Email vs Apps for Information Distribution

Sep 20, 2016 - This is another example of how the predicted death of email back in 2005 may have been a bit premature.

Actually, in 2015-2016, I've seen stories about how email is dead, despite email's usefulness as a notification tool, and the growing popularity of email newsletters.

Email newsletters have existed for many years. It seems like a recent phenomenon, but that would be false. More people are subscribing to email newsletters or digests for the first time.

“We tried to make a news app,” [Calacanis] explains. “It would be the Uber or Twitter of news ... Everyone agreed with that premise. There was a whole cohort [of startups] that were invested in to do that ... And they have all failed pretty hard.”

Calacanis ascribes this failure to two thing: app-building is expensive from a technical perspective, and getting a news app into people’s daily workflows is extremely hard.

“Half a million people downloaded the app, and about half gave their email," he recounts. "Only one percent of them used the app every day.”

So Calacanis started an experiment. His team would email the top 10 stories of the day to the email addresses they had gotten. They saw 40% usage versus less than 1% on the app. “40x the return,” he says. “And it cost 90% less. We didn’t need any of the developers.”

This intimate reader relationship is also what Calacanis says will help his team lean away from “linkbait.” “People who sign up for the email are opting into curation,” he says.

These readers aren’t just seeing a headline pass them by on social media, so there’s not the necessity for a big hook to get them interested. Instead, the content of the email is focused on a succinct summary of each story. “It’s an executive summary [of the news] in the vertical or verticals that you care about,” he says. Even if readers don’t click through to all of the articles, Calacanis wants his readers to walk away informed.

The facts are simple: people are adding an average of ZERO new apps to their phones each month, and most modern news consumption happens in social media) places like Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Reddit, and, of course, email).

This is a lesson that has been hard-learned by a whole crop of “news-reader” style apps — from tiny startups like Circa to mega-brands like Facebook, both of which folded their news apps.

Meanwhile, publishers increasingly rely on viral traffic — which incentivizes silly clickbait, or worse they focus on writing headlines that rank in Google.

I love that newsletters are held to such a high standard — it makes our writers focused on what matters most.

We’re going all in with email newsletters because I think we can save journalism by putting 99 cents of every dollar we spend on writers. Our business has close to zero infrastructure costs and massive consumer feedback.

July 2016 - Returning to the Original Social Network

Email, affectionately called the “cockroach of the internet,” is designed to scurry from server to server. It’s resilient and based on an open interoperable protocol.

My thought: A new system or "app" needs to be as easy to use as email.

Sora - 2018-04-15T00:42:25Z

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