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Updated Oct 20, 2023

As Trust in Online Media Drops, Email Newsletters Drive Engagement

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Andrew Martins, Business Operations Insider and Senior Writer

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These days, it can be challenging to build trust with an audience. Amid cries of fake news and new technologies such as deepfakes that can distort our understanding of reality, research suggests consumers consider email newsletters one of the more reliable sources of information. 

Businesses of all sizes can use email newsletters to reach highly engaged audiences. Read on to learn how to build trust and engagement through this channel and how to use email newsletters as a marketing tool.

Why consumers still trust email

In our age of information overload, media outlets may find it hard to break through the noise to earn their customers’ attention and trust. Americans’ trust in the news media, for example, is at its lowest point ever (26%), according to a report from the Reuters Institute.

Social media has been the top marketing channel. However, according to a recent survey of 1,600 marketers commissioned by sales and marketing platforms HubSpot, Litmus, Rock Content and Wistia, almost all companies still consider email marketing an effective part of reaching their business goals. The survey found that companies use email to improve customer loyalty and retention, increase revenue, generate leads, generate online traffic and increase brand awareness.

According to presentation firm Storydoc, more than 90% of Americans subscribe to at least one email newsletter and 74% subscribe to between one and 10. Given that people must submit their email address to receive a newsletter in the first place, researchers said there’s an inherent trust between the publisher and the reader.

Because the average person largely distrusts social media and sites such as Facebook “control the traffic publishers receive,” publishers have been forced to find other avenues to reach readers, said Jeff Kupietzky, CEO of audience engagement technology company Jeeng.

“Publishers are desperately seeking alternative channels to directly engage audiences, where they know their audiences will be guaranteed to see their content and the audience trusts the source,” he said. “This data proves that email fits the bill perfectly for both guaranteed distribution and as a trusted channel.”


Developing and sending a top-notch email newsletter requires email marketing software. Here’s how to choose the best email marketing service for your business.

How to boost advertising through newsletters

Email newsletters also can be used to help online advertising. For publishers, advertising that drives traffic to a landing page has long been an effective strategy with a good return on investment. Yet, just as distrust in the media has increased because of outside influences, online advertising has been affected by a change in the public’s perspective. According to SEO firm Backlinko, 27% of U.S. internet users now block ads.

Even though most users actively try to avoid seeing advertising on the internet, email newsletters that come from a trusted destination can drive ad engagement and click-throughs. Additionally, by making a direct connection with customers, emails feed back a wealth of data to inform strategic marketing decisions.

According to the HubSpot survey, “Understanding what the ideal customer wants can influence adjustments to a brand’s go-to-market strategy, desired communication frequency, and product and promotion rollouts – all contributing to long-lasting customer loyalty.”

“Consumers recognize that the ‘free’ content they enjoy in emails and online does come at a cost, and they’ve proven willing to ‘pay for it’ by accepting ads,” Kupietzky said. “However, our research shows that trust and relevancy are also extremely important to keep from alienating audiences. That’s why working with a monetization partner who can help make the right matches between advertisers and publishers is so important.”

How to build trust and engagement with email newsletters

As with any marketing tool, it takes time and planning to effectively hone an email marketing strategy. 

The first step is to determine which email marketing software best supports your needs in developing the newsletter and building an email list that suits your business. We’ve analyzed and selected some of the best email marketing platforms for launching an email newsletter. To learn more, see our Constant Contact review, our review of Benchmark and our Salesforce Marketing Cloud review

Once you’ve selected your ideal platform, follow these tips for building customer engagement with your audience: 

  • Produce great content. People are more likely to open, read and click links in your emails if they find the content informative, entertaining or otherwise valuable. 
  • Understand the different types of data that marketers can collect. Zero-party data, provided directly to a brand by a subscriber, is ideal. Third-party data aggregated by outside sources is generally less effective at driving engagement and sales.
  • Continually monitor the market environment. For example, a recent change at Apple has a significant impact on the data that marketers receive from subscribers on the Apple Mail app. The European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation has also brought some changes to email marketing.
  • Know which numbers matter. For example, having 10,000 subscribers can be more helpful for marketers than having 100,000 subscribers if the latter group lacks interest in your product or service.
  • Learn how to grow your email list and maintain it. Doing so will ensure your list remains accurate and up to date and, in turn, improve open and click-through rates.
Did You Know?Did you know

Ready to learn more about how to make your email campaigns a success? Check out these 10 common email marketing mistakes and how to avoid them.

The benefit of unsubscribes 

Trust and engagement may be higher when consumers trust the source, but sometimes people end up cutting ties with a publisher or brand. While that’s not an ideal situation for publishers or advertisers, researchers found that both parties can find a silver lining in the process.

According to the survey, 75% of respondents said they choose to unsubscribe from a newsletter if they no longer wish to receive it. That’s a better alternative for publishers than having their emails marked as spam.

Email providers such as Gmail and Outlook have robust anti-spam features that automatically send messages from certain addresses straight into the spam folder. If more and more users mark messages as spam, these email providers will eventually deliver those messages directly into the spam folder as well, leaving their contents unseen.

Research has found that just 25% of recipients mark unwanted emails as spam. Officials said this “points to respect for the brand” from the remaining 75% of respondents and a “desire to do no harm just because their interests change.”

Why email remains an essential marketing tool

Consumers have no shortage of sources to consult for information. However, the commitment they imply by sharing their email address creates a bond between the brand and the audience. As it becomes increasingly challenging for the public to identify credible sources, being a trusted voice gives email marketers and publishers a leg up in converting their audience into longtime customers.

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Andrew Martins, Business Operations Insider and Senior Writer
Andrew Martins is an award-winning business and economics expert who has spent years studying trends and profiling small businesses. Based on his on-the-ground reporting and hands-on experience, Martins has developed guides on small business technology and finance-related operations. In recent years, he focused on the small business impacts of the 2020 presidential election and the COVID-19 pandemic. Martins, who has a bachelor's degree in communication, has been published on trusted financial sites like Investopedia, The Balance and LowerMyBills, on technology outlet Lifewire and in the New York Daily News.
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