Email newsletters might save journalism — here’s why

Lately I’ve noticed a lot more emphasis on email newsletters from some of the best sources of journalism I follow. Interesting trend. I’m not sure I love it yet, especially compared to RSS.

RSS is great because I can have everything I care about in one place — I just open it every morning and start reading. Email newsletters arrive at different times of day, I have to click through multiple emails, etc. It’s just so clearly an inferior experience when I’m subscribed to multiple news sources. It seems like the sort of thing you do if you think you’re the only news source a person subscribes to.

To my mind, a lot of media companies are a little too obsessed with owning the relationship with the reader. They prefer newsletters (or apps, or websites, or whatever) to RSS and other open standards because they own the user experience rather than being just another feed of information. But that’s not what the user wants.

There are publications I’m loyal to (and gladly pay for), but that loyalty doesn’t come from a particular UX (like waiting for an email newsletter or going to a website to read their content). It comes from the quality of that content, irrespective of where I read it. Making it harder to get to that content just makes it harder to grab my loyalty.

It all feels like the Netflix/Hulu thing where a lot of good content isn’t available because of different licensing deals. Probably feels pretty good for those content owners now, but anything that makes the UX explicitly worse for the consumer isn’t a long-term winning strategy.

So — email newsletters are great and all (and I’ll certainly subscribe), but let’s figure out a way to build a sustainable media business that doesn’t care about where/how people consume its content.

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