“They’re the same thing.” No. They’re not.

I’m writing this because I see it way too often.

An email newsletter is not the same thing as email marketing. Semantics? Maybe. But they both can mean many things.

And the distinction is really important for anyone in a marketing role who’s been tasked with coming up with a “email marketing strategy” or starting a “company newsletter”.

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  • Newsletters can be standalone media businesses (like a podcast, YouTube channel, or TV show)
  • Newsletters can be part of a content marketing strategy
  • Newsletters can leverage email marketing tactics & strategies (or not)

Sidenote: as I tweeted out this idea, Josh Spector hit me with this gem that aligns beautifully with what I’m about to dive into:

Newsletters As Media

Let’s add ‘Newsletters’ to the other popular forms of media distribution.

Consider podcasts and YouTube channels.

Both can be standalone distribution platforms generating revenue in the traditional media business model — via ads & sponsorships.


  • Joe Rogan
  • Call Her Daddy
  • Armchair Expert
  • Fantasy Footballers Podcast (must be draft season lol)

The podcast is the product. The YouTube channel is the product. They are media businesses.

Some newsletters operate similarly:

These are media businesses delivered via email (we call them “newsletters” because we haven’t figured out a better name).

They make all or most of their revenue by publishing the newsletter — either from paid subscriptions (Netflix model) or with free content containing ads & sponsors.

A customer consuming these products are — most often — at the bottom of the marketing funnel.

Newsletters as Content Marketing

No, most newsletters do not operate as media entities like previously discussed.

And that’s okay!

Instead, business’s commonly leverage email newsletters within their marketing strategy. But to just call it “email marketing” is problematic.

Email marketing is a marketing & sales strategy.
More on that shortly.

Let’s go back to the podcast & YouTube comparison.

Most leverage podcasts & YouTube videos to gain awareness or interest: top- or middle-of-funnel strategies.


  • Do you call your podcast “audio marketing”?
  • Do you call your YouTube channel “video marketing”?


They’re content. And they’re part of a content marketing strategy.

Newsletters are also content marketing.

What does a Newsletter Content Marketing Strategy Look Like?

Here’s an overly simplistic example.

Say a company is in the wearable tech space (like Fitbit, Apple Watch, Whoop, etc.)

You’re not going to publish a weekly newsletter focused on your product. You’re not going to publish a weekly newsletter about your business.

You’re going to create, curate, & publish content that aligns with your target customers’ interests:

  • Exercise tips
  • Fitness trends
  • Health & nutrition news, tips, resources
  • Medical news & breakthroughs

You might include links to communities, job opportunities, equipment deals, protein bar discounts, etc.

You’re not monetizing this newsletter with ads & sponsors. You’re providing helpful, interesting, and engaging content for your readers.

And yes, you will still occasionally pitch your product and run promotions.

Which is where email marketing comes in.

Email Marketing and  Newsletters

Yes, businesses should use email to market & drive sales for their business. They’d be foolish not to.

Don’t hear what I’m not saying: email marketing is a very effective strategy to drive sales.

But it’s a strategy — it’s not a product. It’s not content.

It’s not Morning Brew.
It’s not Growth Currency.
And it’s not Why We Buy.

Those are newsletters as media businesses & content marketing.

Instead, email marketing strategies include things like:

  • sales copy
  • customer funnels
  • A/B testing
  • sequences
  • automation
  • segmentation

And yes — people use stuff like this in their newsletters. An automated ‘Welcome Email’ sequence helps the new subscriber acclimatize to your newsletter. It is a good idea.

Sales copy helps you write ad & sponsorship copy. It keeps your reader engaged.

But many successful newsletters avoid email marketing tactics altogether.


They don’t need it.

Their content speaks for itself. Their writing and curation keeps people coming back and referring other readers. They don’t need to segment readers who click on a specific link or A/B test subject lines. Their readers will open & read regardless.

So write and publish a newsletter.

And use some email marketing. Or don’t.

Sometimes, those are the best emails.

Nailed it (source: @PeterW__)

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