Not so long ago, most comics had never heard of podcasts, let alone had one of their own. Oh, how things change.
Social media evolves at such a rapid pace that it’s difficult to keep up to date with the latest opportunities, let alone get ahead of them in a manner that allows you to capitalize on them.
For example, the boom in comedy podcasts over the past couple years created incredible, career-altering opportunities for comedians – but mostly for comics who were “early” on the podcast boom. Guys like Marc Maron, Adam Carolla, and others built podcast empires by combining their talents with a good sense of timing – they saw the potential in the format before the rest of the comedy world and capitalized on it.
While predicting the future is certainly a crapshoot, I also felt like I saw the podcast boom coming several years before it exploded. And now, I feel like I’m seeing a similar set of circumstances bubbling up that leads me to believe there’s a new boom coming.
This time around though, I think we’re headed for a boom in comedian email newsletters.
Here’s five reasons why I think comedian newsletters are poised to take off and why I think they have the potential to be even bigger than the podcast boom that’s led just about every comic on the planet to create one.
1. There’s Booming Interest In Email Newsletters From The Public And Media
Before the rise of comedy podcasts, there was an initial audience developed for non-comedy podcasts. Those early adopters helped establish the medium and the overall growth of the podcast audience helped set the table for the growth of the comedy-specific podcast audience.
The same thing is currently happening with email newsletters of the non-comedy variety. More people are creating them, more people are reading them, and there’s starting to be a lot of media attention given to them. For example, there’s been several recent articles written about the rise of email newsletters including this New York Times column, this Fast Company article about the rise of Tinyletter, and this Atlantic piece about people’s frustration with the social stream.
As referenced in some of those articles, there’s some pretty eye-opening numbers about the size of the email newsletter audience already including that Mailchimp is adding 10,000 new users a day and that 9.3 million people have subscribed to Tinyletter newsletters. These are big numbers that suggest a very large (and growing) audience can be reached through email newsletters these days.
2. Comics Are Uniquely Positioned To Create Better Newsletters Than The Average Person
As with most forms of online content, comedians are better equipped to create compelling newsletters than the average person. Because comics are (theoretically) “professionally” funny, they should be able to write an email newsletter that’s way more entertaining than some “civilian.”
This mirrors what happened with podcasts – there were tons of podcasts out there featuring regular people making snarky comments or jokes about various topics, but when professional comedians and entertainers stormed the medium they wound up rising to the top and raising the overall level of the audience’s expectations.
I think the same thing is likely to happen with email newsletters – at least the ones that are designed to be funny/entertaining.
3. Email Newsletters Offer a Huge Benefit For Comics
One of the reasons comics flocked to podcasts was because it gave them the opportunity to reach a mass audience directly and showcase their talents in a way that provided value for them beyond just that podcast itself. It essentially created a virtual stage that was open to them 24/7.
The same is true for email newsletters.
Every comic (well, at least the smart ones) knows that growing your email list is a vital component to a successful career and one of the most important assets you can have at your disposal. But unfortunately most comics struggle to grow their list – in part because they only use their email list to send out show updates and only ask people to join their email list at their shows (if that).
That approach would be the equivalent of launching a podcast where all you did was talk about your upcoming shows – nobody would subscribe to that.
But creating an email newsletter that actually delivers compelling content gives people a reason to subscribe and in the process delivers comics a direct connection to a lot more people. Those connections can pay dividends in a number of ways down the road, unlike podcasts where you don’t capture an email address from listeners.
In that respect, a successful newsletter would actually be MORE VALUABLE to comics than a successful podcast already is today.
4. Email Newsletters Cost Less And Are Less Complicated Than Podcasts
Let’s be honest: launching a podcast is not the easiest thing in the world for non-technical people. You’ve got to figure out how to record it, get some equipment, figure out how to upload it and get it into iTunes, etc. None of that is impossible and it’s certainly gotten simpler over the past couple years, but it’s still a bit daunting for some people.
Still, most comics these days have put in the time, effort, and money to make it happen.
Comparatively, email newsletters are WAY simpler to produce. There’s little-to-no cost involved, practically no set up, and really no excuse for a comic not to have one.
I think this means that as comedian newsletters build momentum we’ll see a rush to the format that dwarves the rush we saw into podcasts.
5. The Audience For Newsletters Is WAY Bigger Than The Podcast Audience – Or ANY Social Media Audience
One of the things that got lost in the comedy podcast gold rush is how relatively small the potential audience for podcasts actually is. Sure, tons of people listen to podcasts and more are starting to each day, but it’s still just a tiny fraction of the number of people who use email.
The only people who will ever potentially listen to your podcast are people who listen to podcasts already – so basically you’re competing for a fraction of a fraction of an audience. But pretty much everybody uses email, so if you’re able to convert the same fraction of users to subscribers, you’re going to wind up with a lot more people.
Also, email is way more powerful than social media – that’s why social networks are constantly emailing you to tell you what’s happening on their network, because they know that you’re more likely to see something in your email than in your Twitter feed. So again, a successful email newsletter would be a much more valuable tool to a comic than a successful social media following.
Now For The Really Interesting Part…
If the five things I’ve spelled out above have at least made you start to think about the possibilities for a comedy email newsletter boom, here’s the really interesting part – barely any comics are actually producing newsletters at the moment.
You might think that runs counter to my prediction, but I actually think it shows that now is the moment when huge opportunity exists to be one of the early adopters and stake claim before the rest of the comedy world chases after the next big thing. The circumstances are right for some comedians to capitalize on the growing interest in email newsletters and somebody out there is going to become to newsletters what Marc Maron was to podcasts.
The question is, will it be you?
If you’ve got a newsletter (or decide to start one after reading this article), please post a comment below and tell me about it – I’d love to check it out.
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4 thoughts on “5 Reasons Comedian Newsletters May Become Bigger Than Comedy Podcasts”
Yes , I started a newsletter called BADSKINGOODGUY- its a letter about skin problems, the latest treatments for acne rosacea etc, over the counter medication as well as prescription meds. My life dealing with acne and more.
why a newsletter, vs a blog? I understand that a blog is not mailed out to your list, but it can be. I have a blog Inspiration From Perspiration. Should I just make that a newsletter?
Not quite sure what the differences are?
I accepted the Josh Newsletter Challenge ™ and began the long trudge uphill into the vast reaches of trial and error accompanying said journey. I made a prototype (it’s around here somewhere) called Comedian Whisperer. Today, I will write another. I may do a better one this time. signup here: tinyurl.com/oex5ugh
I love all of your ideas.