My latest for TechCrunch:
E-mail newsletters are so hot right now.
Some of the best known are by Ann Friedman, Alexis Madrigal, Dan Hon and Rusty Foster. There’s a web ring for e-mail newsletters now, but really the best newsletters are secret. The authors encourage readers to share the subscribe link with other people who might be interested, but request that no one share the subscribe link on social media or the open web, creating a sort of darknet of semi-underground dispatches.
But it’s more than just individual bloggers. Two or three years ago every site on the web was doing all it could to
trickcoax readers into “liking” them on Facebook. Today much of that focus has shifted towards getting readers to sign-up for an e-mail subscription. Just look at the prime screen real estate e-mail subscription forms are given at Mashable, The Verge and, of course, TechCrunch. Upworthy — the most “social media native” publication to date — goes so far as to put a huge sign-up form below the first paragraph of every story:
Quartz has a much loved daily e-mail blast (though the sign-up form is oddly buried in a pull-down menu) and sports news company The Slurve is going so far as to build an entire business off its newsletter. And it’s not quite the same as a digital newsletter, but the likes of Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter and Medium are all sending daily or weekly activity summaries to give people an overview of what’s been going on on those sites, and try to entire people to interact. Just last week Madrigal declared that e-mail is still the best thing on the internet.
So why all this effort to herd readers into a medium that is supposed to be dying? And why are we, as readers, so willing to invite even more e-mail into our lives?
You can, of course, subscribe to Technoccult by e-mail, in daily or weekly form, here. I’ve even been thinking about making Technoccult an “e-mail first” publication, though I’m not sure a) if that’s just trend hopping or an actual wise move and b) exactly how that would work. But it’s definitely on my mind. I might also do something like make Mutation Vectors e-mail first, though that poses some difficulties with the way the e-mail newsletters are currently generated.