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Medium is the next social platform to launch closed newsletters

Hey newsletter experts, this is Mark from Revue with the next edition of The Week in Newsletters. As
The week in
A weekly update for newsletter editors and audience managers, sent every Tuesday morning in the US, afternoon in Europe, and evening in Asia.
Hey newsletter experts,
this is Mark from Revue with the next edition of The Week in Newsletters.
As newsletter writers ✍️, our most valuable asset is our audience. So we should all be on high alert when another social media platform launches a “newsletter” feature that denies access to that audience. This week it was Medium’s turn.
Before diving into the case, I would like to thank you for being part of this community. It’s really fun to talk newsletters with you and I love getting replies and meeting new people. Please do keep those replies coming and forward this issue to any friend who might enjoy it 💌
Newsletter authors need control over audience, domain and content
Back in December 2019 I wrote about LinkedIn’s push into newsletters. Fast forward to June 2020 and it’s Medium’s turn to announce a newsletter feature with many of the same issues.
Medium’s product designer Brad Artziniega described the new functionality in a blog post. It appears that Medium wants to build on learnings from its Letters experiment and continue iterating on newsletters:
We made Newsletters easy to create and powerful to use. Any Publication on Medium can start a newsletter and correspond with their subscribers directly in their inbox. […]
Publications can now share a link to the Newsletter sign-up page anywhere to promote and grow new subscribers more easily. And if publishers want, they can get replies from readers directly in their inbox and have a back-and-forth over email for a more direct connection.
Given the success that newsletters are having, it’s not surprising that social platforms are getting into the game. Actually it appears that even Facebook is experimenting with a newsletter feature, as Andrew Hutchinson reports for SocialMediaToday:
This is interesting - several users of Facebook’s Pages app have reported seeing a new function appear over the weekend which prompts them to ‘send customized marketing emails’ via their Facebook Page.
While Facebook is only testing, the Medium newsletter functionality is available to all users. So I gave it a spin.
The newsletter editor looks much like the post editor - simple, well designed, with few whistles and bells to keep the content readable. The text has a fixed width of 600px for better fit in email, and not all embedding options are available.
So far, so good. The problem is the distribution. Medium makes it cheap and easy to publish, now also by email, but it retains full control over the audience.
As you can see in my example above, Revue has 265 subscribers, left over from experimenting with the Letters feature. With the newsletter functionality, we can reach these subscribers in their inbox. But we cannot take our audience with us. There’s no export, and not even a way to see who they are as far as I can tell.
Luckily, the writer and publisher community seems to have learnt its lesson. Many discussions about the importance of openness of platforms ensued Medium’s announcement.
For example, there was an epic rant by activist and blogger Cory Doctorow who accuses Big Tech of holding customers hostage and makes the case for the last federated platform left online: email. Here’s a link to the entire thread on Twitter:
Cory Doctorow thread on Twitter
So clearly ownership of the audience is an absolute must for writers and publishers. But there are other requirements that are essential to make sure that investments are future proof.
Another important one is domain ownership. There are many long-term advantages to owning a domain including SEO and making sure that links continue to work in the future.
Writers and publishers actually used to have that control in the early days of blogging, until the social networks started taking it away. Here’s an interesting thread by Jason Crawford, who writes about the history of technology & industry at The Roots of Progress.
Jason Crawford thread on Twitter
A last example is access to content. As a writer or publisher you want to be able to access your content and transfer it to other platforms. Transfers might be useful for syndicating content to other platforms, or when switching to another service in a few years.
Again, this is a problem that did not exist in the earlier days of blogs and RSS. Richard MacManus, senior editor The New Stack, poked some fun at Medium because of this:
Richard MacManus thread on Twitter
Without control over audience, domain and content, writers and publishers will be at the mercy of platforms. That’s why I don’t think the “newsletter” efforts of LinkedIn, Medium or Facebook will be successful. And that’s why we provide these features at Revue.
Revue users can:
  1. Import and export subscribers at any time using CSV.
  2. Use a custom domain to send their newsletters from and host their archive at.
  3. Access newsletter content via RSS or as text. So if you want to, you can read this newsletter via RSS (by adding ?format=rss to the URL) or get a text version of it (by adding ?format=text).
The week in newsletters
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Mark from Revue

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