On building a newsletter aggregator

Newsletters are great for keeping up with what’s happening around you. Their authors do a fantastic job of curating hours of reading material into a well-written digest. However, for readers, consuming newsletters is still not ideal! In this post, I’ll expose a solution that I think will benefit both readers and authors. It’s called newsletter aggregator.

The problem with newsletters

I recently subscribed to Trends.vc. The author spends around 30 hours every week on research and comes up with a report about market trends in the startup world. To top it all, it’s written in an extremely simple and concise English.

But here’s the thing, none of my friends are subscribed to it. Why? Because signing up to a newsletter means giving out your personal email. That’s a big friction!

First, you’re giving away everything that’s tied to your email. There are lots of tools out there that will build your full persona from your email. So you’re not just giving out an email address.

Second, test driving a newsletter is very demanding. You sign up, wait for the confirmation, wait for the first email, wait for the second one and only then decide if you like it or not. That’s easily a 2 week trial!

But more importantly, for 2 weeks you’ve been receiving something you didn’t want on top of your important emails. That’s an enormous investment for a trial.

Third, newsletters land in your mailbox. So by definition, they are fighting – even unwillingly – for a place on top of your important emails. For as long as you’re subscribed!

Newsletters, then, have incredible value. Their distribution, however, is lacking.

So how can we fix that?

To start with, inboxes could get better at sorting emails. But that’s a lot harder than it sounds.

Newsletters could also choose another medium for distribution. The problem here is that email is the best distribution. Nothing beats a place in your audience’s mailbox.

There is however, another solution that has been getting quite some attention lately. You’ve probably heard that term thrown here and there: newsletter aggregator.

Enter the newsletter aggregator

The term newsletter aggregator isn’t well defined yet. But I’d like to start officializing it. To me a newsletter aggregator needs to do few things

  • Bypass your mailbox (for the sake of decluttering)
  • Combine newsletters from different senders
  • Categorize newsletters
  • Send email updates on a regular basis (weekly, daily or every X days)
  • Bonus: provide a better interface for reading newsletters

This is still early so the list will grow as newsletter aggregator apps mature. I sincerely believe we are at the dawn of a new era with newsletter aggregators.

And I’m excited to be part of it. For the past year, I’ve been building SubscriptionZero which is aiming to solve this very problem.

SubscriptionZero allows you to read and organize your newsletters outside your mailbox. When you login, you’ll receive an email address that you can then use to subscribe to newsletters. These will then appear on the app’s reader which is specifically designed to read newsletters.

It solves the 3 problems I mentioned above:

  1. You don’t hand out your personal email
  2. You don’t have unwanted emails fighting for the top spot in your inbox
  3. You don’t have newsletters you actually like fighting for the top spot in your mailbox

If you’re subscribed to a lot of newsletters, you have try SubscriptionZero!