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Journalists should use email more — and Google and Facebook less — to reach readers

Inside CEO Jason Calacanis says email doesn’t “pervert” the news business the way Google and social media did.

Jason Calacanis

Jason Calacanis, the founder of Mahalo and Weblogs Inc., has a new idea for saving journalism, but it’s actually an old idea: Email.

Over the past four years, Calacanis’s latest company Inside has built out a roster of email newsletters, and they’re doing well enough that the company plans to launch one a week this year, for a total of between 60 and 70 newsletters by the end of 2017. On the latest episode of Recode Media with Peter Kafka, Calacanis explained this ambitious strategy: Email works where other platforms don’t.

“I learned a real profound lesson with the Inside news app,” Calacanis said. “You can get 500,000 people to download an app, but only 1 percent or less will use it a day. And then I realized, I took the same information that was in the app, I emailed it to the same audience and 40, 50, 60 percent opened it every day.”

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And it’s not just apps that are the problem — the sacrifices necessary to reach the most eyeballs on search and social media have “perverted” the content business, Calacanis said.

“Everyone was beholden to Google for SEO and then the Huffington Post and everybody became beholden to social networks,” he said. “It’s really perverted the nature of the news business. I think email cuts out all these middlemen.”

“It creates a profound difference in how journalists do their jobs,” he added. “If you hit ‘Send’ and you are just in a panic about people hitting ‘Unsubscribe,’ you focus on quality. If you are trying to game social media, you’re like, ‘What’s the most salacious headline that I can trick somebody into clicking?’”

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