About three dozen newsletters land in my inbox every day. Some are focusing on the new thesis that venture capitalists are developing for the Indian and crypto markets. Most watch newsgathering. The rise of Substack has allowed many journalists to quit their editorial jobs and start something for themselves. So the subscription list keeps growing. But keeping track of even a quarter of these newsletters in the sea of hundreds of other emails has become a pain point.
That’s why I was thrilled to discover that WhatsApp, the app I use every few minutes, seems to be planning a game of newsletters. According to WaBetaInfo, a blog that looks for new WhatsApp developments, the instant messaging app is working on a “private newsletter tool.”
The tool is currently under development and is expected to ship in a future update to the app, the website said, which found the hints by digging through the code.
Meta’s service did not immediately comment.
WhatsApp already allows individuals to “broadcast” their messages to many people at once. It is a groundbreaking feature that allows you to open dialogs with multiple people at the same time. It seems the current mindset with the newsletter feature is to extend this use case. WaBetaInfo, which has an excellent track record of noticing upcoming changes, says this newsletter feature will be “a one-to-many tool for broadcasting information.”
Details are scarce at this point, and it’s also possible that WhatsApp will change its mind about this new feature at some point and scrap the project.
But let’s assume it doesn’t. What could the arrival of WhatsApp mean for the fast-growing, but small, newsletter industry? And what does it mean for WhatsApp?
WhatsApp has 2 billion daily active users. Even if a small portion of this user base takes an interest in newsletters — a category the vast majority don’t yet know exists — WhatsApp could become the biggest newsletter player in a month. (Many people already use WhatsApp’s distribution channel to promote their newsletters.) As more people start reading newsletters, the market for newsletters is likely to grow as well. So it’s not necessarily the worst for incumbents like Substack, although it’s probably bad.
WhatsApp could provide a superior newsletter experience by allowing users to read all newsletters within the instant messaging app. The open rate will skyrocket and WhatsApp can provide more advanced analytics to those who write those newsletters.
In newsletters, WhatsApp can also find a way to get its users to spend even more time on the app. As WhatsApp accelerates its business offerings, it may also find a way to better serve brands in newsletters.
As an industry executive joked to me, “Every brand wants to leverage WhatsApp’s reach, but there’s no analytics and you don’t know who’s clicking on messages. Also, many brand messages are marked as spam even if users have agreed to receive them while signing up for a particular service. WhatsApp has a much larger audience than any other platform and engagement is much higher. It enables brands to reach audiences beyond what you can reach through email.”
Don’t kill the project, team WhatsApp.