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Newsletters are bad, actually

About a month ago, I had 351 unread newsletters in my inbox.

Well, not in my inbox. In a special folder I’d created to correspond to the special email alias I’d set up just for subscribing to newsletters. (I even had a text expansion shortcut to save me the trouble of typing out that email when signing up.)

Today, I have zero subscriptions and I’m about to kill my own newsletter, which I’ve been sending for over a year.

How did I get here?

Inbox bankruptcy

When I looked at those 351 unread emails, which I had no real interest in reading, I realized that Past Me had created a mess for Present Me, and I wanted to stop doing that.

![Twitter: “I do so many things that seem to be optimizing for a hypothetical future state where I’m like “Oh gee whiz I am bored and can’t find anything to read”

Which literally never happens”](/images/image.png)

I didn’t want to invest the time it would take to read them all, or the energy it would take to evaluate them all and determine which ones bring me joy. So I unsubscribed to everything.

After a couple weeks of blissful inbox serenity, it was time to send out my biweekly newsletter. Which led to some internal conflict.

Why do you need a newsletter?

I started my newsletter in May 2019, as a feed of the daily blog posts I was writing on this site. (You can check out the archive here.)

I’m forever grateful - now more than ever - to the kind and curious souls who signed up. Some even replied, and shared. It’s been truly magical!

But things have changed since May 2019. Substack, which I hadn’t even heard of when I started newslettering, now has thousands of writers, and hundreds of thousands of paying subscribers. You may have noticed that over the past year or so, everybody and their mom launched a newsletter.

As the landscape gets more crowded, dynamics shift.

Conventional wisdom about having a newsletter is that it allows you to “own your audience.” Slightly creepy, but I can see why it seems appealing.

Except … you don’t really own somebody just because they gave you their email.

Especially when everybody and their mom has a Substack, so subscribing becomes as common (and as frictionless) as a social media follow.

Especially when tools like Hey.com (or my DIY email alias hack) make it possible to sign up for a newsletter and literally never see it.

What I’m doing instead

All this isn’t to say that list building and email marketing don’t work. They do! Depending on the offering, and the audience, and your goals.

My goals are:

I can make both of these happen without a newsletter, so that’s what I’m going to do.

If you’d like to have an interesting conversation, just grab time here.

To support the content I create, you can subscribe on Gumroad.

And if you have a response to this post, you can email me - hello (at) briandavidhall.com. My inbox is free from clutter, so you’ll definitely reach me.

    © 2024 Brian David Hall