On the Future of Newsletters

Predictions and business ideas to steal


Before we dive into predictions, let’s take a look at the current state of things. If you look at the newsletters that have done really well on Substack, they generally share a few commonalities:

  • The writing is usually high-quality
  • They specialize in a specific area or niche
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If you scroll through your social media feed of choice, it doesn’t take long before you realize how crowded the space is. Mike Isaac comes to a similar conclusion in The New Social Network That Isn’t New at All:


Hopefully, by now I’ve provided solid enough reasoning for the rise of newsletters. Let’s get into where I think newsletters might end up heading in the future.

📈 We Still Aren’t at Peak Newsletter

Content will continue to shift to more private channels like email as a primary medium for distribution. Social media will move into doing more of what it does best: Amplifying the best stuff out there. Big time writers are making the move to email every day. It will quickly become the default.

  • Newsletters for ideas. What if you could input concepts or groups of ideas and get the most valuable content on those terms across platforms delivered to you? This is similar to what Mailbrew does now, but I’m thinking a little more freeform.

🕵️‍♂️ Someone Will Tackle Content Discovery

This might be the hardest problem in newsletters at the moment. Discoverability is a big downside for new publishers moving from a platform like Medium onto their own email newsletter.

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  • Newsletter Grades. Whoever is able to handle platform-level discovery should also be able to produce proxy metrics for subscriber counts, open rates, engagement, etc. that would make finding great content way easier. This raises some privacy and tracking questions, but man this would be cool.

📫 Our Inboxes Will Quickly Become Crowded

This effect won’t be as extreme as the social media firehose mentioned earlier, but it’s certainly going to get more difficult to stand out and parse new content as push-to-email becomes the default common pattern. What would your inbox look like if everything you read was delivered to you via email?

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  • Choose your medium. What if you got to choose where you received content when you subscribed? You could receive it in your inbox (boring), over iMessage, or on some other platform like Facebook Messenger.
  • RSS for people. We should be able to subscribe to people across channels to get updates and new content. WaitWho.is is the first project I’ve seen that has some success doing this for a handful of curated thought leaders.

🤯 Newsletters Will Be More Than Written Content

Eventually, every newsletter that hits some critical mass will come with a community. Interactions and discussions with other subscribers will go from a cool feature to something that is just expected.

  • Clubhouse for newsletters. When you send an issue, you generate a chat room or live stream where readers can have conversations and discuss the writing. Like a just-in-time audio/video party around a very specific topic or piece of content.

Growth at Hugo. Previously data science at Squarespace. Writing here now: https://www.conordewey.com

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