Newsletters in 2015

You told me newsletters are great, but all I see is a way to fragment my readership.

Twenty-fifteen started with a trend that was hard to ignore: newsletters were a big thing. I couldn’t for the life of me understand it, and perhaps I still don’t understand it, so I asked many of the people I know who run seemingly successful newsletters and they espouse how amazing they are. Each time I asked someone I felt like they looked at me with disbelief that I don’t see the way.

I heard:

  • you get more direct contact with people
  • people read them, unlike most posts
  • this way I have direct contact info for people when I want to sell something
  • they are hot
  • people really love them

It was just dumbfounding. I was encouraged to get one going. I was interested, but still fucking confused. I setup and took down a couple attempts before just tying the whole thing to my WordPress install and getting it setup with some inkling of a professional level.1

And since setting it up, almost 400 people have subscribed. I have no clue if that is good or not, but that’s the number. I’ve toyed with how and what I use the newsletter for and the best I’ve found is to pass most of my link lists posts off to it.

I’m still rather meh on newsletters in general.

I don’t buy into any of the things I was told about them before I started.

Engagement? Same as any well run blog.

Direct contact? Less than my website, I assume (still have no analytics here, but last I checked 400 is smaller than my average 20-30k monthly readers from when I last had stats).

I have no doubt that for certain people newsletters work really well, but I also think that had they established the newsletter as a simple blog to start with, it would have worked equally well. Likely even better, but that’s purely a guess on my part.

This is what I keep coming back to: people always tell me that paywalls are bad because they take away from potential readers. Your work now has a higher barrier of entry — is the argument I hear. Agreed, but at least on this site everything is free after two days and so really there are no barriers to entry long term. But there is, a major, barrier to entry with all newsletters and those are:

  • you have to sign up
  • you have to verify your email
  • you have to read your email

Forget about the first two, the last one should be the biggest fucking red flag to anyone. You have to read your email.

Think about that.

What is the biggest complaint that most people have? They hate email. They have too much of it. They never check it, etc, etc.

And yet newsletters are going to be helpful for writers and content makers? When they are just email, the thing people hate, and the thing people never check…

I just don’t buy it. And in trying it myself, I really don’t see it.

To me newsletters feel like creating a clique within your existing readership. Perhaps a good way to get an idea of how many people are super loyal, and thus willing to buy things from you, but not much good for anything else beyond that, unless you goal is hiding some of your work from all of your readership.

I don’t know what I will do with my newsletter. I’ll keep going as I have been for a couple more weeks, but that will likely be the end of it. And likely whatever I post in the newsletter will always be posted on the site.

The good news is, everything will be back on the site instead of in a walled off newsletter. And there really is no bad news because when I stop sending the newsletter I just stop sending it — nothing different you need to do.

Just don’t waste your time with newsletters — that’s my advice — because they make little sense, while blogs make far better sense for everyone.


Also published on Medium.


  1. The design of the newsletter sucks, but it’s hard as shit to get that looking good. Nothing like designing for the web.