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How to merge your newsletters

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Hi there,
Today’s topic comes courtesy of a great question I received from Anita Lettink about merging her two newsletters into one. Anita is a thought leader, speaker, and strategic advisor on the future of the workforce — check out her Revue newsletter, Future of Work — and she’s closing down her second newsletter, HR Tech Radar
If, like Anita, you’ve built subscriber lists with separate newsletters and are hoping to merge them, here’s what you need to consider before you get started. 
Prioritize your reader
If your first thought is “Awesome! Once I merge my lists, my newsletter will have more subscribers,” that’s natural. But take a step back and work out if adding your subscribers to a new list without their explicit permission is really serving them best.
Your readers have agreed to receive emails from you. But it’s usually considered bad practice to add those readers to new lists without their permission (worst-case scenario, you’re looking at spam reports). 
Here are two questions to ask yourself before merging your subscriber lists:
  1. Will you cut one newsletter completely, or combine them into a hybrid newsletter? If you intend to cut one completely, it’s especially important to consider whether you can continue to deliver the same value to subscribers after moving them to your other newsletter.  
  2. What topics do your newsletters cover? If there’s no crossover (maybe one is about NFTs and the other is about breakfast recipes), and you’re cutting one newsletter, you may not be able to hold the interest of the subscribers you’re moving across — and it may be better not to merge your lists.
Decided to merge lists?
If your topics are similar, and you can provide continued value to both sets of subscribers in one newsletter, great! But proceed with caution.
Here’s what to do next:
  • As soon as you’ve made your decision, tell the readers of the newsletter you’re winding down. Put callouts in that newsletter over the course of several issues (in case they miss one or two) linking to your other newsletter so they can check it out. Make sure they know you intend to add them to the other list, and let them know they can unsubscribe if they don’t wish to be moved across. 
  • Create a short survey to ask readers of the newsletter you’re closing down what they liked most about it. This could give you inspiration for how to move forward with your other newsletter in a way that keeps subscribers happy.
  • If you’re creating a hybrid newsletter, tell readers of the newsletter you’re keeping what to expect, and which elements will change.
  • Once you’ve exported your subscriber list from the newsletter you’re closing down, use this opportunity to clean it of invalid email addresses with a service like Neverbounce. Make sure to only import valid email addresses to your other newsletter.
  • Once you’ve imported the subscribers to the newsletter you’re continuing, add an acknowledgement in the first issue they receive to welcome them and let them know they can unsubscribe at any time. Give them some info about what they can expect in terms of content and cadence. An excellent example of this comes from college sports writer Matt Brown’s merger of his newsletter Extra Points with The Intercollegiate, a college sports journalism outfit. He sent his subscribers a whole issue explaining the fine points of the merger: how often subscribers could expect issues in their inbox, rebranding, and what the future might look like for the new collective. It’s definitely worth learning by his example: keep your readers in the loop, and make them part of the change.
  • Expect to see some reduction in engagement. Even if you have warned your readers and given them every opportunity to unsubscribe, there will be some who find their way onto your new list without choosing to be there. Some may check out a couple of issues but decide the newsletter is not for them. And that’s ok! But as long as you’re prepared, you won’t be disappointed.
  • Continue writing your one and only, awesome newsletter.
Decided not to merge lists?
If, after answering the 2 questions up there 👆, you decide you won’t be able to provide the same value to subscribers, here’s what to do.
  • Tell your readers as soon as you’ve made the decision to wind down the newsletter they’re subscribed to. Link to your other newsletter, explain what it’s about, and encourage anybody who may be interested to subscribe.
  • Explain the value proposition of your other newsletter as clearly as you can.
  • If you run a paid newsletter, you could offer them discounted membership to incentivise them to switch.
  • Make peace with losing these subscribers — for now. The great thing about building a subscriber list is that if you decide to resurrect a newsletter in the future, your audience will still be there. But if you are no longer able to provide the value they signed up for, it’s best not to add them to a new list. 
For inspiration, writer and photographer Craig Mod has taken a refreshing approach to building subscriber lists. He has two regular newsletters (one monthly, one weekly), but has also run three separate pop-up newsletters in the past couple of years. For each, he publicizes them to gain subscribers, then deletes the subscriber list after the final issue is sent. His commitment to the reader’s experience is absolute: if he’s no longer producing the thing they signed up for, he won’t contact them again. 
And he makes that super clear in his subscription form:
Screenshot of Craig Mod's pop-up newsletter subscriber form
Screenshot of Craig Mod's pop-up newsletter subscriber form
Better to have a smaller list of engaged subscribers than a larger list of people who never expressed interest in that newsletter the first place.
Wrapping up
The main focus here, as with many things newsletter-related, is value. Think about what your subscribers first signed up for — the value they were promised. Can you continue to provide that value if you move them to a different newsletter? If the answer is no, it might be best to say goodbye. If the answer is yes, make sure they know you’re still committed to providing that for them.
I’d love to hear if you have experience with this topic, or if you’re planning on merging newsletters in the future. You can find me by replying to this email.
For now, let’s take a look at what else is going on in the industry:
The week in newsletters
The Atlantic is rolling out its new newsletter program
‘A little bit of an experiment’: New York Times Opinion editor Kathleen Kingsbury on why she’s tapping artists as part of a paid newsletter strategy
Why do people cancel news subscriptions?
Three innovative ways to create audience revenue
That’s all for today. Catch you back here next week,
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Anna from Twitter
Anna from Twitter @revue

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