Email: The Once and Future King

Harvard’s Nieman Foundation had a post today about The Slurve, a daily digest of baseball.  (While I don’t subscribe, I see plenty about it on Twitter and Facebook from intelligent, baseball-oriented friends to know that I probably will at some point.)  Blogger Adrienne LaFrance opines that journalism-by-newsletter may be underrated:

After political reporting and editing stints at The American Conservative and Business Insider, [Michael Brendan Daugherty] decided to quit his job and launch The Slurve, a daily baseball newsletter that began last March on the eve of the 2013 baseball season.

Dougherty saw the opportunity to create a bespoke editorial product for an audience that was inundated with great baseball coverage but had to traverse a huge swath of the web to find it.

Daugherty’s model is subscription, not advertising-based.  He has built an audience and feeds it with great content, and the subscriptions continue.  It’s similar to the model magazines may have used in their heyday, but without the high costs of printing and distribution.

The Slurve is not the first to use such a model.  A few years ago, the National Journal’s Hotiline was required reading when it popped up subscribers’ inboxes right around noon; Ben Domenech’s The Transom treats center-right subscribers to news and analysis each morning.  At some point, LaFrance speculates, specialty email list curators might find seats in traditional media.  She may be right; former Hotline editor Chuck Todd has certainly done so.

In making her point, LaFrance may have hit on something traditional media need more of as they claw their way into the digital age: a direct conduit into the inbox.  Sure, news organizations love to invite viewers to “join the conversation” on Twitter or Facebook.  But doing so is a thin attempt to appear multi-directional: CNN really doesn’t care what you tweeted about Syria, even if it posted your tweet on the air.

News organizations are a one-way conduits of information.  People who know stuff about the world are paid to tell you about it, if you’re interested.  If they are interested in finding your eyeballs online, they would be wise to reach out through your email inbox.

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