Simon Owens recently published a piece comparing email newsletters to the cut-and-paste zines of the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s. He discusses why the style is often less formal than blog posts and fundamentally different than social media posts. Some of the characteristics, such as the often mixed types of content and lack of a singular theme, as well as the directness of the medium, map well to those of the zines of days gone by.
Zine creators pushed issues on friends and acquaintances. If you were lucky there was an address printed somewhere within an issue’s pages so you could subscribe, although it was difficult to know whether a new issue would ever be published.
As someone who published a short running zine called Martha Dumptruck, most of the content of which is too embarrassing to republish now, in the early nineties, I can relate to some of the comparisons. In fact, the article’s points compel me to want to revisit some of the ideas from my zine in the email newsletter format.
I’ve been using the news aggregator Feedbin’s newsletter integration for a couple of months now, and I love the way it keeps newsletters out of my personal inbox and fits in with the rest of my news consumption process. Newsletters like Nextdraft from Dave Pell are perfect ways to catch up on the day’s news in the same format as the RSS feeds from sites that are more analogous to glossy magazines. I’m even using the Feedbin Notifier app on my phone to only alert me when new newsletters come in.
With an appropriate distribution system and good ways to consume the content, this may be the time to get back in the zine game.