business news in context, analysis with attitude

by Kevin Coupe

Accusations come this way from time to time charging that I have a kind of blind faith in all things technological, and am callously dismissive of old-fashioned business models. (Not true, by the way. I just think that traditional business models have to adjust their strategies and tactics to compete with technological upstarts.)

But in the interest of satisfying traditionalists (and I assume I don’t have any real Luddites in the audience, since you have to read MNB on a computer or smartphone)....

Advertising Age reports on a literary website called that has come up with a new business offering - “Letters in the Mail,” which for $5 a month will send “almost weekly” letters from well-known writers including Margaret Cho, Emily Gould, Tao Lin, and Jonathan Ames. These letters will not be posted online (at least not by The bet - and it isn’t a very big financial bet, since all that is required is a photocopy machine, a bunch of envelopes and some stamps - is that there are enough people out there who are interested in good writing and an old-fashioned delivery system that may feel more personal and intimate.

Of course, Ad Age asks the obvious question: “Is there room for epistolary monetization in a media culture that prizes the immediate and the ephemeral?” The short-term answer: In less than a week, more than 575 people signed up. Which isn’t exactly an explosive triumph, though it certainly suggests that may be on to something that could turn into a niche success.

The Eye-Opening lesson is this. There are lot of ways to reach consumers. There’s nothing wrong with old-fashioned methods...but they have to be practiced in a way that remains aware of practical, commercial realities. Keep this in mind - “Letters in the Mail” may be getting attention right now, but they also are being published by a website that sees this approach as differentiating, a way of putting its own stamp on literary communications.
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