Why Are Newsletters So Painful?

25 Apr 2022 | ~3 minute read

Newsletters don’t have any right to be as complicated or as expensive to run as they are. So I quit mine.

Newsletters are the latest shiny thing that a lot of content creators are gravitating toward. Myself included. But last week I decided to kill off my newsletter after producing it for around 18 months.

Why? Because they’re painful and expensive to manage.

Newsletters are painful

Maintaining a newsletter, if you want to do it yourself, is very painful.

Around 6 months ago I decided to kill my newsletter, the Meta Letter, but later decided to bring it back…kind of. Instead of producing the newsletter, I just sent out my posts to a list of subscribers.

I did this with the use of a plugin called Newsletter Glue, which made the process much more simple, but I didn’t want the extra cost (more on that later).

So I decided to stop using NLG and went with Buttondown. It’s a great service, but meant I had to manually create the newsletter every time I wanted to publish it. Effectively doubling up on the amount of work I had to do.

Then there were the constant tweaks to how it looked so that it was presentable in the various email service providers and the way they decide to interpret HTML and CSS.

It was just a giant cluster f*ck…and I had to pay through the nose for it too.

They’re expensive too!

We’re talking about sending emails here, folks. It’s really easy to do, but for some reason newsletter services are really expensive.

I had around 1,000 subscribers to my newsletter. With Buttondown that equated to just $5/month; nice and cheap, right? Yeah, that’s why I was using them!

But that brought us back to the problem of having to double up on everything I send to the newsletter list.

If I was to streamline that process and go back to the Newsletter Glue plugin, I would have had to switch to a different newsletter provider and the pricing would have worked out something like this:

That’s $350/year to maintain a newsletter. Now, if my newsletter had a spike and grew to say 5,000 subscribers, that annual cost would grow to nearly $600/year.

By ditching the newsletter, all I have to pay for is the WordPress hosting, which can take many hundreds of thousands of visitors every month.

Other options?

Sure, there are other options like Substack, Revue and their ilk, where I could have a free newsletter effectively. But I refuse to be beholden to a corporate entity that can change the rules at anytime and with it take all my content.

No, thanks. As the saying goes:

If something is free, you’re the product.

Final thoughts

Newsletters might be the new shiny, but after 18 months of trying I’m utterly jaded with the whole thing.

On the other hand, I’ve been writing since 2013 but still enjoy it because the process is easy (sometimes).

If you’re managing your own newsletter, more power to you. I think I’ll stay away from the new shiny for a change and stick with good old blogging.

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