Are Newsletters an Anachronism?

Long-time readers of my blog will know that I’m an unrepentant admirer of Andy Maslen. I’ve read a few of his books, there’s an unfounded rumour on the Professional Copywriter’s Network that I have a shrine to the bloke, and I subscribe to his newsletter.

Or I did.

Because the Maslen on Marketing newsletter is no more:

That’s part of the problem, for me at any rate. Newsletters feel very Send-y these days and I don’t just want to be on Send…
[P]unting out articles every month feels anachronistic to me.

That’s Andy’s prerogative, and I can’t fault him for the years of free content he’s dropped into my inbox.

But I also can’t agree that newsletters feel anachronistic. I’ve been writing newsletters for years – for former employers, for clients, and for the monthly 603 Copywriting Newsletter.

In fact, I’d go as far to say that they’re a great tool for anyone looking to engage with an audience. And they will be in 2016.

There’s Nowt Wrong With Send When We’re All Stuck on Receive

I understand where Andy’s coming from. We’re living in a world of two-way communication, of social media, blog comments, Yelpers and instant feedback. It’s all about relationships, and when placed into that context, newsletters do seem like shouting into the ether.

But are we living in that world?

Or are we living in a world where Seth Godin advises you to turn off blog comments?

A world where 21% of Twitter users have never posted a single Tweet?

A world where communication has been fetishised to the point where we’re ignoring the fact that the vast majority of people are happy to sit on the sidelines, read the content, listen to the podcast, watch the video and never feel like they need to have a conversation with the content creator?

That’s the world I think we live in. And I’m a believer in social media as a marketing tool. But while that back-and-forth delivers great results with the engaged few, you still need to provide great content to the silent majority. That could be a blog post, a YouTube account, or it could be a newsletter.

In fact, It should be a newsletter. Because when you’re dealing with passive consumers, it helps to give them what they want on a plate.

Content on a Plate is Timeless

We’re all busy. Even when we’re on the morning commute, or watching the telly, we’re tapping away on our screens to give the illusion of work.

We’re not usually working. We’re browsing. We’re waiting for people to tip content into our brains.

But we’re not normally actively looking for content. We’re on Twitter because it’s a time sink (as Tom Albrighton explains in his interview for the Hot Copy Podcast, it’s probably better to block Twitter during work hours). We’re on Facebook because muscle memory types the URL before we realise what we’re doing.

We’re not looking. We’re not trawling through blog archives, and our RSS readers are too daunting to even glance at. We’re just waiting.

And we’re reading our emails obsessively, because the modern workplace has conditioned us to read our emails.

We’re primed for email content. And a useful, reliable email newsletter is going to get through to commuters and second screeners in a way that content they actively need to seek out just won’t.

Newsletters Work

So if people are happy with one way communication, and they’re primed to read email content, it is any wonder that newsletters work?

I’ve had potential leads return six months down the line, after an email newsletter reminded them that they needed their website rewriting.

I’ve seen one-off special offers turn into full-blown core services after an email newsletter saw a huge response.

And I’ve seen my email newsletter list grow and grow as people decide that they want good quality advice and content in their inboxes, without the pressure of having to talk to me about it on Facebook or LinkedIn.

I still don’t believe newsletters are an anachronism. I believe they’re a powerful weapon in any business marketing arsenal. And your clients would probably agree. If you can give them a hook to persuade them to sign up. Like, I don’t know, a free ebook?

Thanks to Andy Maslen for the years of free content. The always brilliant “Maslen on Marketing” will be sorely missed.

If you’d like the next best thing to a brilliant copywriting and marketing newsletter, subscribe to my really quite good copywriting and marketing newsletter.

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