If there is something the media are looking for, it is to create community and establish an intimate relationship with readers, and that can be achieved through newsletters, which have become an ideal digital strategy.
Newsletters work as a way to reach the user directly, increase loyalty, redirect traffic to the web, obtain economic benefit, and even fight censorship. The media and journalists in Latin America have not missed the opportunity to join this wave and nowadays it is difficult to find a journalistic initiative that does not have the regular sending of newsletters as part of its strategy.
"The advantage [of sending a newsletter] is that a community is being created, I can control and know my audience, spark a more intimate conversation and have a database that can be used to sell advertising and bring in extra money to the news outlet," Clavel Rangel, editorial director of Arepita, told LatAm Journalism Review (LJR).
In the latest Reuters report "Journalism, media and technology trends and predictions 2023," signed by journalist and researcher Nic Newman and published by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism (RISJ), we read that 69% of the media executives surveyed say they will invest more resources in the creation and growth of newsletters.
"Most media see investing in newsletters as a way to establish a deeper connection with audiences and encourage them to return more frequently. And with an overabundance of general information, they are increasingly looking for exclusive or specialized content that can be added to existing subscriptions as a package or charged for separately," according to the report.
Newsletters usually have a daily, weekly, biweekly, or monthly frequency. Some media send newsletters with a summary of their most important publications, while others have experimented with newsletters on special topics.
Such is the case of the Argentinean news outlet Cenital, which sends newsletters on politics, entertainment, data, and soccer, among others.
"Cenital is a digital news outlet that is already three years old. We set out to tell, in a simple and accessible way, a complex and increasingly confusing reality. That's why we got out of the competition to be the first to get the news. We prefer to develop topics with depth, analysis and context. We chose newsletters as the basis of our strategy," Agustina Gewerc, Cenital's product manager, told LJR.
We started with three newsletters and today we publish fourteen that reach more than 60 thousand people on a daily basis. We have two daily editions, one in the morning and one in the afternoon, in which we prioritize and summarize the most important information of the day. We add another twelve weekly or biweekly editions covering national and international politics, economy, science, environment, urbanism, culture, technology, and sports", Gewerc said.
Cenital also publishes special issues and podcasts to complement their news offerings and develop certain topics that fall outside the agenda. According to Gewerc, this allows them to reach new audiences with other news content.
Another news outlet in Latin America that has bet on sending newsletters is Sopitas.com, a news outlet founded in 2005 with the intention of offering an alternative and independent channel of information and entertainment in Mexico. Over four years, they have sent a daily newsletter with the most important news of the day and have accumulated 38 thousand subscribers.
"Our special coverage newsletter generates more traffic to the web and we also see a growth in the opening rate. These special coverages can be, for example, the World Cup, Olympics or special events. The average opening rate is 30%, but during special coverage it goes up to 60%-80%," Aaron Rubio, journalist and head of digital strategies at Sopitas.com, told LJR.
"Also, through our newsletter, we do a mailing of local activities and it usually goes well. We have recommended many museums or local ventures, and people attend. So there is an influence that goes beyond the click," Rubio said.
There are special cases where sending a newsletter is not done to generate more traffic for a news outlet or to create community. In Venezuela, sending newsletters has become a formula to fight censorship.
One example is Armando.info, a news outlet that specializes in investigative journalism, which chose to send its feature stories by email due to blockades by state and private Internet providers in that country. On the other hand, in 2017, the alternative news outlet and newsletter Arepita were also created to circumvent censorship.
"In Venezuela, the main advantage of sending newsletters is to avoid censorship and blockades. Besides, you don't have to navigate a page or wait for images to load: In theory, it is lighter and this is a plus when you have connectivity problems. In Venezuela, developing an intimate connection with the reader and creating a community are not the main reasons for sending newsletters as it is the case in other countries," Clavel Rangel said.
Behind the sending of newsletters there is also an economic interest. Subscribers' emails are part of a database from which it is possible to send very specific communications to very specific audiences.
Data has become a currency in the digital world. A good database makes it possible to launch automatic campaigns, sell products and build customer loyalty.
"The good thing about creating newsletters is also building a database, which costs money. When you have the database, it allows you to do email marketing," said Rangel. "And as a business model, it helps you to know what your reach is, how many people you reach. Also, email allows you to know where those people are located, how old they are, etc. We are going to see many media creating more and more newsletters to see their database grow".