Hollywood publicist Michael Levine puts out a daily e-mail newsletter that has built a subscriber base of 317,000 people – more than many national magazines.
But after eight years, the operation doesn’t make much money, despite the inclusion of paid advertisements.
Called Levine Breaking News E-Lert, the newsletter is a wrap-up of what’s happening around the world, tailored for the news needs of busy, influential people. Its subscriber list includes Vice President Joe Biden, six U.S. senators, 100 Oscar and 300 Grammy winners, three Nobel laureates, a dozen White House staffers, and billionaires Mark Cuban and Lynda Resnick.
The newsletter is free for subscribers. Levine sells the ads himself, but only when advertisers contact him and ask if they can give him money in exchange for banners and buttons in the e-mail.
“If I’m lying to myself, I can say it is profitable, but that requires me to not count my time,” he said. “I spend two hours a day, seven days a week on the LBN E-Lert. People tease me because I’m so obsessed with it.”
The project started eight years ago when Levine was talking with Malcolm Gladwell, whose book “The Tipping Point” was a bestseller at the time. Gladwell coined the phrase “influencers,” meaning people who exert social power over others, particularly in terms of promoting consumer or cultural trends.
“I was fascinated by his point and I wondered if I could create a vehicle that would influence influencers,” Levine said. “That became the LBN E-Lert.”
With 500 names plucked from his Rolodex, Levine started sending a daily news summary in 2003. Today, the operation is staffed by six interns. They read more than 1,000 Web sites every day, and wade through 4,000 e-mails from subscribers offering criticism, praise and news tips. Many of the photos in the newsletter also come from subscribers.
The newsletter reaches its audience before 1 p.m. daily.
The editorial content features stock market highlights, public opinion polls, disaster coverage, political analysis and health advice. Headlines last week ranged from “Unhealthiest Meals” and “Art Linkletter Dies at 97” to “BP Begins Top Kill Procedure.” Random items include celebrity birthdays, new book releases and quotes from famous historical figures.
However, the E-Lert features almost no news from Hollywood, where many of its subscribers work. That’s because Levine believes the Internet has an oversupply of show biz gossip.
Moreover, he insists the newsletter is a separate, unrelated business to his L.A. PR agency, Levine Communications Office, even though some of the 10 employees at the agency also contribute to the newsletter.
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