Email Newsletters Are a Blight on Mankind


Justin Wolfers is annoyed by the email newsletter bubble. Brad DeLong comments:

Authors seeking both eyeballs to sell to advertisers and a committed, engaged audience with which they can conduct a conversation are now trying to ride two horses—a clickbait audience served by self-contained pieces, and a newsletter audience with which they can interact and converse. I don’t think it is working very well.

Is that what’s happening? I’ve always thought there was something different going on: the professionalization of the blogosphere has, ironically, made blogs too stuffy and corporate. If you want to write a post complaining that the local supermarket doesn’t carry the brand of peanut butter you like, you can hardly do this at Vox.com or 538 or the Washington Monthly.1 Those sites are reserved for serious commentary. So if you still want to write that kind of stuff, you do it in a newsletter that’s all yours and nobody else controls.

But Brad is suggesting that the real motivator is a desire to—what? Avoid the trolls? (Who cares about trolls?) Write in a more interactive space? (How are newsletters more interactive than blogs?) Write in a more private space where you can toss out weird ideas with less potential for blowback? (Cowards.) Create “added value” for subscribers who will hopefully donate money to you/your employer? (You corporate shill, you.)

I think we should toss this question to the newsletter writers. What’s the deal? If you need a second writing space, why not a quick-and-dirty blogspot blog or Tumblr or Medium? Why the throwback to email?

1I typically solve this problem by writing this kind of stuff on weekends, which I consider a more personal space. So far, nobody has disabused me of this notion.