Email is one of the biggest opportunities in the digital space — and most people aren’t talking about it.

That’s how Dan Oshinsky, Director of Newsletters at the New Yorker and creator of Not a Newsletter, opened his lesson at the recent session of the Reader Revenue Accelerator Program in Berlin. Over the next hour, Oshinsky walked through his practical recommendations for publications using email — specifically, newsletters — to engage readers and encourage them to become paid subscribers.

To create stellar newsletters, Oshinsky said, follow these four rules.

  1. Content is critical to your news business, but so is distribution. Pay attention to both.
    Your publication is regularly producing high-quality journalism, Oshinsky said. Give distribution as much thought as you do to producing content. You’ll help your publication’s content reach readers as it should.
  2. Create habits and routines.
    Give your newsletters consistency, Oshinsky said. Readers should know what they signed up for, when to expect it, and how it will be delivered.
  3. Start with a building block.
    Each newsletter should fall into one of four core types:

    • Identity – Emails that connect with a reader’s identity or passions
    • Service – Emails that make a reader’s life easier or connect them to content they’re looking for
    • Utility – Emails that help a reader do his or her job better
    • Personality – Emails with a unique personality that readers follow, like an email from a columnist
  4. Respect your audience. Trust is hard to win and easy to lose.
    Unsubscribing is easy. Earning an unsubscribed reader’s email again isn’t. Your newsletters shouldn’t spam or take advantage of the reader. Each newsletter should aim to deliver its optimal value.

The Lenfest Institute for Journalism has covered Oshinsky’s email recommendations in more depth. Read their recap here.

The Accelerator Program

The Facebook Journalism Project’s Accelerator Programs are designed to help news publishers build their digital subscriptions revenues. Funded and organized by The Facebook Journalism Project, this 3-month program includes hands-on workshops led by news industry veterans, a grantmaking program organized by the International Center for Journalists, and regular reports on best practices authored by both ICFJ and the Facebook Journalism Project (FJP). The Reader Revenue Accelerator is part of the broader Accelerator Program, whose programming and structure are overseen by Executive Director Tim Griggs. Previous iterations have focused on acquiring digital subscriptions and digital video.

Sign up for the FJP newsletter for monthly updates on the Accelerator Program and its learnings.