The Future is Digital Newsletter 2019 Review

A digital newsletter requires a digital review!

It’s nearly the end of 2019 and the end of a decade. It is a year that has witnessed many changes for me. As is wont, this is the end of the year review issue.

On to the update.

As I said, a year of lots of changes for me. I finally got my business up and running and will be profitable in the first year, yay! I have 6 clients this year, with a couple of sizeable projects, and others that I work with regularly, earning recurrent income. That’s pretty much how I envisaged it going this year, or to be fair, how I hoped it would go. Next year brings new objectives for me, fingers crossed it will happen.

Getting back to this Newsletter, it had been a significant undertaking and one that requires a lot of time to produce. As a reader, you might not see just how much effort is needed to write each article. There’s research, discussion, drafts, spells and grammar checking, layout and the publishing. These all take time, with each piece requiring something like 10 times the amount of time necessary to read at an average speed.

Much writing goes nowhere too. I get ideas all the time, some of them make it out the bin, others stay there for weeks, months or never see the light of day.

In all, I’d just like to say a heartfelt thank you to all of you who read my writings, especially thanks to those of you who have taken the time to write back and give me precious feedback. It’s been an entertaining journey and one I intend to keep doing.

An analysis of the year

As I’m obsessed with digital and particularly data, I thought it would be a great idea to give you a few statistics related to this publication. Let’s dive in.

Not including this article and the last article of the year I’m hoping to get finished, I’ve actually written 50 newsletters. That’s an average of 1 per week, which was my initial (personal) goal, so I’m super-pleased to have achieved it. One article a week is probably the right cadence. However, I’d like to write a bit more now and again. I started the Considering the first article was published on the 6th of February, it is actually a little more than one per week, but we won’t split hairs 😉.

Those of you who were with me from the beginning, you’ll remember that I had initially promised to publish on a schedule, Friday mornings if my memory serves me. I wanted to instil a routine, hoping that it would promote readership over time. It did nothing of the sort in the end. Most people received the email, then read it as and when it was possible for them, work and personal commitments preceding - completely normal and understandable.

It took me a while to realise that it actually didn’t matter when the email was sent — give that email is an asynchronous medium — as people would open and read when it was convenient for them. Regardless, I am incredibly grateful for even one set of eyes to read my stuff 😀.

At the end of 2019, I’ll have written and published over 82000 words at an average of over 1500 words per email. I’m quite pleased with that amount as it falls precisely in line with what I’d hoped for. I’d had feedback that the newsletter was long and wordy, and the other newsletters are more pictorial and flashy and that I should do that, but that is not what this newsletter is intended to do.

The intent is to inform, discuss and delve into detail on topics surrounding digital technologies, their use in transforming business and society. Simple infographics and meme-able images just can’t convey the necessary subtitles in this changing world. There are newsletters and other mediums for that; I chose not to go down that route. It’s why people buy books instead of reading pithy 3-line quick takes on essential topics.

Another statistic. According to Ulysses — my writing app of choice — it would take the average reader over five and a half hours to read this years’ posts. I’ve basically written a books' worth of content in 12 months.

But here we are, living in an attention economy, and the only real statistics that count are the ones that are least interesting (in my view)… To wit, 'views' and 'open rates'.

My newsletter is read all across the Caribbean, and several thousands of views have been registered. That’s a pretty good start and one I hope will expand in the coming months. The newsletter commands an open rate of around 40%, which is double the average. Mailchimp reports open rates of 21.33% on average, with Consulting and Tech newsletters receiving rates of 20% or below.

To finish off this short post, take a look at the word cloud image below, it was produced using an export of the text data and running it through Microsoft’s venerable data visualisation tool, PowerBI. It represents the frequency of the words I wrote this year. Unsurprisingly, Digital and Transformation come out on top, followed closely by data, business and Caribbean. That’s what I expected for my newsletter. It is going to be interesting to compare this with next years’ graphic, will Digital Transformation be the dominant subject going forward in the industry… I doubt it.

Screenshot 2019-12-15 at 09.44.39.png

The most-read articles this year

The Digitalisation of Business

This issue was more of a historical reference issue, the idea, to give context to what we experience today and show how businesses have been transforming themselves digitally for years with varying degrees of success.

The issue also tried a new idea, that of critiquing a local app/platform, in this instance Bodio.

What is Digital Transformation?

This article was the starting point to explaining Digital Transformation and hence a profoundly historical document in content. It allowed me to express and explore the past of digitisation and send out markers for where the newsletter was going. I was delighted with the results.

A look at Digital in the Caribbean

An immensely successful article that wrote up the findings of my research into the Caribbean digital infrastructure landscape. It really resonated with readers and was republished on other blogs around the Caribbean (with permission).

Digital Transformation is Dead

I wrote the title to provoke a reaction, and I got one. One unsubscribe from a media agency! Unsurprising really, as I kind of hit out at the pithy and shallow exploitation of the term Digital Transformation in business today, mainly as a result of media agencies hijacking the name to mean digital marketing. I don’t have any issue with that apart from the fact that it makes my job a lot harder to explain what I do…, that’s a good thing to be fair.

The least well-received

The Practical Series

I had grand ambitions for this series, as I’d had some feedback from people requesting concrete help and outlines on how to “do Digital Transformation”. Despite my efforts, it didn’t quite go as I’d hoped.

I’m guessing the reality of doing it in situ is a much harder pill to swallow. Laying bare the excruciating dullness of it exposed the real problem we humans suffer endlessly; we don’t realise we don’t want it until we’ve actually got it, then it’s too late!

The real-world consequences of not transforming

Pretty much in the same vein as the above article. 🤦‍♂️

Canal+ and Netflix sitting in a tree…

I was surprised this one didn’t get as much traction as I’d hoped as I thought the subject was entertaining and one that had some great pointers for businesses in the Caribbean not necessarily streaming. I didn’t prove to be the case. You live, and you learn!


It would appear that I have a talent for writing both factual and historical articles that inform and put into context how we have got where we are today. They are the most read and appreciated articles I write. I intend to continue down that route and see where it takes me.

It stands to reason to be fair. For years I’ve written Tender response documents and documentation. I’ve also written research findings documents, and it is something that while painful and off-putting for most, I actually love doing them.

I love the research challenge, the understanding and then the ability to express that in a concise but captivating manner. I’ve recently had the opportunity to write a research paper (not affiliated to a University sadly, but I’d love to) at over 17K words of which I loved every minute. Let me know if you like to have more information.

All this to say, thank you so much for your support in this, my first year of regularly publishing a newsletter. I hope you enjoyed it and I hope you keep reading and passing on the articles (hassling your friends into subscribing too 😉). I intend to carry on and plan to do a few new things next year.

Have a great holiday, and I’ll see you in the new decade.

The Future is Digital Newsletter is intended for anyone interested in Digital Technologies and how it affects their business. I strongly encourage you to forward it to people you feel may be interested. If this email was forwarded to you, I’d love to see you onboard. You can sign up here:

Sign up now

Visit the website to read all my articles and continue the discussion in the Slack group.

Thanks for being a supporter, have a great day.

Matthew Cowen @matthewcowen