Blogging is Back: Creators Usher in a New Era of Newsletters  

April, 2024

Over the past few years, newsletter platforms like Substack have become a refuge for writers and editors amid mass layoffs and instability, offering a straightforward—and sometimes highly lucrative—way for them to pursue their work independently. Now, everyone from content creators to creative agencies is following them, ushering in a new era of blogging that straddles social and news media. A manifestation of our 2024 trend Expert-itis, which tracks social media’s shift from a megaphone for opinions to a trusted newsstand, newsletters are giving creators a new channel through which to flex their expertise and forge intimate communities around shared interests, particularly in areas like fashion.

An Algorithm Antidote 

The visual overstimulation of social media’s endless scroll can be exhausting, and for creators, so can the never-ending struggle to reach audiences amid powerful algorithms and platform changes. Newsletters offer a reprieve from the frustrations and limitations of the algorithms that rule social media platforms, namely through a more consistent audience reach. As the Future Forecast podcast noted, the ability to directly reach the inboxes of ‘followers’ gives creators an entirely different level of audience ownership. Not only is it more direct, it’s also more stable—while the potential for a nationwide TikTok ban is looming large, email doesn’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon. 

In turn, newsletters give subscribers a highly curated source of content from creators and peers they trust—with no extra noise. Without viral sounds and visual trends to keep up with, newsletters have more room for unique POVs and highly curated content about everything from mustard packaging to fantasy baseball. In today’s fragmented media landscape, our consumption of content is hyper-personalized, fueling a culture that has replaced mass pop culture with niche subcultures—especially for Gen Z. Newsletter platforms are offering another setting for interest-based connection and information sharing that breaks away from mainstream media. 

From Chloe List’s “Unbox Inbox”

Getting Real 

While affiliate links and brand partnerships are already fueling many Substack publications, a major appeal of the platform is its lack of overt advertising, creating a dilemma for businesses looking to join in. While brands have yet to flock to the platform under their monikers, brand founders are increasingly utilizing newsletters to expand their—and by association, their brand’s—audience. Rather than explicitly promoting their brand (they’re often promoting others), they’re using conversational, personal reflections and commentary to connect with their audience with a level of informality that might otherwise be reserved for friends and family. 

Our research found that 76% of US adults feel that influencers and celebrities on social media are too polished and unrelatable to feel connected to.* Newsletters help foster a deeper relationship with audiences that goes beyond the fleeting nature of social feeds.  

From Bobbi Brown’s “More than Makeup”

Beauty industry veteran Bobbi Brown’s newsletter, “More than Makeup: the Hows, Whys, Whos, and Hacks of Living a Fabulously Normal Life,” features Amazon product roundups and endearing descriptions of her hip-hop dance hobby alongside expected makeup tips and tricks that showcase products from her beauty company Jones Road. Melanie Masarin, founder of the cult-favorite non-alcoholic aperitif Ghia, similarly toes the line between brand and industry-related content and thoughtfully personalized recommendations, like this deep-dive into her favorite belts

Takeaways for Brands 

For creators and brands, diversifying content formats is key, but tailoring that content specifically to each platform is crucial. Newsletters are quickly becoming mainstream for all kinds of content, including sponsored, but the trick for brands looking to jump in is to ensure an authentic adaptation to what users are expecting. When clothing retailer Free People recently partnered with the culture and business newsletter “Feed Me” by writer Emily Sundberg, the result didn’t stray noticeably far from the newsletter’s typical content, allowing the promotional post to feel organic.  

From Emily Sundberg’s “Feed Me”

As people are increasingly hungry for content that prioritizes the personal over the promotional, brands should stay cognizant of the messaging and tone of their content and the selection of their partnerships for paid promotions. Utilizing newsletters, whether through partnerships or expanding an existing email strategy, can give brands a new avenue for playful storytelling while expanding audience reach and impact.

*Horizon Media, Finger on the Pulse. Survey fielded 11/13/23-11/21/23, n=1,001

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