How branded content publishers can use e-newsletters to boost engagement: An interview with The Rebooting’s Brian Morrissey

Crafting compelling e-newsletters that captivate readers can move the needle on branded content campaigns. Delve into the insights of Brian Morrissey, the visionary behind The Rebooting, as he explains how to craft e-newsletters that foster authentic audience engagement, build loyalty, and drive growth.

How branded content publishers can use e-newsletters to boost engagement
Matt Moore
Matt Moore
Associate Manager of Product Marketing
Read time: 4 mins

When advertisers pay for a branded content campaign, they’re not just paying for content creation—they’re accessing a publisher’s audience.

A thoughtful content amplification plan gets your content in front of more people, delivering results for advertisers. Strengthening the effectiveness of each distribution channel makes your campaigns: 

  • More valuable to brands
  • Less expensive to operate

E-newsletters are an underutilized channel in many branded content campaign plans. By consistently delivering valuable and relevant content through newsletters, you can establish trust and credibility with subscribers—increasing engagement and making your campaigns more beneficial to brands. 

How much can e-newsletters boost engagement?

Publishers increasingly recognize e-newsletters as a powerful tool for increasing engagement—and the stats show the benefits: 

  • Traffic from Vox’s newsletter averaged 175 percent more time on the website than Facebook traffic
  • Vanity Fair’s newsletter readers consume 2x more content than other audiences
  • New York Times’ newsletter subscribers are twice as likely to become paid subscribers
how e-newsletters can boost engagement

The channel offers an unrivaled opportunity to tap into a captive audience and bolster campaign performance. However, a compelling newsletter must strike a delicate balance. It hinges on building trust with your audience—and trust takes time to cultivate. This can make leveraging e-newsletters challenging for branded content teams.

What publishers can learn from The Rebooting’s approach to e-newsletters

The Rebooting is a B2B e-newsletter that explores ways to build a sustainable media business. Brian Morrissey, former Editor-in-Chief at Digiday, founded the newsletter in 2020 and has grown his audience to over 16,000 subscribers. 

With over 20 years of experience writing about the media industry, Morrissey offers his insights into the importance of creating authentic newsletters that connect with audiences.

What role does the newsletter play in a publisher’s channel mix?

Brian: Newsletters have always been critically important in media—especially business media. 

Everywhere that I’ve worked, we didn’t focus on our unique visitors or pageview metrics. We focused on how many email subscribers we had and the subscribers’ depth of engagement. 

Many people, especially in B2B, are coming around to this way of thinking. 

Why do you believe so many publishers are using newsletters more?

Brian: Email newsletters provide a direct connection to your audience. It provides a lot of stability and resilience for your traffic because it’s a push medium vs a pull medium. You push content to people instead of waiting for them to find it. For example, SEO is a pull medium. 

push and pull advertising mediums

Many pull mediums require you to produce content that’s optimized for algorithms. The companies that create those algorithms change them based on their priorities and they don’t explain how they work. Publishers often get caught in the crossfire. You have more ownership and control over your push mediums, which makes them more valuable.

I noticed there’s a more personal connection between the publisher and the audience with email—particularly after I started The Rebooting. 

How do you suggest publishers develop a personal connection with their audience?

A: When an email comes from a person, it will perform better. If it’s done well, it should read more like a personal message. The best email newsletters are written like emails from friends or family—not an email with a bunch of ads like you’d receive from a retailer. 

Though there are different types of email newsletters, the most powerful ones feel personal. There’s a depth of engagement and connectivity that doesn’t really exist in a lot of other publishing formats. People write long emails back to me sometimes, which is great. 

quote by brian morressey

Many publishers still have a traditional approach to newsletters. They have heavy institutional brands and don’t emphasize individual writers or personalities. 

However, many newer publishers are trying to find a place on that institutional-to-individual continuum. They want the benefits of an overarching brand but also take advantage of that human connection.

How do you balance that sense of authenticity and personalization with newsletter advertising?

Brian: Curate your advertising partners thoughtfully. Not everyone who offers to advertise is a good fit for your newsletter—and that tension is part of what makes publishing a difficult business. If an advertising partner doesn’t align with the publication’s mission, it’s glaring. It erodes trust between publishers and their audiences. 

The ad format also needs to align with the newsletter content. Clients often ask me what the biggest performance driver is. The biggest factors are:

  • How the messaging aligns with newsletter content stylistically
  • If you’re providing something valuable to the audience 
e-newsletters boost engagement

An effective newsletter ad needs to feel like an introduction at like a cocktail party to someone who you might have something in common with. In many ways, that approach is antithetical to today’s highly automated approach to digital advertising. Everything is about efficiency, but humans involve a lot of friction. 

The more a message sounds like it was written to a human being—vs a cookie-cutter, automated message—the better it will perform. 

Create more engaging campaigns with Pressboard by

Optimizing branded content campaigns is critical to turning your program into a viable revenue stream—and the secret often lies in your data.

Pressboard, part of the for Publishers suite, automatically pulls campaign data into a unified dashboard so you can evaluate performance holistically. 

Discover which channels work, which need improvement, and what kind of content resonates with your audience—all without manual processes and complicated spreadsheets. 

Request a demo today.   

Stay in the know. Get our monthly newsletter right in your inbox.


You have successfully signed signed up to our newsletter. Keep an eye on your inbox...

Invalid email values your privacy.