• Geoff Sharpe

Why You Should Start an Email Newsletter


All media publications face two challenges:

  1. How to find an audience

  2. How to generate sustainable revenue

No one is going to subscribe to your Patreon unless they have some familiarity with you.


And even if people do support your work, it can be hard to convert viewers, listeners and readers into paying subscribers.


In later posts I plan to address how you can find your audience. In this post, I want to explain why I believe every leftist should start an email newsletter, regardless of their media platform.


The risk of relying on social media


In it's most simplistic form, you can imagine the journey of a fan to a paying subscriber in the following way:

1) People discover your content --> 2) People engage with it over time --> 3) People decide to become a paying subscriber.


It’s far more complicated than this, but you get the idea.


Social media is still great for #1. In my interview with Joel Laforest, he explains how their podcast effectively used Twitter to grow their audience. This is the same for most leftist publications.


Our publication Passage is no different. Using data from Google Analytics, we see that 45% of our traffic comes Facebook and another 10% from Twitter.


But this masks a big problem - our reliability on these faceless, unaccountable algorithms is incredibly risk.


Since 2014, Facebook has brought in numerous algorithm changes that reduce Page reach. Some estimates say some pages only reach 2% of their fans.


Twitter’s adoption of an algorithmic content stream meant tweets are shown based on the algorithm, not on whether you subscribed to someone.


So while social media is still great at generating traffic, relying on them for growth is risky.


The numbers don’t lie


But more concerning is that success on social media doesn't translate to actual paying subscribers.


Let's refer back to our diagram:


1) People discover your content --> 2) People engage with it over time --> 3) People decide to become a paying subscriber.


Social media is great at #1. But because the algorithms decide who sees what, it's impossible to control who sees your content.


It's why you see people with large, active Twitter following unable to generate large volume Patreon subscribers.


At Passage, we have the same problem. 55% of our traffic comes from social media. But according to Google Analytics, it's only generated 13% of our paying subscribers...


If people can't find your content, or don't see your posts, they won't subscribe.


You need a way to solve #2 (building a relationship) so you can solve #3 (generating paying subscribers).


Email does this better than social media.

Email delivery rates are very high with almost all emails arriving in someone’s inbox. A good email list will have 30-50% of recipients open the email, with really strong newsletters reaching 60-80%.

Email platform costs are manageable. Mailchimp charges nothing for your first 2,000 contacts and email newsletter service Substack only charges for paid subscribers.


Instead of being reliant on an algorithm, email gives you more control to send however many messages you want directly to your fans, building a relationship through ongoing, personal communication.


And unlike Twitter, everyone has an email address!


At Passage, we've directly seen how powerful email can be.

We estimate that around 40-50% of our total subscribers for Passage have come from email, compared to 13% for social media.


Month-over-month data shows a similar story. One month after we launched, our team sent out 9 emails. One month later we doubled our monthly emails to 17. We saw a 44% increase in revenue and a 33% increase in number of subscribers.


Building a newsletter gives you a direct, unmediated way to communicate with your supporters, build a relationship and encourage them to support you financially so you can create a sustainable platform.


An exciting opportunity


Email newsletters represent not just a way to communicate with your audience, but an opportunity to build entirely new publications that don’t rely on algorithm to determine who sees your content.


This isn't new. Many publications are already doing this.


The Dispatch is a right-wing newsletter publication on Substack. In one year they've generated almost a million dollars in revenue.

Foreign Exchanges started as a newsletter offering left-wing perspectives on international news. Now the author runs a podcast and there's no reason to think be won’t continue expanding into new verticals.


Substack estimates that when newsletters integrate a paid option, 10% of those subscribers become paying subscribers.


Look at your traffic from social media, your YouTube viewers, or your podcast subscribers - are 10% of them paying subscribers?

Integrating newsletters into your media platform


Most people reading this will already have a podcast, YouTube channel, publication or other media platform.


Based on our experience, if you are a progressive media publication struggling to turn listeners, viewers or readers into subscribers, email is the fastest way to fix this.

It could be as simple as sending an email to promote your podcast. Or it could be as complex as a specially curated selection of stories and analysis that align with your show. The possibilities are endless.


We leftists cannot rely on social media platforms to reach fans. We need to go around the algorithms and start building a direct connection with supporters and I believe newsletters are the most effective channel to do this.


How you go about building your newsletter will depend on your media publication. But I’m confident that by integrating an email newsletter, along with a consistent sending schedule, you will be able to grow your audience and create a more sustainable progressive media platform.

We plan to dive more deeply into newsletters in future posts. If you have any questions or things you want covered in more detail, send us an email at contact [at] peoplesmediplatform [dot] com

Contact Us

Contact [at] peoplesmediaplaform.com

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