Startup Idea: Build a Better Email Newsletter Provider

July 14, 2016

3:30 pm

I’m a big fan of the curated email newsletter. It avoids the problems of depending on a platform like Facebook and it avoids at least some of the problems of a clickbait economy, since the readers are more committed to checking out something they signed up to populate their inbox. I’ve even argued that local news is dying for an upswing of curated email.

Startups have played around with using emails like push notifications—IFTTT, Asana, and Boomerang all have their own spins on the concept. But it’s time for a startup that’s devoted to email newsletters. Specifically, a newsletter provider that offers improved data on important factors like open rate.

Why There’s a Need

If you’re looking to start an email newsletter, you’ll quickly pare down your newsletter provider options to two: TinyLetter, for a bare-bones, personal newsletter; and Mailchimp, for a professional, more scalable newsletter. Then you’ll realize that TinyLetter was bought by MailChimp in 2011. Mailchimp is the undisputed market leader in the email newsletter provider sector. And people aren’t entirely satisfied with Mailchimp. Here are Liza Darwin and Casey Lewis, founders of teen-girl-centric newsletter startup Clover Letter to explain in a recent Medium post:

“A week into launch, we had a couple thousand subscribers and a 70% open rate. It was a relief to have a metric to obsess over that wasn’t pageviews. It was also a relief to have such an impressive metric so early on. (According to Mailchimp, the average industry open rate is 17%.) As we got more and more comfortable with the backend of Mailchimp, the real fun began — we added GIFs and Instagrams and other things that made the experience feel that much more exciting than your average e-blast. And that’s when our open rate began to plummet.
It wasn’t because readers weren’t opening their emails. They were! It was because email opens are counted, at least for Mailchimp, when a tiny little invisible jpeg at the very, very bottom of the email is downloaded. However, when your email’s too long or too packed with pictures or too bogged down with shiny things, Gmail and lots of other email providers start freaking out. They do something called clipping email.”

With any emails over 102kb trimmed, Mailchimp can’t properly record the email’s open rate, an essential metric for newsletter startups.

A Newsletter Provider That Can Offer Open Rates and More Data Is Essential

As Jeremy Barr of AdAge reports in his recent write-up on the subject, open rates are comparable to click-through rates for websites. Mailchimp just recommends keeping email under the limit, but that’s not an option for publishers who want to retain their value. And one comment on the Clover founders’ post highlights just why this problem is perfect for a startup to address: “It’s a small biz reality that something so microscopic as the size of the email and therefore the amount of content is a key consideration. Who knew?”

It won’t be easy to create a newsletter provider that can gather data from emails opened across a variety of email services, from Gmail to Outlook. But if an entrepreneur can do it, he or she will definitely face a barrage of excited customers:

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Adam is a writer with an interest in a variety of mediums, from podcasts to comic books to video essays to novels to blogging — too many, basically. He's based out of Seattle, and remains a staunch defender of his state's slogan: "sayWA." In his spare time, he recommends articles about science fiction on Twitter, @AdamRRowe

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