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Are email newsletters dead?

Did RSS kill the email star? Hardly … and I finally jump on the bandwagon.

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I’ll admit up front that today’s podcast is slightly self-serving. I’llvexplain in a ‘sec.

A couple of years ago, around the time I was setting up Ask Leo!, a wise gentleman made the claim that “email newsletters are dead”. He said that because RSS was catching on, and the spam problem was growing in magnitude. Email deliverability was a serious issue for newsletter publishers, and RSS feeds bypassed the entire email infrastructure.

Here we are two years later. RSS is thriving – in fact it’s spawned revolutions in content delivery, including entirely new models like podcasting. This podcast wouldn’t exist were it not for RSS.

But, perhaps surprisingly, email newsletters continue to thrive.

Since RSS requires you to use, and understand, a new tool – a feed reader – widespread adoption among “normal” people hasn’t really happened yet. It’s getting better – for example in the case of podcasting, Apple’s iTunes has made a big impact on widespread adoptions. But true, widespread RSS adoption is still somewhere out in the future – maybe when it’s really integrated into the operating system. Or perhaps adoption will increase as more and more content becomes available and compelling.

RSS is not yet the death of email newsletters. Unlike RSS, everybody already has email, and they understand it. Spam solutions, while sometimes cumbersome and problematic, are out there – and let’s face it, people will tolerate a certain amount of spam.

So here comes the self serving part: two years ago I claimed that Ask Leo! would never get into the email newsletter publishing business. I didn’t want the hassle. Now – I’ve changed my mind. I’ve partnered with a great mailing list provider,, and will be launching the “Leo’s Answers” newsletter on November 18th. It’ll be a weekly summary of articles posted to Ask Leo!, as well as a few newsletter-only extras.

As a website publisher, it’ll be an important tool to generate repeat visitors – as a service provider, it’s another way that users – particularly those who aren’t yet on the RSS bandwagon – can stay up to date.

We’ll see how it goes.

Visit the shownotes at by entering 9404 in the go to article number box on the home page. There’s a link there to the original article, as well as the comments I’ve only excerpted here. Add your own comments, I’d love to hear from you.

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3 comments on “Are email newsletters dead?”

  1. Leo,
    Although I’m a pretty knowledgeable user, I read your RSS feed and do learn new things. Thanks!

    I’m a coach and consultant who specializes in helping independent professionals get and build their businesses online. Some of the things I do is setup autoresponders and ezines for my clients, as well as build and maintain their sites.

    Lately, I’ve been talking them into changing from ezines to blogs. I install a WordPress blog for them with an email notification plugin that works great! They – and their subscribers – are still 100% clueless about RSS, so that’s not an option. And they still want to “push” their content to their subscribers.

    The blog with notification option works well for them because they mostly have been doing HTML ezines which require them to either pay monthly for an easy way to generate their content for each issue, or use an HTML editor of some sort to create their content and then use a broadcast/autoresponder system – that they also must pay for monthly – to send the issue.

    Or they have to pay me to generate and send their issue while still paying for the broadcast/AR system monthly!

    With the blog, they pay me to install and configure it, as well as teach them how to use it, but then they are cost-free and it’s easy for them to use the admin screen to generate posts.

    An additional benefit over ezines is that they can create some disussion via comments. And the RSS links are already available for when the average web user starts to use that technology.

    Now, I know you’re doing a blog AND an ezine. But how much easier is it to create blog entries and have them automatically go out to your subscribers than to create 2 different streams?


  2. Heck – I actually pay for Brian Livingston’s Windows Sectets newsletter – why? because the info is 90% relevant to me. For $10/year it’s a great deal as far as I’m concerned. Love the podcast – keep up the great work and I’m looking forward to the newsletter.


  3. Leo, great podcast today!

    A year and a half ago I wrote an article on the “22 Reasons Why Email is Not Dead” and as I re-read the datapoints that I wrote in that article… even though XML/RSS has increased in value to society, it is not the replacement for email and will never be.

    The big issue is that this should never have been a debate about “Is RSS the replacement for EMAIL?” but rather how can the average person ADD RSS to their business in ADDITION to email.

    Those who only do RSS are missing the boat. Proof is that the guy who cried EMAIL IS DEAD, sends hundreds of thousands of permission-based emails weekly. HA! Email is not dead and the RSS guy proved it. :-)

    Chris of


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