E-mail newsletters seeking to mine riches from niches

Times Staff Writer

Evan Friedman isn't lazy, just efficient. Why should he slog through newspapers, entertainment guides, restaurant fliers and concert promotions if someone will do it for him?

Friedman, a 24-year-old from Los Angeles, subscribes to Thrilllist.com, which bills itself as a lifestyle guide for men. It keeps him in the know with daily e-mails that advise him, basically, on how to be cool. He has dined at restaurants it suggested, attended events it plugged and purchased gadgets it recommended, including a cover for his iPhone.

"It's a trusted break in my barrage of e-mail," Friedman said. "It's kind of like an e-mail from a friend."

Thrillist is one of dozens of electronic mailing list services. Some have been around for years but new ones have been popping up recently, godsends not only for Friedman and people like him but also for advertisers.

The services, most supported by ads, reach audiences most magazines only dream of. The median household income of Thrillist subscribers, for instance, is $107,000, dwarfing Sports Illustrated's median of $63,605 and Maxim's of $65,710.

"Magazines like Stuff and Cargo have been going under, and we've been taking their place in the market," said Ben Lerer, a co-founder of Thrillist, which recently launched a Las Vegas edition. Lerer said its L.A. edition was projected to reach 45,000 recipients by next December, which would be an 86% jump from a year earlier.

The idea behind e-mail list services is simple. They bring order to the chaotic mass of information on the Web and elsewhere, seize on relevant information -- or things that the services' employees decide is relevant -- and present it via e-mails to subscribers.

"We appeal to people who like to be on top of things but don't have the time to do it," said Gary Foodim, general manager of Very Short List.

Every service claims a niche. Veryshortlist.com says it "points to excellent new (and sometimes vintage) entertainment and media that haven't been hyped to within an inch of their lives." Dailycandy.com touts itself as "the ultimate insider's guide to what's hot, new and undiscovered." Flavorpill.com says it provides "filtered bits of knowledge that help you better navigate an ever-expanding sea of cultural options."

The field is getting crowded, bursting with lists targeted at specific groups of people. Among them: UrbanDaddy ("an exclusive, daily e-mail magazine devoted to keeping you in the know"), Julib.com ("what's new and hot in the world of restaurants, boutiques and beauty") and Pocketchange.com ("detailing the most expensive goods and services found in New York and Los Angeles").

Most e-mails carry with them at least one ad. Recipients don't seem to mind the marketing, said Kris Hallerman, a senior analyst at eMarketer. "It's not seen as intrusive because people have control." They can always unsubscribe.

Advertisers like to hop onto e-mails that people invite into their mailboxes, especially now that spam filters have gotten better at blocking ad-only messages.

"People that are fans of the list have quite a personal relationship with it; that makes it a good vehicle for the right advertising," said Michael Jackson, president of programming at IAC/InterActiveCorp., which funds Very Short List.

After a Thrillist e-mail mentioned Astor & Black, a tailor that makes inexpensive custom suits, $100,000 worth of suits were purchased in a matter of weeks, the company said. DailyCandy said an e-mail about a movie screening prompted 8,000 RSVPs.

The competition for subscribers is heated. Flavorpill, a weekly list founded in 2000, recently made its content accessible on mobile phones and updates its website frequently, notifying subscribers when there's something new. "We've been looking over our shoulders for seven years, wondering why no one else was doing this," co-founder Mark Mangan said.

DailyCandy is making its archive, which contains eight years of content, more accessible on its website and is trying to bring its subscribers together in the physical world for philanthropic and other events. It recently started sending out daily texts to the mobile phones of people who prefer to receive information that way, and created a mobile website for people to access on their hand-held devices.

"We're always thinking about how to provide new and undiscovered things in different ways going forward," said Pete Sheinbaum, chief executive of DailyCandy Inc. "The fortunate thing for us is that we are requested by users to enter their in-boxes, which is a private space these days."



For The Record Los Angeles Times Thursday, February 07, 2008 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 33 words Type of Material: Correction E-mail newsletters: An article in the Business section Tuesday about the popularity of subscription electronic mailing list services gave an incorrect first name for an EMarketer analyst. It is David, not Kris, Hallerman.
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