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“Beginning of a newsletter arms race:” How publishers are set to benefit as platforms vie for premium content

Twitter’s acquisition of Revue, is the “latest piece of evidence that we are in the beginning of a newsletter arms race,” says Max Willens, Senior Reporter, Digiday. 

The announcement comes within days of Forbes’ massive expansion of paid newsletters and Rolling Stone’s invitation to thought leaders to write for its website against a payment of $2,000. The publisher reached out to potential writers with the offer to join “an invitation-only community for innovators, influencers and tastemakers.” Earlier, in December, the hyperlocal digital news company Patch announced the launch of “Patch Labs,” a platform that lets local news reporters publish their own newsletters and websites.

These developments are an affirmation of the resurgence of email newsletters in recent years and their potential to generate engagement, traffic and revenue. Not only have publishers expanded and enhanced their newsletter offerings—both New York Times and Washington Post have more than 60 public newsletters each—but several journalists have left regular jobs to set up their own newsletter-based publications.

Email helps build habit and loyalty and is often a “critical weapon in reducing churn,” according to Reuters Institute Digital News Report ​2020.

It (email) does remain one of the most important tools available to publishers for building habit and attracting the type of customers that can help with monetization (subscription or advertising).

Reuters Institute Digital News Report, ​2020

“Grow their readership faster and at a much larger scale”

Although newsletters don’t appear to be the most obvious fit for Twitter, “the move allows it to capitalize on its user base of writers, journalists, and publications who use it to reach and grow their audiences,” says Tom Warren, Senior Editor, The Verge. It also gives them a new way to generate revenues as Revue allows writers to create paid newsletters. 

With a robust community of writers and readers, Twitter is uniquely positioned to help organizations and writers grow their readership faster and at a much larger scale than anywhere else. 

Kayvon Beykpour, Product Lead and Mike Park, VP of Publisher Products, Twitter

“Many established writers and publishers have built their brand on Twitter, amassing an audience that’s hungry for the next article or perspective they Tweet,” add Beykpour and Park. “Our goal is to make it easy for them to connect with their subscribers, while also helping readers better discover writers and their content. 

“We’re imagining a lot of ways to do this, from allowing people to sign up for newsletters from their favorite follows on Twitter, to new settings for writers to host conversations with their subscribers. It will all work seamlessly within Twitter.”

The purchase is “part of Twitter’s effort to compete with other social media companies that allow users to earn money from their followings, as the newsletter industry enjoys a spike in popularity,” comments Kate Conger, Technology Reporter, The New York Times. 

“Upon closer inspection, Twitter’s move into newsletters is unsurprising,” writes Willens. “The platform publicly indicated late last year that it would begin pursuing consumer revenue, and while many people presumed that meant something like an ad-free experience, direct connection with the audience and the platform’s biggest users makes more sense.”

“Mediaverse’s grand interface between journalism and social media”

“Twitter stands out as one of the social media sites with the most news-focused users,” according to Pew Research Center. A 2019 Pew survey found that around one-in-five US adults (22%) use Twitter. Another Pew survey found that around seven-in-ten adult Twitter users in the US (71%) get news on the platform. 

Twitter is our mediaverse’s grand interface between journalism and social media. While news organizations play a central role in sharing links to their coverage on Twitter, much of the visual content shared in real time during breaking news events like protests is shared by everyday users. 

Sara Fischer and Bryan Walsh, Axios

“Twitter sets the news cycle’s pulse because so many journalists are addicted to it,” adds Fischer. “The addition of long-form writing could help strengthen the company’s relationship with journalists, thought leaders, and subject matter experts that are looking for a space to share deeper thoughts.”

This latest addition to Twitter can turn out to be a valuable new opportunity for publishers and journalists who use the platform to connect with readers. They can use the newsletter option to deepen engagement and monetize their content as well.

For those looking to generate revenue, we’re creating a durable incentive model through paid newsletters. Bringing Revue to Twitter will supercharge this offering, helping writers grow their paid subscribers while also incentivizing them to produce engaging and relevant content that drives conversations on Twitter.

Kayvon Beykpour and Mike Park, Twitter

“What its biggest creators would benefit from”

“Twitter’s acquisition of Revue also places it in direct competition with Substack,” says The Verge’s Warren. The email newsletter platform has frequently been in the news over the last year. It has attracted several high-profile journalists to leave their regular jobs and build newsletter-based businesses on the platform. Some of them are generating revenues that are on par, or better then what they were making earlier. 

Several publishers have also set up shop on Substack. The platform had over 250,000 newsletter subscribers with the top 10 publishers collectively making around $7M a year, NPR reported in December.

Both Substack and Revue allow newsletter creators to offer a mix of paid and free options. They take a cut of the subscription cost of the paid newsletters. While Substack takes 10%, Revue charges 6%. Twitter said it would lower Revue’s cut to 5% to attract new writers.

“Most of these companies are building product first and figuring out how to get audience on top,” Jacob Donnelly, GM, B2B, Morning Brew tells Digiday. “Twitter already has the audience, and it can figure out what its biggest creators would benefit from.”

“Figuring out and adding those benefits quickly will be important,” writes Willens. “As the newsletter space grows more crowded, the competing platforms are augmenting their offerings to keep (or retain) authors.”

And that means better options and more opportunities for writers and publishers.

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