Next in Marketing: Why the digital newsletter boom could shake up digital ad targeting

Email newsletters were already enjoying a renaissance a few years ago — with D2C brands launching robust operations and email-forward publishers like Morning Brew emerging. Once the pandemic hit and Google announced the deprecation of the third-party cookie, however, the value of email as an owned, opt-in channel kicked into overdrive.

Now, as publishers and advertisers are looking for new ways to build audience relationships and gather first-party data, they’re continuing to ramp up their email strategies. To talk about this ongoing shift, LiveIntent CMO Kerel Cooper joined Mike Shields, founder of Shields Strategic Consulting, in a recent AppsFlyer podcast: “Why the digital newsletter boom could shake up digital ad targeting.”

As Cooper says, “Email newsletters — the way people are receiving news and information — has really replaced the newspaper and magazine. I think a lot of publishers and brands, over the last 16 months, have realized that.”

Here’s what they’re doing about it — and how email will be a big part of the addressability and identity solution going forward.

Using email to deliver personalized content

Adobe found that U.S. workers spend more than five hours each day checking their emails. It’s no wonder, then, that publications like The New York Times are doubling down on email products and newsletter platforms like Substack are growing.

“From a publisher perspective, [email] is a great way to have that direct connection with your consumers; it’s a great way to connect creators of content to an audience that wants that content,” Cooper says. “In the short term, by providing that value, you’re building up that long-term asset, which is the email address.”

A 2021 LiveIntent study also found that nine in 10 advertisers see newsletters as a valuable way to reach their target audiences and personalize communication.

Take Bevel, for example. The beauty products brand produces email content about skincare and shaving techniques for its target audience of Black men. Meanwhile, a bigger company like Home Depot frequently publishes DIY email content for its consumers.

As Cooper says, “Any brand that can produce content that is complementary to the products that they offer, I think is a win-win for them and their consumers.”

Email’s role as an identity solution

As we prepare for a cookies world, a range of addressability solutions has already cropped up, like The Trade Desk’s Unified ID 2.0 and Google’s FLoCs. In fact, in April 2021, AdExchanger noted 80 different companies taking a stab at new identity products. Still, Cooper stresses the need for companies to work together in building addressability solutions and breaking down data silos — otherwise, we’ll end up right back where we were with third-party cookies.

“As a consumer, I don’t want to go from platform to platform and see the same ad over and over again,” he says. “The companies that play in this space have to speak to each other, have to work together, with the best interests of the end consumer in mind.”

This need for interoperability across platforms also illustrates why email should be part of the identity solution. As Cooper puts it, your email address is “your digital passport.” You use it to log into social platforms, retailer sites, and streaming platforms. By investing in email acquisition, publishers can future-proof their businesses.

“Now more than ever, publishers have a seat at the table; they are in a position to control their own destiny,” Cooper says. “If you think about a newsletter program for a major publisher, that’s almost like their own walled garden. It’s a way to have that logged-in audience, direct connection […] I think they really need to leverage that.”

A bright future for email advertising

Going forward, Cooper expects to see businesses increasingly invest in email and test new strategies for their audiences.

“You will see more and more publishers test different newsletter models from a content perspective — long form vs. short form, news content vs. opinion pieces, hiring well-known journalists to have their own newsletters vs. the standard headlines that you put out,” he says. “And all of this is about providing the consumer what they want.”

That’s why, as a people-based marketing platform, LiveIntent has always been powered by the email address. We’ve spent over a decade establishing a programmatic, first-party email network. And now we work with over 2,500 publishers and brands to reach engaged subscribers with email advertising solutions.

“Everything that we do is centered around a really high-performing, engaging platform where everyone is 100% logged in,” Cooper says.

As privacy and identity come to the forefront of the marketing conversation, building and accessing that logged-in audience is going to become more important than ever.

“We’ve always been a believer in email as a platform for publishers and brands to have that direct connection and relationship with their users and subscribers,” Cooper says. “[As they] think about their first-party data strategy and how to survive and thrive in the future, I think it puts us in a pretty good spot to help the industry.”