Water cooler moments: Newsletters, are they now a thing?

“What’s this you’re wittering on about? An email newsletter? This isn’t 1990…”  

Yes it sounds strange, but hear me out. They’ve been enjoying something of a resurgence in recent months. Lena Dunham and Jenni Konner were the first high-profile duo to begin the trend in September 2015. Their newsletter ‘Lenny Letter’ has around 400,000 subscribers and the readership has been growing steadily ever since.

“Ok, I’m listening. What exactly is it?”

It’s a monthly email that readers subscribe to featuring “Feminism, style, health, politics, friendship, and everything else”. The content is almost entirely written with a few illustrations to accompany its articles. The first issue was a whopping 7,000 words long.

“But newsletters are so boring aren’t they? Why did they decide to start one?”

It began in part as a way of silencing trolls and negative commentating, as a way to put forward their ideas and opinions without interruption, and give the reader a personal experience; in many ways like a magazine. Lena Dunham said that it was a “way to remember that the internet has the power to take you into quiet places — something we don’t usually use it for”.

Fans of the newsletter format enjoy the long form content and the fact it is easily accessible on the go, or where wifi is limited - there’s no need to download or stream the content, it’s all there, in a simple email. And with Dunham and Konner being able to command interviews with the likes of Hillary Clinton, the content is interesting and exclusive enough to keep its readership wanting more.

“Cool. So do you have to pay for the subscription? I’m assuming it’s not free?”

Au contraire. It’s entirely free. So far, Konner and Dunham haven’t been able to profit from their venture, and the danger is that readers could simply ‘unsubscribe’ if they introduce advertising or brand partnerships into uninterrupted space. It will be interesting to see how this progresses in the coming months, as they look to expand their permanent staff - they currently only have three.

“What about brands? Could it be an interesting way to connect with consumers?”

Certainly. Many brands already email newsletters to customers. These tend to be image heavy with links directing readers to their own webpages. It’s what that newsletter looks like in terms of format and how brands can refresh their offering that could prove interesting.

“Like long-form written articles or, even better some amazing video content? That could be good?”

Yes absolutely, especially with the news that Cisco has predicted that 90% of online content will be video by 2019. But, hey, let’s keep this discussion objective shall we...