A project of Democracy Fund

April 19, 2017

So, You Want to Start an Email Newsletter? Five Reasons You Should


Creative Commons

Creative Commons


Editor’s note: For more resources about starting an email newsletter, don’t miss our guide to newsletters.  


Newsletters are booming. It seems like just about every news organization has one — or several — and VCs are lining up to invest in businesses like The Skimm, Axios, and The Hustle.

Email is not new. It was the first widespread mode of communication online. But rather than remaining stagnant, more than 40 years later people are innovating with the form and finding new ways to reach audiences. Here are five reasons you too should launch a newsletter.

1. Ownership

An email list is the only way to truly own your audience reach online. Twitter owns your Twitter followers. Facebook owns your Facebook friends. As social platforms face more pressure to turn a profit, they are raising that revenue by increasingly charging you to reach people who are already part of your audience – which when you think about it is hardly a desirable or sustainable model. You alone own your email list. And unlike social media, you can easily take your audience with you should you chose to move to another email platform.

2. Connection

Creative Commons image.

Building an email list gives you a very high return on investment. Consider this example:

Say you have 100,000 followers on Twitter. On average 2-3% of your audience (3,000 people) will see your tweet. Compare that to an email list of 100,000; where on average 20% of your subscribers (20,000 people) will open your email. Email is multiples more effective at connecting with your audience. It’s not manipulated by algorithms – it’s straightforward and dependable.

3. Data

One of the major ways modern email newsletters are unique is the combination of micro and macro level data they collect about your audience. On a macro level you can learn the age and gender distribution of your audience, who is on what social media platform, what signup sources produce/deliver the most engaged readers. On a micro level – you can look to see who opened your email, who clicked on links, and who forwarded to friends or even other listservs. You can observe the behavior and who exactly your reader is who is taking those actions. This data is an invaluable feedback loop; a constant market research tool.

4. Cross-Platform Compatibility

Technological advancement has made it fairly easy to leverage data from your email list on other channels, and vise-versa. You can segment out a group of your email list which is also on Twitter and email them with a targeted note. Or create a lookalike audience on Facebook based on data from your most engaged readers to better target your Facebook advertisements (don’t forget to make sure you choose the option to suppress advertising to your existing audience!).

5. Low Barriers To Entry

via Creative Commons

Some people think it’s expensive or complicated to start a newsletter. It’s not. Email service providers are inexpensive (many even have freemium models) and most integrate with other popular CMS services. Browser plugins and note taking apps can also help cut down the time it takes for you to compile content, write your newsletter, and check your links work before hitting send. As technology continues to advance the process of sending a quality newsletter is only going to get easier — if you know the basics.


Check Out Our Training On Newsletters

In our DigitalEd training , “How to Launch a Killer Newsletter,” we provide you an overview of what you need to know to launch an email newsletter. Which email service provider should you use? How do you avoid being marked as spam? Why isn’t your email easily viewable on mobile? What’s the right balance between design and content? Short term and long-term engagement? Which opens should you pay attention to? These are a few of the questions that we address. If you missed the live training, you can still follow this link to get an archived version of the training.


Daniela Gerson is an assistant professor at California State University, Northridge with a focus on community, ethnic, and participatory media. She is also a senior fellow at the Democracy Fund. Before that she was a community engagement editor at the LA Times; founding editor of a trilingual hyperlocal publication, Alhambra Source; staff immigration reporter for the New York Sun; and a contributor to outlets including WNYC: New York Public Radio, The World, Der Spiegel, Financial Times, CNN, and The New York Times. You can find her on Twitter @dhgerson

Jacque Boltik is a consultant, speaker, and educator at the forefront of the modern email newsletter resurgence. She helps clients develop and implement integrated digital strategies anchored in email that create sustainable competitive advantages through audience development and revenue growth. Formerly, Jacque was the Director of Strategy and Business Development at the L.A. Times where she created new revenue generating verticals for the U.S. and Asian markets – from orchestrating the launch of over a dozen high-quality newsletters, such as Essential California, to establishing a joint venture with Sohu Inc.

You can find more information on creating a newsletter at:

This piece was originally published by MediaShift, and republished with permission.