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What is Email List Portability?
Written by Casey Botticello
Every once in a while, I notice specific concepts referenced by a number of top digital marketing experts. These topics are widely known, and are implemented by many content creators, however, these topics have yet to be discussed in larger circles because they lack useful and succinct terminology.
While there has been plenty of discussion among bloggers about the importance of “building an email list” (which, as an aside, actually is good advice), most people overlook the more nuanced corollary to this advice:
Bloggers should build a highly portable email list, in order to maximize the value of each newsletter subscriber.
Searching Google for the exact phrase currently yields only 3 (largely, unhelpful) results:
Email list portability refers to the ability to transfer your email list and the associated subscriber data, from one email marketing system to another.
Email list portability is a constant concern for bloggers who rely upon third party platforms, which vary in the level of access that they give you to your subscribers’ information.
For example, consider a digital publishing platform like Medium.
Medium has only recently announced that it was giving its writers the ability to export limited information about their newsletter followers. This represents one of the more strict extremes of email list list portability.
Under Medium’s system:
- Until recently, writers had no way of accessing any data relating to their subscribers. Most notably, there was no way to generate and export an email list with all the contact information of your followers.
- Even under the new system, which allows publication editors to export limited data, Medium remains in control, and insists on acting as the middlemen between writers and their audience.
- Consequently, if you were to be banned from Medium or decide to stop using the platform, it would be tough to bring your audience with you.
The other extreme offers complete email list portability. This setup consist of a self hosted blog/website, with some type of lead generation system.
Yes, even in this scenario you are somewhat dependent upon a third party service when it comes to actual email marketing (i.e. Mailchimp, Convertkit, etc.). but the actual email list, along with any possible subscriber information, belongs to you. You own your email list.
That is not to say that Medium’s more restrictive email list portability is a deal breaker. I love the site and rely upon it to generate large amounts of traffic and build a following on both Medium and my own third party platforms.
It’s a pretty straightforward deal. I post content on Medium, leveraging their platform and domain authority for increased exposure. Medium allows me to use their platform, promote my brand, collect limited subscriber data. Medium in term gets endless “free” content from a small army of writers.
Why Does Email List Portability Matter?
Bloggers should build a highly portable email list, in order to maximize the value of each newsletter subscriber. Email list portability ensures that writers have total ownership of their email list, can segment subscriber data, maintain direct communication with their subscribers, building an online community, avoiding fees charged by third party platforms.
This guide provides a comprehensive overview of the top digital publishing platforms competing for creators in the passion economy.
My review of Substack after using it for one year to publish my newsletter. Substack allows writers to create a subscription newsletter.