As the digital transformation around us affects how we use the internet, so do information consumption models. Receiving mail from brands and writers would account for spam many years ago; readers welcome these today as newsletters.
Both individual writers and publications aim to build a loyal and robust database of email followers and create a one-on-one communication channel that feels personalized and authentic.
Evolution Of Newsletters With Journalism
Based on many reports, the move of journalists to newsletters around 2020 has been massive. The 2000s was a boom of blogging; today, a model like Substack newsletters has led to a new tide.
Based on a discussion by NPR’s journalists, the clutter and uncertainty of social media have encouraged more journalists to move away from them and start their newsletters.
Substack has statistically been a massive game-changer with over 500,000 paying consumers of the newsletter content.
Journalists today are leaning towards running their own newsletters for various reasons. The first apparent reason is the balance of demand and supply for good journalistic writing. More people on the internet tend to follow good writers and reporters instead of media houses and news channels.
The second reason is the rise of platforms like Substack. Substack journalism has made it easy for anyone to create a curated newsletter and build a significant base from it. They manage a lot of the technical hiccups and make newsletter writing as easy as blogging.
The fall of newspapers and the clutter of digital journalism has given independent writers a chance to grow their niche. Here are five examples to further understand the role of newsletters today:
Written by Bryan Walsh, a former guest on “Coffee with a Journalist,” the Axios Future newsletter outlines the “mega-trends impacting our world.” You can listen to Bryan’s exclusive podcast episode for insights from the author and what he looks for in pitches.
A niche newsletter with a narrow audience — the Big Technology newsletter focuses on the tech giants. They share the latest about large companies making a big wave like Apple, Facebook, Google, etc.
This newsletter co-written by Kristen Bellstrom and Emma Hinchliffe dives into the real life stories about women in the workplace who are redefining the status quo. As this author puts it, “[Broadsheet] is for a ‘broad’ audience (because women’s issues are not just women’s issues).”
One of the most talked-about journalistic newsletters is this one managed by Casey Newton. After his exit from The Verge, the newsletter gained incredible popularity. It has over a thousand readers and provides some of the best tech newsletters on the internet.
Another top tier newsletter to keep on your radar is Braintrust from Protocol written by Kevin McAllister. The goal of this newsletter is to answer the biggest questions in tech directly from the tech experts. According to the webpage, “The Protocol Braintrust is a community of executives and experts commenting on the biggest questions in tech, highlighting what’s around the corner in their industries and offering new lenses through which to view technology in practice and in policy.”
Why Incorporate Newsletters Into PR Strategy
There are a few apparent reasons why newsletters make an ideal match in a PR strategy:
- A highly dedicated niche consumes newsletters. Unlike blogs and publications, these do not remain open to a broad audience.
- Building a significant newsletter following takes effort. This value shows the credibility of the writer like none other.
- Newsletters reach the inboxes of the end-user using optimized time slots and algorithms.
- They have a better open rate when compared to spam emails and promotions.
- PR articles do not usually have a “sales-like language,” which does not flag an email as promotional.
How to Pitch Newsletters
Getting to the crux of the discussion, here is how you can pitch:
Firstly, start by surveying your in-house content and understanding the tone, language, and target audience you need to cater to. Before you pitch to Substack newsletters, it’s helpful to have a set of pointers in mind that best describe the content already present.
Next, select a handful of newsletters and subscribe to them. Pick those that fit the client/company’s needs. This practice allows you to keep track of their work for a few months before you can derive actual results from them.
Do not go by reviews and media about a writer. Without actually looking into their work, there is no way to understand if they are fit. Research what they write, how they do it, what sources they quote, and how much the readership is.
Understand the audience as an audience. Would approaching these writers as a PR publication provide you with an accurate end result? For example, if you are looking for tech newsletters, not all journalists would write in the same genre or niche that suits your brand.
Lastly, Ensure if they take submissions for their newsletter via form, or email, etc. Understand if the journalist is interested in your work and the ability to make your work sound like a press release instead of promotional content.
You could also check out the other PR publications written by the writers to better gauge their outputs.
The first step is to create a clear and precise communication channel. Do not level room for ambiguity that could confuse or discourage the writer.
Additionally, when you pitch a story to a large media house, they act as proposals. The publishing of a story in such cases is left to the discretion of the media house. However, when getting in touch with writers directly, it’s not the same.
In this case, the story should value both the writer and the brand alike. Mentions reasons why the story is a good fit, what the giveaway is, and how it is exclusive for them.
Open a dialog with them rather than copy-pasting a templated message you send to all.
Why Journalist and Not Publications
Pitching to individuals is a daily new phenomenon with the boom of online personal-brand building. One might argue why a PR strategy would include tech newsletters by a person and not a large brand.
The truth is that an individual has a dedicated following, while a brand has a large following. While the latter might sound better, it’s not as impactful.
It’s further profitable for a story to reach 1000 people who read an update at face value than a vast audience that considers the works as promotional content or just a single piece in a barrage of messages.
This wave of Substack journalism is here to stay, and the gain will soon become a market norm.
As we continue to dive into the latest changes in the journalism industry and beyond, make sure to check out the most recent pillar series where we dive into the ins and outs of newsrooms. Learn how they’re set up, who makes the decisions, and much more!