Over the last year, a gathering parade of writers — including some of the biggest names in journalism — have abandoned traditional publications for the greener, less centralized pastures of independent newsletters. The exodus has often been driven by frustrations with the various interlopers who stand between content creators and their audiences. Newspaper editors? Social media algorithms? No need to worry about these gatekeepers, the thinking goes, when you can just email your thoughts straight to whoever wants them.
It’s a trend that has made email sexy again, boosted earnings for a small cadre of name-brand writers and helped countless others supplement their incomes. The newsletter platform Substack has secured tens of millions in venture capital, while smaller-scale players such as Ghost and Buttondown have carved out their own niches in the emerging market.
Yet the dream of a middleman-free media ecosystem is not so fully realized as its proponents might like to think. There are still email providers to reckon with — in particular, Google’s free, wildly popular Gmail service.