Morning Glory: The Real Opportunity Behind the Daily News Roundup

If you're a newshound -- or anything close to it -- you've probably noticed that just about every news outlet offers a morning briefing.

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You can choose from a wide variety. Here are just a handful:

- Perhaps you are a traditionalist who craves the New York Times Now;
- Or maybe you like the sound of Economist's Espresso;
- Or you might prefer the numerical list approach of Business Insider;
- For the globe-trotting executive, Quartz will get you going;
- And for those who seek a bit more sass, there are the newcomers, with names like The Skimm.

For the past eighteen months, I've subscribed to 10 or more of these morning news roundups, mostly out of curiosity, but I've also been casting about for a new morning ritual. Once upon a time, I dutifully devoured three or four papers every morning -- and sometimes I still do -- but more often the morning briefing is the best way to get a quick scan of the news before I get out the door (or out of bed).

Just about every news outlet is looking to capture your attention when you wake, amassing email lists, analyzing the open rates and trying to steal your valuable time away from the competition. All to get you hooked. That's the goal, but there's may be more at stake than these news sites realize.

The morning briefing is supposed to help you wade through a sea of news and information quickly, so as to feel informed as you down your first cup of coffee. The major television networks saw a similar opportunity at the dawn of television. They quickly discovered that the morning programs brought in valuable viewers. That's because shows like Good Morning America were always capable of building a relationship with the watcher via perky hosts, light fare, and, oh yeah, a bit of news. Turned out that the relationship came with benefits: It offered a platform for massive advertising deals, as well as a big megaphone for the network to promote their affiliates, prime-time lineups, and more.

The morning briefs may also have a chance to build out a bigger morning franchise -- not unlike the morning news programs. Most of these morning emails are already establishing a unique voice, special features, and a distinctive take on the news that gets you to choose them above the competition.

But that's the big problem: There's so much competition. It's hard to imagine how all of these morning briefings survive in their current form. The niche approach may be another way to win in this crowded arena, but even that can be tricky. Years ago, during the dawn of the web at the Industry Standard we created Media Grok, the morning email that was a snarky take on all the news inside the dotcom bubble. It took off, but ultimately attempts to expand Grok beyond the morning enewsletter failed. The Grok brand never really stretched to become anything more than a morning briefing that ultimately fizzled with the end of the first dotcom boom.

The giant advantage for online players nowadays is that (whether it's good for us or not) most of us sleep with our phone beside us. An entertaining and informative mobile offering has a leg up over pretty much every other form of media. Today's newsletters are just a small complement to the larger news offering for the big online players like the New York Times. But if the major networks' experiences with morning news programs are any guide, these morning briefings have the potential to play a much more significant role in the future.