St. Joseph Media has introduced what one of its senior executives believes is a possible antidote to the FOMO (fear of missing out) syndrome so common in the age of information overload.
The Toronto media company quietly launched a daily email newsletter called Twelve Thirty Six – also represented as 12:36 – about two months ago.
The digital product, which delivers what Toronto Life publisher Ken Hunt describes as an “interesting take” on the day’s events, is delivered to subscribers’ inboxes at 12:36 p.m. Monday to Friday.
Hunt describes Twelve Thirty Six as a “daily lunchtime tabloid” covering an eclectic mix of stories, all with a Toronto focus. “Hopefully it’s things readers haven’t heard 10 times already,” he said. “It’s not a general news update or the top headlines of the day – it’s an eclectic news product.”
Headlines in a recent edition included a story about the ongoing gentrification of The Galleria Mall in Toronto’s west end, and Toronto councillor Norm Kelly surpassing 100,000 followers on Twitter.
Twelve Thirty Six is overseen by Marc Weisblott, a former correspondent for now-defunct alternative paper Eye Weekly who has also written for Yahoo and Canada.com. Last year PR firm Hill+Knowlton named him one of the 10 voices to follow in Canadian media.
“I’ve been looking for a way to work with Marc for a long time,” said Hunt. “I’ve always found him to be a fascinating guy with a very interesting take on the news and a really broad set of interests I’ve always found appealing.”
Hunt said the resurgence of email newsletters was a key factor in the launch of Twelve Thirty Six. He points to the female-focused newsletter The Skimm as an example of the product’s potential.
Launched three years ago by two former associate producers at NBC News, The Skimm currently boasts more than 1.5 million daily subscribers, including celebrity fans like Oprah and Reese Witherspoon.
More subscribers are arriving all the time, courtesy of its “Skimmbassadors” – fans who promote the newsletter across their social networks in exchange for The Skimm related swag and first access to internship and job opportunities.
While Twelve Thirty Six is not officially a Toronto Life offshoot, Hunt described it as a “Toronto Life-affiliated” product designed to appeal to the same audience.
While Hunt said the common perception of Toronto Life readers is of downtown-dwelling, white-collar workers, reader surveys found they come from a variety of economic strata, but share an enthusiasm for the city.
“We could have a couple in Forest Hill who go out five nights a week and go to the opera, and we won’t have their next door neighbours – who stay in and watch Netflix,” he said. “It’s really about people who are deeply engaged with the city.”
Hunt declined to provide subscriber numbers for Twelve Thirty Six, but said they are growing “really quickly”as St. Joseph begins promoting the property. He said the newsletter’s 60-70% open rate is as much as five times the industry average for email newsletters.
“People are getting it, they’re paying attention to it, and opening it every single day,” he said. “It’s obviously delivering something of real value to them.”
While Twelve Thirty Six is not currently ad-supported, Hunt didn’t rule out trying to line up sponsor partners in the future.
“It’s not like we won’t necessarily accept advertising in the future, but right now it’s about putting out a great product that people really engage with,” he said. “If we had a great sponsor that came to the table tomorrow and said ‘We’re dying to get into this thing’ we’d certainly entertain that conversation, but right now it’s about building a great product.”
St. Joseph recently announced an internal restructuring that Hunt said is focused on discovering new ways of engaging with audiences. He described Twelve Thirty Six as the embodiment of that approach.
“I think it is part of the [St. Joseph] mandate to experiment,” he said. “The great thing about working at this company right now is that there’s a huge appetite to try new things and branch out in new ways and experiment with things, see if they’ll get leverage and if people will pay attention to them.”