comes to how they consume their news, form their opinions and make their buying decisions. We see this most obviously within the influencer marketing space, where brand spend was projected to reach as high as $10 billion in 2020. But the importance of individual voices extends beyond celebrity and niche influencers to include trusted journalists and writers who are building their own circles of credibility. For these influencers, newsletters are proving to be an increasingly important way of connecting with their audiences, particularly given the growing cacophony within social media channels, where these individuals must also play. For influencers with a podcasting presence, newsletters can be a particularly effective complement.
Socially Conscious Brands Are Becoming Trusted Friends
It’s also worth noting that the notion of “influencers” is quickly expanding beyond the individual to encompass companies and brands—especially those that have expanded their missions beyond their own interests to connect on a deeper societal level. These days, consumers want to see their dollars going to support brands that believe in what they believe, and that support the causes they support. In fact, nine out of 10 consumers say they will go out of their way to do business with—and even pay a premium to—the companies that promote the values that matter to them.
For brands that are cultivating these types of relationships with their consumers, email newsletters are more than just a way to advertise their latest deals and products. They’re a way to stay connected on a deeper level, keep customers abreast of their social initiatives and get them involved in furthering their missions. In the coming months and years, their value to brands and customers alike will only grow.
In 2021, the media landscape is going to continue to witness upheaval on a number of fronts. In seeking to weather the storm, organizations mustn’t overlook some of the strongest tools in their arsenal just because those tools have been around for a while. Newsletters are having a moment right now—and for good reason. Publishers, influencers and brands alike must be sure they don’t miss it.