Why the Newsletter Is the Most Important Part of Content Marketing

By Joe Lazauskas January 19th, 2016

The biggest weapon content marketers have in their arsenal has been around since Bill Clinton got his first Hotmail account: the email newsletter. It’s given birth to many a new media empire, and it remains the most effective audience-building tool you have as a publisher, allowing you to drive loyal readers back to your site day after day.

Tomas Kellner has built GE Reports into one of the hottest tech publications around, with over half a million monthly readers, and though his content regularly goes viral on Reddit and Tumblr, he really perks up when he talks about email.

[Full disclosure: GE is a Contently client]

“We love email,” Kellner gushed. “It may sound old-school, but email subscription is really a hardwired link to your audience. For us, email subscribers are an extremely valuable audience that we want. Every day 15,000 people get the blast from GE Reports that a new story is out.”

When Kellner came over to GE Reports from Forbes, building a strong newsletter was his first mission. “We started with zero subscribers just like anyone else,” he said. “With any brand, really, you start with employees, and then you build the list from there.”

Since then, how many email subscribers come from each story has been one of the most important metrics for GE Reports. Talk to most successful publishers and you’ll hear a similar sentiment.

“Email is huge,” said Neil Patel, a serial entrepreneur who’s built audiences of over 100,000 monthly visitors for three separate blogs: KISSmetrics, Quick Sprout, and Crazy Egg. “In terms of distribution, it’s the biggest thing you can do.”

Patel’s blogs are filled with real estate devoted to collecting email addresses. Usually, he’s offering something in return for a sign-up, like free access to his “Advanced Guide to SEO.” It pays off. For one of his blogs, email accounts for 28 percent of traffic—and this doesn’t even take into account the second wave of traffic as those readers who came from email share his posts with their followers on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

This wave of readership is an incredible phenomenon, and it’s one that we experience every day at The Content Strategist. Our daily email newsletter drives thousands of readers to our site each day. Simply put, the email newsletter is the old-school engine that could.

Here’s a quick look at the effect an email newsletter has on driving readers to your publication:

This may seem incredibly obvious, but a lot of brand publishers fail to develop a dedicated newsletter for their content. It’s one of the most common mistakes new brand publishers make.

In truth, the technology stack needed to make this all work is ridiculously simple; it’s more PB&J than Italian sub. At Contently, we use MailChimp to build and send our newsletters, and Sumo.me’s List Builder and Scroll Box tools to intelligently collect email addresses. Both MailChimp and Sumo.me come with well-designed templates that are easy to set up—no coding required. (For another option, Patel uses Maropost for both.) There are a lot of effective technologies out there for building your email newsletter, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. The important thing is that you pick one and start building your list.


This is an excerpt from the “Ultimate Content Strategist Playbook No. 4: Engaging and Building an Audience.” Download your free copy by filling out the form below.

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