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Are Newsletters Even More Valuable in an Economic Slowdown?

By OpenWeb

If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance you’re under immense pressure right now. 

For one, major social platforms are still reaping a huge amount of publisher engagement and data within the walled gardens. Not to mention we’re in the middle of an RPM slowdown, and uncertainty still abounds with the deprecation of third-party cookies right around the corner.

So, what can publishers do to help themselves sooner rather than later?

One thing we’re noticing lately: publishers who are orienting themselves around newsletters are growing their audiences and their ad revenues.

What Advertisers See

Advertisers follow the consumer, and consumers are signing up to newsletters from their favorite brands en masse. 

To wit: major media brands like The Gist, 1440, and Industry Dive are all running profitable businesses thanks to growing ad revenues.

Earlier this month, Substack announced it had reached 2 million paid subscribers, doubling its subscription base from late 2021 to early 2023.

It’s safe to assume that people who sign up for newsletters, and especially if they purchase subscriptions for them, are highly-engaged with the publisher. These are qualities that are very attractive to advertisers, and it helps explain why newsletter publishers aren’t seeing a drop off in advertisers.

In fact, they’re adding new advertisers to the mix.

Going further, publishing executives recently told Digiday their newsletters are popular among marketers who want to shift away from brand awareness campaigns to direct response ones.

As marketers work to maximize their return on investment, they’re increasingly turning to newsletters. And right now, ROI-focused advertisers are shifting their focus towards them as a more effective path to reach those highly-engaged audiences.

More Benefits For Publishers

Many publishers are already privy to this, but it’s worth a reminder: when you engage your readers with highly-relevant news and articles, those readers are likely to consume more content, explore more deeply, and demonstrate loyalty to you.

“Newsletter readers read 300% more articles on average than your other FT reader,” Sarah Ebner, Executive Editor and Head of Newsletters at The Financial Times told What’s New In Publishing.

Even more interesting, in a recent INMA report, Gen Z quite likes newsletters too, and have shown a willingness to subscribe to them—all the more important with Congress closer than ever to a potential ban on TikTok.

While advertising revenue is certainly welcome, newsletters provide much more value beyond that.

For instance, they generate powerful first-party data from subscriber activity and engagement during email sessions. This value goes even deeper when readers are redirected to the main site and engage with additional content, or interact with other registered users active in the community.

The Last Word

Look—we’re going to get excited about any breakthrough that allows publishers to make more money and drive engagement on their own terms. Especially in tough times.

And, of course, it remains to be seen if Substack-style, double-digit subscriber growth will be enjoyed by the major players in perpetuity.

But, at a time when publishers are searching for new ways to diversify revenue, they should strongly consider newsletters in what’s looking like a slow-growth year ahead.

Let’s have a conversation.

Right now OpenWeb has a limited number of partners we can work with in order to provide the highest quality service to each and every one. Let us know you’re interested and stay informed about how OpenWeb is empowering publishers and advertisers to change online conversations for good.