Housty, is it worth me starting a newsletter?

Each month we pose a question to the brilliant Peter Houston, co-host of the Media Voices podcast, who will answer in his fabulously inimitable way. This month’s question comes from media, marketing and communications consultant Heather Pownall.

Housty, we have a problem

Peter Houston

I saw a quote the other day that said everyone and their grandmother has a newsletter. Is it worth me starting one?

I saw that quote too and I thought, ‘Yes, but you’re going to have to do it differently from everyone else, especially their grandmother’.

Newsletters are an incredible way to reach your target audience. Pretty much everyone has an email address and there are no social media algorithms getting in the way of them seeing your work. Hit that send button and you will magically appear to everyone on your list, right in their very own inbox.

And that’s your big challenge.

You might be in their inbox, but it’ll be busy and for them to read your email before all the others – newsletters, wine offers, MOT reminders – you need to be educating them, informing them or entertaining them, preferably all three.

No one needs more shit to read

Back in 2019, freelance writer Erica Bruist called 2019 the year of Inboxes crammed with newsletters we just don’t have time to read and can’t bring ourselves to unsubscribe to.

At the time she said, “No one needs more shit to read”. She wasn’t wrong, and that’s your opportunity… make a newsletter that’s not shit.

Just like a well crafted magazine, a well-crafted newsletter serves a purpose. It adds value, giving something worthwhile to its readers.

The daily newsletter I write with the co-hosts of the Media Voices podcast is designed to keep our subscribers informed about media industry news and there are literally dozens of newsletters that do that. Our USP is that we choose what we consider to be the four most interesting stories every day and then offer up our take on why we think they matter.

Basically we do what everyone else does but we save people time by filtering the news firehose down to just four main stories and then introduce perspective and personality.

My weekly Magazine Diaries newsletter does a similar thing, introducing readers to publishing projects and strategies that I hope they will find interesting. But again, I curate the ideas I share carefully, this time through an ‘is this idea worth stealing’ lens, always explaining why I think it’s worth pilfering.

Ask yourself the obvious questions

I can’t tell you what will make your newsletter stand out from the crowd (I can but you’d have to pay me), but there are a few obvious questions you need to be able to answer.

  • Do you know why you are doing a newsletter?
  • Is there a reason for your audience to read it?
  • Are you able to commit to a regular publishing schedule?
  • Do you have time for promotion across your other publishing channels?

So, should you start a newsletter?

Yes, I’m actually a little surprised you don’t already have one – the wins waiting for anyone that produces a great newsletter are many and varied.

  • You’ll grow a list of people that care about what you do
  • You can build habit and loyalty with your audience
  • You can use it to test and develop new products
  • You’ll have a new platform for advertising and sponsorship

But first, you need to create a newsletter that’s better than Granny’s.

Peter Houston is one third of the Media Voices podcast, a magazine publishing consultant and trainer, and a freelance writer.

Follow him on Twitter or connect on LinkedIn.

Back to top of the page