With the pandemic taking center stage for most of 2020, no longer meeting in person has started a new spark of blogging. But with a twist. Blog posts are no longer found on a website, but instead inside your inbox.
I'm talking about newsletters. It’s a strange shift that feels like it happened almost overnight. People are no longer promoting their blogs or podcasts, but instead advertising to sign up to their newsletter. With services like Substack, it makes it incredibly easy. Even Services like Medium and Ghost are implementing newsletter support.
Newsletters aren’t anything new. They’ve been around almost as long as blogs have been. But I have to admit, I hate them. Ive always been a fan of Inbox Zero. Newsletters get in the way. I don’t like waking up to 50 different emails from updates from everyone. They’re also contributing to the destruction of the open web. Unless you choose to publish your newsletter online, there’s a good chance that content will one day be lost forever because its not easily indexed, or archives anywhere. 5 years from now, Im not going to easily search for that newsletter post about your marketing strategies.
As much as everyone is preaching about Web3 and the idea of it being open, we’re going in the opposite direction by locking content behind these walled gardens. What if Substack shuts down? Or Medium? Yes you can download your content, but unless you do and actively upload it somewhere else, it’s lost to the void. The web is already dying before our eyes. I recently started reimporting all of my old content back into my site, and Ive spent close to 10 hours now updating outbound links that no longer work, or now redirect to spam. Some links were even de-indexed by Google, or not saved on archive.org. Those stories, press releases, lost forever. Newsletter content will be headed in the same direction.
Are newsletters bad? it’s a complicated question. Newsletters can be a great way to drive engagement to content. Especially because you don’t even need to build a website. If you do have a website, it’s a potential source of engagement to further drive users to a destination. But another technology did exactly that with out collecting your email years ago- RSS. It was a way to stay up to date with out going to the website, and with out content with out flooding my inbox.
So what’s the solution? You need multiple streams to support all users. Build that website to host your own newsletter. Enable that RSS feed, make sure it works. Go ahead and keep publishing that newsletter, but share it to your website too. If it’s behind a paywall, put it out on the website weeks later, or when it’s no longer relevant. Get Google to Index it. Make it easy to show up on archive.org. Just make it easy for users to find it years later.