Is the Email Newsletter Dead? Lena Dunham Proves Everyone Wrong

Jun 14, 2016 admin

We’ve all heard it – email marketing is dead. Well, it’s still around, but is it effective? Every day, we are inundated with marketing emails and newsletters, many of which we never proactively signed up for. We wake up to our inbox full of them, receive them throughout the day and get one last desperate cry before bed. Last year alone, over 205 billion emails were sent and received each day, emphasizing how hard it can be for an email to cut through the noise.

With newsletters often falling into the retro marketing category, it could be considered risky that Girls creator (and designated voice of the millennial generation) Lena Dunham invested time and money into Lenny Letter, a weekly email newsletter that she launched last year. From an interview with Hillary Clinton and a thought piece by Alicia Keys, to details on the Zika virus and reviews of the latest good reads, its content has achieved a loyal and captive audience.

Created along with Girls producer Jenni Konner, the newsletter, which covers politics, culture and style in a feminist light, defied the odds when it achieved over 400,000 subscribers in less than six months. That’s pretty impressive considering that subscribers are voluntarily opting in (and staying in).

Furthermore, the newsletter boasts a 65 percent open rate – which is, to put it lightly, insanely good for an email newsletter. To put that number into perspective, open rates typically hover around 20 percent, give or take 5 percent. With 68 percent of people deciding to read an email solely based on the sender’s name, it definitely helps that the newsletter comes from Lenny AKA Lena Dunham, who has essentially become a household name. But to keep readers coming back, Lena and Jenni are clearly doing something right. So what is Lenny Letter’s secret?

  • Consistent scheduling – without overdoing it: Lenny Letter is released at the same time every Tuesday, with an additional interview every Friday. This means they are only sending eight to ten emails per month – compared to some companies that send three or four emails a day or a daily newsletter. Though there are some situations where a daily newsletter can be helpful, they can frequently become noise, especially with people receiving an average of 122 business emails alone per day. The somewhat limited nature of the newsletter, along with the consistency in scheduling, helps readers know what to expect.
  • Exclusive newsletter content: Unlike most newsletters, Lenny Letter publishes exclusive content that readers can only get from subscribing to the newsletter. They do post the content to their website around 24 hours later but, by delaying the public posting, they have been able to establish their newsletter as a destination. Lenny Letter editor Jessica Grose recently explained the thinking behind this: “Newsletters are such an intimate medium, and they hold your attention in a way that I think websites deliberately don’t. Websites are always trying to get you to click on this and reroute you to some other article.” Instead of directing readers elsewhere, Lenny Letter is the main event.
  • Strong social promotion: Lenny Letter also has an established social presence. Even though its contents aren’t posted until after it is released, Lenny Letter teases the upcoming content during the days leading up to the newsletter to spark interest and then posts the content across social channels after the fact. I mean, we don’t all have the luxury of Kerry Washington and Khloe Kardashian voluntarily promoting our newsletters on social, but we shouldn’t let newsletters fall by the wayside on social in exchange for more static content.

Mostly importantly, Lenny Letter has unique, meaty and interesting content – similar to the other hot and trending email newsletter, the Skimm. A lot of newsletters end up becoming purely promotional with links upon links to lead readers away from the email. It can be valuable to link elsewhere, but it is also important to have fresh, substantial content that captures readers’ interest. As Lenny Letter’s social pages put it, “there's no such thing as too much information.” Lenny Letter reminds us that the email newsletter is very much alive and a valid way to share stories and news, as long as we take the time and use creativity to breathe some life into it.

Topics: Content, Marketing, Content Marketing, Social Media

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