Google is testing using Drive as a newsletter platform called Museletter
Users could create documents and spreadsheets and then promote them through a Drive public profile.
Google already owns the space where a lot of newsletters start (Docs), and where they land (search). Now it could also control where they’re hosted, giving it an opportunity to advertise.
TechCrunch earlier reported on Museletter, an experiment product being developed inside Google’s R&D division. Museletter gives users a public profile on Google Drive through which they can share documents, spreadsheets, and slideshows with anyone who subscribes. A website previewing tool says that users could get paid by offering premium subscriptions.
One stop shop — Paid newsletters have exploded in the past year, thanks in part to Substack, which created an easy-to-use product for writing newsletters that included a straightforward payment system. Twitter, Facebook, and others have since entered the space with their own newsletter offerings as people have shown a willingness to directly support their favorite writers. It’s unclear how many newsletters any given person would be willing to pay for, but top writers in their given niches have been able to make hundreds of thousands of dollars (or more) annually.
One downside of paid newsletters is that writers may generate more income from loyal fans, but their influence could decrease as fewer people see their work overall.
It makes a lot of sense that Google would try and get a piece of the action since it already controls the creation and promotion side of the newsletter business. Advertising on newsletters could be a lucrative new space for Google as the price it’s able to charge per click on search ads has declined over the years and it faces more competition in the advertising space from Amazon. Advertisements inside newsletters could theoretically be worth more because they would be targeted at people interested in a very specific topic.
The situation is another example of major tech companies co-opting a movement started by smaller players and potentially making it worse out of sheer interest in adding more space to push advertising. Other copycat features like clones of Snapchat Stories or Clubhouse have been less successful because they may not intuitively fit inside a different community.
TBD — Like other platforms, Museletter allows writers to publish work to their profile or to an email list. You can imagine that a financial analyst might publish a regular newsletter but then grant access to detailed spreadsheets only to paid subscribers.
On its website, Museletter suggests it would make money for Google by charging for premium features like custom domains. Advertising seems like an obvious possibility as well for the reasons stated above, though Museletter’s website doesn’t list mention the possibility.
Google told TechCrunch in a statement that Museletter is “one of many experiments” and that “it’s still very early.” Anyone interested in using Museletter can request access on its website.