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Will Apple end the newsletter boom?

Today, let’s talk about one of Apple’s many announcements this week at the Worldwide Developer Conference, which some see as a threat to the rise of email journalism. If it sounds self-indulgent Because it comes from a journalist who distributes his work via email, I’m sorry, but it addresses a lot of the issues we care about here — the tech giant’s ability to personalize the market. How will journalism lead the era of platforms? What we mean when we talk about privacy – I hope I can pique your interest at least a bit.



7;s start with the announcement On Monday, at WWDC, Apple announced Mail Privacy Protection, which will limit the amount of information people who email you can collect about you. Here’s how the company describes it:

In the Mail app, Mail’s privacy protection stops senders from using invisible pixels to collect information about users. This new feature allows users to prevent senders from knowing when they opened their emails. and mask their IP address so that they are not linked to other online activities. or used to indicate their location

When you update your iPhone to iOS 15 this fall You will see a screen that opens inviting you to opt in.

Let’s say that most Apple Mail users opt for it. How Much Information Is Needed to Build an Email-Based Business? all day long I have read and heard a lot of controversy.

A quick background for those who aren’t obsessed with email. A long time ago, email marketers started including invisible pixels in the emails they send you. when you open the message Those pixels will load. By telling the sender that you have read their message. and may also infer your location from your IP address.

Overall, the percentage of people who actually opened their emails. called the open rate And it’s one of the most important metrics senders measure to measure the effectiveness of what they do. It lets you know how engaged your audience is. And how has that involvement changed over time?

at the same time There’s a fairly long tradition that people find this creepy. Email startup Superhuman apologized in 2019 after a viral blog post explained how the company tracked when, where, and how often people opened the email sent through the service. The MarkupIt is a non-profit newsroom that often focuses on data privacy issues. Reject eight potential email providers before finding one that agrees to turn off tracking capabilities.

Last year, when Basecamp launched its Hey email service, blocking pixel tracking was a marquee feature. In a blog post today, Basecamp co-founder David Heinemeier Hansson — normally not a fan of Apple! — declared his victory over Pixel Tracking. He wrote:

With Apple’s monopoly advantage with the pre-installed Mail app. So we don’t need much from what they call Mail Privacy Protection to break the dam on spy pixels. You can’t really say anything convincing about open rates if 5-10-30-50% of your recipients are protected from snooping. Because you won’t know that’s why your spy pixel doesn’t falter. or is it because of them Just don’t open your email.

There is also no way a user would be willing to accept evidence of a spy pixel if Apple presents privacy hazards as clearly and frankly as we have done in HEY. Unique for cross-app tracking in iOS 14.5: 96% of US users refuse to let an app track them like that! And email spy pixels are much worse and more creepy.

the second time

Let’s prescribe a few things: One, most people still don’t know these spy pixels exist. Two, if they could, most people probably wouldn’t have allowed it if given the choice. Third, most of these spy pixels are used for marketing purposes — trying to target you. Better for ecommerce I don’t think it’s unreasonable to look at the state of affairs the way Apple does and speak to it.

meanwhile Email publishing has been a few bright spots for journalism in recent years. (Of course, it’s a bright spot for me!) Media companies from Facebook to Twitter to New York Times Currently investing heavily in newsletter strategies. New email publishers appear every week. Much of this has been made possible by the success of Substack, which I use to publish Platformer (see Disclosure).

So it should come as no surprise that some observers look at Mail Privacy Protection and see the threat. Joshua Benton wrote in Nieman Lab, “This is a sign that Apple’s war with targeted advertising is not just a scam. Facebook scam “They’re coming to your Substack too”

Benton brings some powerful numbers to ease concerns: “The latest market share figures from Litmus for May 2021. 93.5% of all email opened on phones comes in Apple Mail on iPhones or iPads,” he wrote. “On desktop, Apple Mail on Mac is responsible. 58.4% of all open emails.”

Clearly, Apple’s move to strip granular customer data from email senders will hurt the email economy. But after speaking with newsletter writers and media executives today, I’m not sure that people who do email news stories will be very concerned about this change.

“The advertising industry is addicted to tracking. It prioritizes the bottom of the funnel metrics by sacrificing great content and creativity. It’s sad,” said Alex Kantrowitz, author of a free, ad-supported newsletter. big technology. (He previously covered the industry for advertising age.) “And that’s why people hate advertising and advertising companies.”

Kantrowitz told me that his inventory was sold out in the first half of the year. Thanks to a premium audience he can’t identify by pixel tracking. But according to an outdated reader survey (The Markuphas used reader surveys to create a visualization of the user base)

“Blocking pixels makes a position like this more valuable. And making quality email newsletters solve most people’s spam inboxes,” Kantrowitz said.

For advertising based newsletters, Mail Privacy Protection often encourages publishers to look for other ways to understand their audience. But what about paid newsletters? Is it the same as collected from this column?

Apple’s move could have a slight impact on its reader-sponsored newsletters. A printing industry executive told me today. Writers can differentiate reader engagement with many metrics that are still valid. This includes the views that their stories receive on the web. Overall mailing list growth and — most meaningful — revenue growth.

The media business is changing so fast that I don’t think reading about the moves like Apple did this week and I think it doesn’t make much sense to make news, but in this case, it mostly makes me feel like a false alarm. There are a number of changes that major email providers like Apple, Google, and Microsoft can make life harder for businesses that use newsletters. Ultimately, I don’t think blocking spy pixels is one of them.


from all of the above I can’t end without pointing out how Apple has benefited from its crackdown on email data collection. The first is clear: it damages the identity of the company even more. It was part of a consistently successful and incredibly successful PR campaign. to build user trust during a time when institutional faith is collapsing

when brought together The privacy-focused features of iOS 15 will combine to put more pressure on the digital ad ecosystem. Perhaps most notably, “Private Relay,” available to paying members of Apple’s iCloud+ service, encrypts all traffic leaving a user’s device. This makes it harder for advertisers to follow.

My cynic friend sees all of this as a way for more businesses to create apps. Offers in-app purchases and promote them with Apple advertising products. Is the email marketing not working as well as before? Looks like it’s time to buy some keywords in the App Store!

What about creators who want to move away from the ad format? Apple is there. Ready and waiting to cut 30% Twitter Super Follows, Paid Podcasts, and Ticketed Facebook Events.

It is sometimes said that Amazon’s ultimate goal is to cut off all economic activity. Considering Apple’s privacy moves this week, I’m mostly willing to take a look at it at face value — as it strikes a necessary balance against the relentless rise of web tracking technologies. But it seems clear that Apple’s value goes beyond customer satisfaction. And as ad revenue and in-app purchases grow, We should keep an eye on how the company’s policies gradually How to transform the economy

This column is published in conjunction with platform gameDaily Newsletter on Big Tech and Democracy

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