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11 Comments

Does Stoop Inbox help or exploit newsletters?

The Stoop Inbox app is an inbox for newsletters. Think of it as a podcast app or an RSS reader for newsletters designed to browse, susbcribe to, and read newsletters with a clean and unified interface.

It's an interesting tool for readers. But, as a publisher, I'm concerned.

The problem is Stoop Inbox subscribes to newsletters on behalf of readers with email addresses in the stoopinbox.com domain. So Stoop Inbox assumes control of the relationship between newsletters and their readers in a way similar to what Facebook and other social platforms do. Publishers can no longer email susbcribers directly, the stoopinbox.com addresses have limited uses, and publishers don't own the full subscriber list.

One day Stoop Inbox might decide to charge publishers for delivering mails to readers. Or algorithmically filter the newsletters the readers receive in their inboxes and, again, charge publishers for reach the same way Facebook does. And maybe inject into newsletters ads the publishers aren't comfortable with.

Stoop Inbox has some paid plans but it's not clear what features they provide. Perhaps it's something related to bundles, as they hint on the OpenBundle website promoting their bundling protocol for paid newsletters, assuming I understand correctly. The OpenBundle website says:

Furthermore, the relationship between reader and publisher must be a direct one, or else we're not fixing much -- just replacing one set of distribution controlling aggregators with another.

But the way Stoop Inbox works adds yet another gatekeeper. What am I missing?

My newsletter received the first susbcription from Stoop Inbox. I was torn on what to do but ultimately decided to unsubscribe that address. I emailed Stoop Inbox asking to opt my newsletter out of their catalog but they didn't reply, which isn't encouraging.

What do you think? Are you okay with your newsletter being in Stoop Inbox? Is the additional exposure worth the loss of control?

Update

In September 2020 the RSS newsreader Feedly released support for newsletters. Like Stoop Inbox, Feedly subscribes readers through a Feedly email address.

I sent a support request to Feedly asking how publishers can opt out. Currently the only way is to block feedly.email addresses.

  1. 2

    I think there is too much controlling emotion with this,
    Like do you want to limit your used if they use a web based email, a tablet or a phone, or what browser they use?...
    The user decided he wants to use this 3rd party.
    Does this 3rd party actually damage your content? if you were to put a paid endorsement would he still see it? if your promoting other things with links would that break? Do they remove / rewrite your branding/ownership in a way your are no longer the owner of the content?
    So like end affect, is there any for you at the moment besides losing reading count on that separate platform? (do they make that available for you to consume?)

    They as a middle man also have a balance to strike, if they want to punish publishers (like charging), they would also affect the readers, so they can't just do whatever, they have to find a balance.
    What will probably happen is they will over time gather marketing strength and be able to sell more views/attention.
    But as for them just being a firewall and de-listing you unless you pay, is not helping their users.
    And if you weren't there in the 1st place or later on, is the same for the user, either he cares about your content or he doesn't... it's not like he doesn't have tons of options today..
    I think it's better to be in the know than forcefully object change. If the platform gains traction for your users, lets say it becomes 10% of your crowd learn to optimise for it, otherwise ignore it. You might for example go to an extent of putting a different version for them that has more marketing back to your main platforms and/or reduced content...

  2. 2

    Thanks all for the feedback.

    To summarize my thoughts, aggregators.

    The bottom line, as @anilkilic noted, is newsletter aggreagators like Stoop Inbox are here to stay and there's not much we can do anyway. I grudgingly tolerate them. And besides, newsletters are already a casualty of the filtering traditional email clients like Gmail do, for example for sorting messages into different mailboxes, detecting spam, or preventing malware.

    @pauldmet made a good point about unsubscribing a Stoop Inbox user being rude. Therefore, I've re-subscribed that user and they won't miss any issues or have other service disruptions.

    In a way, as far as publisher control is concerned, having users who read a newsletter via Stoop Inbox is not much different from having them read it by visiting the archive website without subscribing.

    Still, the erosion of publisher control is concerning, especially for channels regarded as the safest from algorithmic filtering such as email.

    If the fraction of my subscribers using aggregators grows to 10-20%, I'll consider blocking them.

  3. 2

    And to add - I’d be pretty hacked off as a subscriber if you unsubbed me because you didn’t like the email address I used.

  4. 1

    Newsletter reading apps exploit the direct relationship. But it makes easy for readers to read newsletters while keeping their inbox clean.

    This comfort will definitely increase their user base but publisher have to pay its price in 2 ways.

    1. Less revenue as sponsorships prices are based on number of subscribers.
    2. Losing direct relationship
    1. 1

      Another issue is that aggregators, which can interfere with tracking, may affect email deliverability.

  5. 1

    I had the same concerns a while ago. I unsubscribed people too 😂
    But then I realized it’s just an email address used exclusively for newsletters, and probably those subscribers really care about their reading experience, so now I’m fine with them.

    1. 1

      Absolutely, aggregators and similar tools are handy for readers.

  6. 1

    I use Stoop for a lot of my subscriptions. Keeps them out of my inbox and somewhere I can dip in and out without stressing about the unread count going up on my mail app.

    I can use the Stoop email address on any sign up form. It’s just an email address. The newsletter doesn’t have to be part of their “catalog”. In fact their email discovery aspect isn’t that good - it’s just the usual big newsletters listed there.

    Could Stoop change the newsletter / subscriber relationship? Sure. So can gmail (and it does). But the user can also abandon the app and sign up with another email address.

  7. 1

    These are some good concerns which all could be possible and will be in my opinion. I also had a similar idea on my "ideas-book". And promoted newsletters was the initial thought for generating income for myself. Here is another platform for newsletter aggregation LetterDrop I assume it has a ProductHunt like structure where people vote for the best to curate a list collaboratively.

    On the other side I've heard many complains about lack of discoverability on Substack. It's the same case for others as well. These tools also provide publishers to get heard. Also could bring more into the table. Like providing better statistics, better readability, portability, independence from source.

    One day Stoop Inbox might decide to charge publishers for delivering mails to readers.

    If Stoop helps publishers generate extra money through their tool, they have the right to ask for a fee IMHO. You can decide to leave or stay.

    Or algorithmically filter the newsletters the readers receive in their inboxes and, again, charge publishers for reach the same way Facebook does.

    This is same if you use any third party tool. Any of those companies could decide or worse forced to throttle some e-mails.

    I think it's out of publishers' control, so it's better not worry about it. I believe in the next months we'll see more of these "aggregators".

    edit: I didn't checked others but in Substack, subscribing is not the only way to gather publicnews.

    Real concern should be if a company decides to subscribe to paid newsletters and charge their own users for it. Which I've pointed it earlier on Flaw of Substack

    edit2: I just checked openbundle and it seems that's what they are aiming for. Well, it was time. Getting $5k just for sharing a few links on a subject would definitely bring some bad actors to the scene. But in the end I believe there will be a balance.

    1. 1

      Newsletter directories provide additional discoverability without taking over the relationship with readers.

      1. 1

        Yes, I've read it before, thanks for the source. And that's similar to what I planned to. I believe they don't provide much value since they don't promote themselves enough. At least that's what those comments telling me. Also the sites themselves looks death to me.

        About the Stoop and OpenBundle. I didn't get their intention at first sight. I get it, but it was expected. As I said there will more attempts. Some will try it legally by offering publishers a cut, others will just do it illegally.

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