Publishers: Understanding the Opportunities of Email Newsletters | What’s New in Publishing

This year, for the first time in its 10-year history, The Digital News Report (DNR) from the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism presents a comprehensive chapter exploring the opportunities of email newsletters.

Outlining the reasons for devoting an entire section of the report to e-mail news consumption, lead author Nic Newman said it was about understanding how this “low-tech and often old-fashioned medium” can support sustainable journalism.

Take away food

DNR 2022 devoted an entire chapter to understanding email newsletters, revenue opportunities, and the role they play in engagement.

  • Email is not the main point of access for most international news audiences; in the UK, only 9% of users surveyed use newsletters or email alerts. But that percentage rises dramatically to 22% in the United States, with nearly half of this group saying it’s their main way of accessing digital information.
  • Email audiences are also older, better off, and well-educated. One in seven respondents over the age of 55 in the United States said email was their primary way of accessing news. The vast majority (80%) of people who use email to read the news are over 35 years old.
  • In 10 of the countries covered in the email chapter for DNR 2022, an average of 65% of respondents said they liked email newsletters because of their convenience. This includes the opt-in control offered by email as well as time-saving aspects in selected formats. One survey respondent said:

I like receiving titles in emails. I can read the article, or skip it, and use keywords for more research on the topic.

Email Information

Writing for Media Voices, Esther Kezia Thorpe lists several key insights into email opportunities highlighted by the DNR 2022 research.

Growth potential

Rather than hitting “newsletter peak,” DNR 2022 highlights opportunities for publishers to expand their email output. In the country with the largest number of e-mail news readers, Austria, only 24% of respondents regularly read e-mail news. The average across all markets is less than 20%. With almost everyone having an email address, the potential for growth is obvious.

Publishers still dominate

The rise of Substack has seen the number of high-profile journalists leaving major publishers to create their own email newsletters increase exponentially. With all the hype that has accompanied each quit, it would be easy to conclude that solo operators dominate the newsletter space. However, DNR 2022 highlights the continued dominance of mainstream publishers. In ten selected countries, more than half (53%) of those who receive informational emails receive them from mainstream media.

personality plays

Despite the powerful position held by mainstream publishers, the report found significant overlap between people reading mainstream media emails and individual journalists. Nick Newman said:

This suggests that alternative and journalist-led emails, which often target smaller, more specialized audiences, are often used as a complement to general information emails – rather than as a replacement.

Payments are slow to take off

Paid newsletters are still not a major source of revenue for publishers. Instead, the format was used primarily to build audience loyalty and drive traffic to subscriber offerings or ad-supported web pages.

When publishers offer paid email products, they’re usually part of a larger subscription offering. The DNR found that 7% of those who pay for online news in the United States, the most developed newsletter market, subscribe to an email news product from an individual journalist.

This article originally appeared in Spiny Trends and is republished with permission. Spiny Trends provides the industry news updates and analysis you need to stay in the know if you run a media and publishing business. Subscribe to a weekly email digest here.

Harry L. Blanchard