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Newsletters become a valuable platform for publishers

The email newsletter has gone from being an afterthought for publishers to a platform unto itself. Today, the newsletter is a petri dish, where audience-development teams tinker with audience segments, trying to figure out what their most engaged readers care most about before investing in more similar content.

The latest example of this trend arrived last week, when The New York Times launched the website version of “Watching,” a streaming video-recommendation site that began as an email newsletter. “Watching” is an ambitious new product for the Times, with its intense focus on personalization that goes down to the individual-user level. But it’s also just the latest Times site informed by newsletter insights, including “Well,” “Cooking” and two regional newsletters focused on California and Latin America.

“It’s an essential way we can nimbly and effectively test new product ideas and inform our efforts,” said Nicole Breskin, the Times’ product director for email, said of newsletters. “Historically, we conceived of newsletters as an extension to our main site and sections. But now we’re flipping that to really think of a newsletter as a primary experience in and of itself and a powerful way to distribute news and reach and engage with readers where they are.”

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