Today’s media landscape evolves so quickly in terms of platforms, technologies and user preferences that it can be easy to overlook the tried-and-true vehicles that continue to deliver new audiences and monetization opportunities. But going into 2021, one of the longest-running staples of the digital publishing business is poised to play a bigger role than ever: the humble email newsletter.

Over the past year, the technological, cultural, societal and economic stars have aligned in ways that favor the well-understood simplicity and directness of newsletters, and publishers, journalists, influencers and brands alike are taking note. Let’s take a look at the key forces at play.

Publishers Need Greater Control Than Ever
Ever-shifting privacy legislation and major policy shifts among tech giants are driving a renewed focus on first-party data going into the new year. No longer can publishers stand by as social media and other third-party platforms serve as middlemen between them and their audiences, thereby retaining control over the knowledge of who these readers are and how best to connect with them. Nor can publishers rely on third-party datasets and technologies to find their readers across the greater digital landscape.

These days, publishers—and really any business that values staying connected with their audiences—must have a direct line to their readers. Enter the email address, which still embodies the most useful piece of personal data out there. Newsletters represent a simple, obvious value exchange whereby readers give a company permission to send them regular messages, in exchange for the information they find directly relevant to their lives. From there, deeper relationships can be forged in a privacy-compliant and infinitely controllable way.

Readers Are Exhausted by the Social Media Noise
2020 and its relentless onslaught of political and cultural turmoil exhausted consumers, and this exhaustion was felt most deeply within their daily social media feeds. Within these platforms, users wielded little control over the news and messages that clamored for their attention, and this lack of control piled on top of the already-out-of-control reality that many people felt they were living last year.

People’s email inboxes have proven to be a quiet place of media respite compared to the wider web—a place where they control what they receive and from whom. They have the ability to subscribe or unsubscribe, to open or not open, to read or not read. For publishers and brands, newsletters are the obvious entry point into this safe space for consumers—a place where they can be greeted as welcome visitors rather than hostile invaders.

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