With relevant and innovative content, newsletters can be important products to overcome the dependence on social networks in the distribution of journalistic materials and expand relationships with the public. They also have potential for monetization and diversifying organizations’ revenue sources. According to the Reuters Institute's annual report, the format is also one of the main alternatives for 2024 given the drop in traffic via social networks, especially on X (formerly Twitter) and Facebook.
In Nieman Lab's journalistic forecasts, Sarah Marshall, who leads the central audience development strategy team at Condé Nast, points out that this year will be the year for journalism to turn to direct contact with the public beyond the platforms of big tech and sees newsletters as one of these paths, alongside the media outlet’s own applications.
In an interview with Ajor (the Digital Journalism Association in Brazil), Carlos Lopezosa, digital journalism specialist and researcher at the University of Barcelona, explains that offering personalized content based on the audience's interests, stimulating interaction, with the use of polls and comments, and maintaining transparency in the selection of information is essential practice to strengthening the relationship between media outlets and the public through a newsletter.
In the article “Newsletters latinoamericanas de curación: estudio de casos y visión experta” (Latin American curated newsletters: case studies and expert vision), Lopezosa highlights that newsletters with curated content have seen growth in recent years years and have been the solution found by readers in the context of excessive information on social media.
Ajor spoke with Filipe Speck, founder of Matinal, and Joana Suarez, co-founder of Cajueira, both organizations associated with Ajor that have the newsletter as their flagship or founding product to understand the basic processes for starting an initiative like this.
1 – Understand the objective of the product
For Speck, the process prior to deciding to launch a newsletter is to define the product vision and what its role will be in the organization.
“Emails are extremely efficient in improving the audience and increasing the paying community. If your strategy is to increase or create this type of revenue, newsletters are now an almost inevitable solution. In the beginning, we invested in newsletters because we wanted to have maximum control over our audience, without relying mainly on intermediaries such as social networks or organic access.”
2 – Subscribe to other newsletters
During strategic product planning, it is also necessary to know about as many newsletters as possible in the area in which the organization operates.
“It’s important that it’s something new. You have to think about the person who will receive it. She must already receive quite a few newsletters. Why would she subscribe to another one? What would you deliver to this person that would be different?” Suarez asks.
Speck says that the Matinal team signed up for more than one hundred products to understand the role of each one in the different organizations.
3 – Carry out pilot projects and define your target audience
One of the ways Matinal used to deliver the ideal product to the audience was the development of pilots to establish the structure and language of the newsletter. According to Speck, the format, in addition to the selection of themes, are essential to connecting with the target audience.
Suarez explains that the target audience for Cajueira was designed based on the gap in Brazilian journalism concerning the distribution of independent human rights coverage from media outlets in the northeast of the country.
“It is important to set some goals as your proposal gains acceptance among subscribers. Cajueira has a very organic growth as it is a project that has never existed before.”
4 – Ensure frequency
“Once you get started, the golden rule is consistency. Delaying or suspending breaks a cycle of trust with the reader,” Speck says.
Currently, Matinal has four newsletters – one free, from Monday to Friday; another three for supporters, each sent weekly. Cajueira operates every two weeks.
It is important that the frequency is defined before launch as part of the organization's strategic planning and based on the size of the team involved in the product.
The production of a newsletter follows different stages of journalistic activity, such as curation, writing, editing and review, which require specific specialties and tools. To start the project, it is necessary to think about how many people will be allocated to do it and the values of the platforms that will be used.
Cajueira currently has five professionals – four dedicated to producing the newsletter and one responsible for Cajuzap, the audio curation, distributed via WhatsApp.
At Matinal, in addition to the reporters whose stories are sent first-hand in the newsletter, there are three professionals who are directly involved in four moments of product execution: the editor-in-chief who assembles the skeleton and produces content; a writer who produces some of the content; a closing editor, who puts together the newsletter, updates it and produces more content, if necessary; and the person who sends it, who is usually the editor-in-chief.