Newsletter Marketing Exploded During the Pandemic. What Comes Now?

Amid all the content distribution channels today’s marketers have at their disposal, email has remained a workhorse. Newsletter marketing was up well before the Covid-19 pandemic took hold, but as people around the globe sat glued to their computers last spring, brands and publishers found that email was the simplest way to communicate with customers directly, regardless of everything going on outside.

Technology companies focused on newsletter creation and distribution boomed, as consumers began signing up for more newsletters and businesses began sending marketing content via email more frequently. The number of readers and active writers on Substack doubled during the pandemic in 2020, and providers like Mailchimp saw similar spikes in users. Even while the traditional media industry was laying off writers and cutting back on budgets, newsletters kept growing.

Now comes the next act. 

Newsletter marketing acquisitions

As we head further into 2021, we’re already beginning to see signs of what will come next for the email newsletter industry. Second Street Media, the audience engagement cloud software platform, was purchased by Upland Software last month. The newsletter company Revue was acquired by Twitter. And now, just last week, came news that the email marketing automation startup Tidings is being purchased by the B2B buyer intelligence platform Demand Science.

Each deal comes with its own terms and long-term strategy plays. Twitter’s purchase of Revue was reportedly made in an effort to compete with other social media firms that allow users to earn money from their followers. For Demand Science, Tidings adds to a suite of tools designed to help businesses sell and market their solutions to other businesses.

Consolidation and the search for single-platform solutions

Tidings founder David Mihm says the complexity most marketers are facing today, with so many options in the technology stack, is driving demand for single-platform solutions. In the case of Tidings and Demand Science, Mihm says the acquisition will simplify and bring together intent data, content analytics, and content development to help marketers overcome the most obvious challenges in digital marketing. This is one of the pushes behind the consolidation we’re seeing in the newsletter space right now. But Covid is playing a big role as well.

“As with a lot of trends in digital presence and marketing, I think Covid has accelerated a lot of behaviors that were already shifting pre-pandemic. Brands of all sizes need to communicate with customers more frequently and more effectively, given all of the macro change happening, and businesses must adapt to all this change on a micro level,” Mihm says. “A loss of traditional foot traffic as we all spend more and more time at home, and the continuing decline of organic reach on social media, has left email as one of the best options.”

With newsletters, brands and publishers have control over the relationship with their audiences. Given the recent crackdowns on social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook, that control is something that’s important to brands right now, even if they aren’t being directly impacted by potential threats of censorship. Brands with established newsletters are less reliant on social media algorithms or the whims of the display advertising market for survival.

That these concepts are just now coming to the forefront is ironic, notes Mihm, given that marketers have long considered email the most effective and most profitable marketing channel.

“So perhaps Covid has not so much changed attitudes about email as much as bringing into sharp relief how effective and essential it can be,” he says.

Mihm is optimistic about what the future holds for newsletter marketing, and Demand Science more specifically. He says both Tidings and Demand Science have long believed in the power and effectiveness of newsletters in a B2B context, and he’s eager to help more professionals achieve that same direct connection with their audiences.

“This acquisition furthers our mission to provide solutions for every stage of the demand generation funnel,” he says, “and [it] enables B2B sales and marketing pros to accelerate the marketing and sales process and drive revenue all within one platform.”

Stephanie Miles is a senior editor at Street Fight.

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