Why newsletters are the best form of social media: “You don’t have to fight an algorithm to reach your audience”

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2019/03/20/why-newsletters-are-the-best-f.html

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But is it really “social” if the communication is only one-way?


I would say “communication” not “social” media…


Kind of agree.

That kind of curated format avoids having to watch your super smart and successful friends turn into cranks online as they get older and more burned out from their careers.


Newsletters merge convenience of social media, the intimacy of a letter, and the depth of a blog post.

I started one just for the heck of it and I’m enjoying it.


They are also the Christmas letter nobody reads.


I read Jeff Strand’s newsletter every month. But then I enjoy both his humor and his books.

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I get way too much email. I really don’t want long form text in my inbox.


Fair enough. I know where you’re coming from; my inbox has over 5000 unread messages. Or is it 6000? (checks phone) 5701. I’m considering enacting a scorched earth policy to get it back to zero.

But, I do find the time to read that one, and occasionally a “Tedium” newsletter as well. Today’s was about plastic milk crates.

I guess it’s down to what you’re willing to/want to do. I just felt like it was biased for you to associate newsletters to something “nobody reads” and felt moved to point out that people do read them.

They might even read Christmas letters, although that’s not a tradition my family follows so I can’t say for sure.

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A Discourse instance (like this one) could serve as a substitute for a newsletter. You could (assuming the moderators allowed it) just start posting topics here under some common tag (your “Brand”) and start encouraging people to follow that tag.

If your musings became widely followed, you might gain moderator privileges. Then you would be able to do things like create a Group that people can join via email. It would act just like a newsletter in most respects at that point.

If it ain’t mimeographed it ain’t a newsletter.

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Some of us are old enough to remember when “social media” was not the only form of communication.

I don’t agree with the article. With newsletters you still have an algorithm to fight: the one classifying your mails as spam.

I have been responsible for managing newsletters the past 10 years. The letters were requested by the receivers and I could also contact some of them personally to find out directly what they thought of it.

I cannot really quantify it, but my feeling is that the vast majority of the mail never arrives. The majority of users use major email providers like google and these providers are financed by advertising. They simply classify as spam anything received from several accounts. It is their business to sell advertising, they have no incentive to deliver your mail.

Then, there is the user part. It has gotten better in the past 5 years but before that time a surprisingly high percentage of users would change mail every 6 months: lost passwords, virus trashed the computer, too much spam, you name it. I still have to deal with the users who give me a work mail and change jobs.

Last but not least, a surprisingly high percentage of users simply never read their mail. They will have something like 5000 unread messages and do not care. Some members of my family told me that, if I want to send them mail, I should phone, sms or facebook them to inform them that I sent mail or they would not check it. Really. My feeling is also that users below 25 simply do not use mail any more, unless applying for a job.

If Google Reader still existed we’d be doing all this via RSS rather than via email, right?

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I don’t think it has to be a long form text like those christmas letters you get from a distant family member you barely know. The best ones I get are from comic artists or musicians I’ve specifically signed up for… so i actually know when they put out something new or are doing an event. Like a couple images or headlines with a little bit of text and a link for more info. Those kind of emails I can quickly glance at and read closer if it’s something i wanna know more about. and dont feel bad about deleting if I’m not too.
(disclosure: I’m 41 years old so maybe I’m an out of touch old man now and have no idea what is trendy or even normal in media activity.)

What’s wrong with Christmas/New Year’s letters? Personally I prefer those over having to follow a Facebook feed. Something I can read in a couple of minutes that tells me everything I need to know about what happened to somebody over the past year – did they have a new kid? Did one of their kids graduate from high school? Did one of their parents get ill or die? Yes, I’d know all these things already among my close friends, but for the somewhat distant ones (people I used to live with in university, etc.), the yearly letter is ideal.

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on my mac devices I’ve found the “VIP” filter to be quite useful. I have actually added a couple newsletters I like receiving to that good list. and occasionally i look through the full email folder too to make sure I’m not missing something. My spam filters take care of the worst of it (although I cant seem to shake the recent “ive hacked your account and know your passord” scammers).
As far as unread emails. yeah I have thousands of them too. but that doesn’t mean much. most of those are things that i got the gist of from the subject line, knew i didn’t need to read them and didnt even bother to open or delete. That’s not the same as an important email I didn’t read.

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Part of the problem with “newsletters” for me is I see them as lead generators. “Get our free newsletter” usually means “Give us your email address so we can sell you stuff!”.