Don’t Unsubscribe: Why You Should Care About Your Newsletter

October 28, 2016
- Longform
Author - Amy Jacobowitz

There are preconceived notions about newsletters, email blasts, whatever you want to call them. But there’s a truth that remains: they are a vital lifeline for your communication endeavors.

When used effectively, a newsletter isn’t a quick “swipe delete” on your phone in the morning, but an engaging tool with which your audience can learn about and become excited by your brand, delivered right to their inbox. It’s something we’ve personally seen grow brand affinity and engagement with the many newsletters we’ve designed, written, and distributed for our content clients.

There’s an everlasting principle that makes an outdated medium still relevant: convenience.

In a 2015 article for The New York Times, David Carr posited that “newsletters are clicking because readers have grown tired of the endless stream of information on the Internet, and having something finite and recognizable show up in your inbox can impose order on all that chaos.” Carr makes a particularly interesting point about the hierarchy of your digital world, “My personal digital hierarchy…goes like this: email first, because it is for and about me; social media next, because it is for and about me, my friends and professional peers; and finally, there is the anarchy of the web, which is about, well, everything.” If you think about email newsletters in this structure, they hit your user in their first tier of interaction with the web on a given day, before they’ve been fatigued by newsfeeds and digital clutter.

Contently similarly explored the newsletter at the start of the year in an article from Joe Lazauskas. In the piece, he interviews Tomas Kellner, who builds GE’s newsletters. “It may sound old-school, but email subscription is really a hardwired link to your audience,” Kellner explains. Lazauskas goes on to further explain the ease with which you can build newsletters (we use MailChimp), and collect and expand your email lists (we implement sign-ups on site, and insure safe sends through DataValidation).


“It may sound old-school, but email subscription is really a hardwired link to your audience.”

There’s an everlasting principle that makes an outdated medium still relevant: convenience. The convenience of having content that you’re interested in – because your audience signed up on-site or opted in at some stage of your relationship with them – sent right to you, that requires minimal interaction besides that initial email open.

This newsletter got the most engagement by far of any newsletter we have sent for STALKR in the past, and for good reason.

As the content marketer, that’s a consideration for the content you’re curating within the newsletter itself. More and more content producers are shifting towards a model where all content is delivered within the email. Take Lena Dunham and Jenni Konner’s Lenny Letter for instance, which offers sometimes several longer-form items right in situ. This is a medium that makes sense for a platform focused on storytelling with the goals of education and sharing. Alternatively, email newsletters for sites that emphasize e-commerce will and should encourage with dynamic imagery to click through to site, so they can get you one step closer to pressing that purchase button.

Besides the substantive content itself, there’s ways to encourage engagement throughout. Take for instance this newsletter we sent out earlier in the year for STALKR, a world leader in producing creative montages in commercials, film, and television. This newsletter got the most engagement by far of any newsletter we have sent for STALKR in the past, and for good reason. As outdated as email marketing may seem on the outset, GIFs are an ancient artifact of the web, and one that we’ve found drives substantive clicks, resulting in more time spent on site.

GIFs are an ancient artifact of the web, and one that we’ve found drives substantive clicks, resulting in more time spent on site.

All of this is to say that most marketers should be looking to a newsletter to further their business. If your goal is to engage your user on site or incite a purchase action, dynamic imagery, GIFs, and poppy language and titles are going to be the route to get you there. If your alternative aim is to tell stories, to educate, and inform, then a long-form newsletter with few click-throughs will serve you better. Regardless, send a newsletter. Or let us send one for you.