Why Publishers Need to Future-Proof Their Businesses With Newsletters: Q&A With Passendo’s Anders Rasmussen

Even if the third-party tracking cookie never fully exits the advertising ecosystem, the era of privacy regulations is upon us, making the collection and activation of first-party data all the more critical for publishers. 

Email newsletters are one surefire way to achieve both those things, plus they offer pubs a sweet opportunity to earn alternative revenue. 

Given that ad spend will continue its slow descent well into 2023, and direct sales are making a comeback (for some, they never left) — email newsletters provide advertisers with premium advertising inventory that reaches a highly engaged audience. Advertiser Perceptions found that from August 2021 to August 2022, the number of marketers who advertised with newsletters rose from 37% to 65%.

In the midst of mounting privacy regulations, consumers becoming more aware of how they share their data and with whom, and publishers’ concerns about consumer subscription fatigue, I spoke with Anders Rasmussen, CCO & Founder of Passendo, an award-winning email monetization platform that provides value for publishers and advertisers worldwide, about how publishers can future proof their businesses with email newsletters and what’s next for the channel.

How Pubs Use Newsletters to Future-proof Their Business

Lynne d Johnson: How can publishers use newsletters as a channel to future-proof their businesses in the cookieless era?

Anders Rasmussen: First up, publishers have to recognize the power email can wield, and, in a world that’s increasingly obsessed with digital marketing, they need to remember the possibilities an email campaign offers. 

It is a critical component in any healthy marketing program and unique in its ability to entertain, inform, engage and sell through — all this under one roof. Secondly, publishers need to make the absolute most of the first-party data entrusted to them by opted-in, pre-engaged consumers and use emails to activate this critical asset. 

Thinking Outside the Box 

LdJ: Beyond future-proofing their businesses, how can pubs think outside the box to use newsletters to diversify their revenue streams and launch new products?

AR: There are a couple of things here. First of all, the pandemic has immunized consumers against owning content, and in the past couple of years, audiences have been turning to subscription services for entertainment, news, and even shopping. 

Forward-thinking publishers have recognized this and launched newsletter verticals in the form of paid subscriptions for their content. For example, The New York Times offers a puzzles subscription, while Esquire US offers verticals based on particular editorial staff. There’s also the fact that newsletters are ideal for promoting products and driving traffic to a publisher’s website. 

Is Subscription Fatigue a Real Thing?

LdJ: Not every subscription-based media company is experiencing the same success as The New York Times. Looking at streaming services’ declining subscriber rates (cough, cough, Netflix), do you think we’ve yet reached peak subscription accounts for consumers? Are reaching a level of subscription fatigue or is this more about pubs not properly converting the exchange value?

AR: Frankly, I think you’re right that many consumers are experiencing subscription fatigue, but for specific reasons. For example, the average number of subscription services per household has gone up in recent years, and people are beginning to pick and choose the best of what they pay for (after all, the cost of numerous subscriptions quickly adds up.) 

Secondly, Netflix offers a ‘one-size-fits-all’ subscription model that no longer looks either personal or curated. There is so much content on Netflix it can be exhausting just picking something to watch, and consumers are now after increasingly personalized localized programming. Finally, there is simply an increasing number of competitors in the game, giving consumers greater choices in the market. So yes, publishers need to differentiate themselves when it comes to offering consumers subscription products.

Retail Media + Email Newsletters = Perfect Opportunity for Pubs

LdJ: Looking ahead, I’m curious about where email newsletters fit into the growth of retail media. Emarketer predicts ad spend to grow to 31.4% to $41.37 billion this year. Is there a role for newsletters to play in this booming marketplace?

AR: The short answer is: yes email will play a significant role in this rapidly expanding marketplace. In fact, Passendo is already working closely with retail and ecommerce media and we predict the sector will eventually achieve 2-3x the size of the more traditional publishing space. 

A key driver in this is the fact that email uses first-party, opt-in data to speak directly to audiences, and in the privacy-first world we live in this is a highly valuable asset. Add in email’s unique flexibility as a platform to inform and sell through, and you have a very potent asset for the retail media industry to use.