Billed as a lunchtime tabloid, TwelveThirtySix is also Weisblott and publisher St. Joseph Media’s take on the resurgence of the e-mail newsletter.

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For the past month or so, every weekday afternoon at 12:36, former news editor Marc Weisblott has been sending out a newsletter that, in his words, “is like a piñata.” Focused on GTA news and media chatter, the 24-hour recap covers everything from Rod Stewart sightings in Yorkville to top executive appointments at Rogers Media. Some recent headlines: “Amanda Lang to exchange CBC for Bloomberg? and “Is the Bad Boy Furniture mascot secretly satanic?

Billed as a lunchtime tabloid, the time-titled TwelveThirtySix is also Weisblott and publisher St. Joseph Media’s attempt at something else: to jump on the resurgence of the e-mail newsletter and try to find a format for it that fits the character of Toronto news.  

“We’re trying to capitalize on a mainstream trend developing, emerging, through all the different outlets that are spawning with this sensibility and mind,” said Weisblott.

Most news publications offer some form of sign-up newsletter that regularly recaps the day, week or month at that title. But as publications such as Politico’s Playbook and Quartz’s Daily Brief have shown, the format of some of the more popular ones has changed over time. Some are deeper reads or pegged to the writing and editorial style of the person curating and writing the letter. Rather than promotional extensions of their publications, such newsletters become destination products of the title itself. In some cases, such as Rusty Foster’s Today in Tabs, which moved from self-published newsletter to Newsweek and most recently Fast Company, they’re standalone brands.

Toronto Life publisher Ken Hunt cites daily standalone newsletter The Skimm as an example. In 2014, the female-focused news recap raised over US$6 million in investment backing after its popular breakdowns of current events began catching the attention of celebrities and advertisers. 

The style and format inspiration for TwelveThirtySix, Weisblott said, comes from two sources. The first is Page Six of the New York Post. “I live in the Forest Hill Village area, and there’s someone who gets the New York Post delivered to them; they’ll dump it off at the local Starbucks when they’re done, so I’ll fish it out,” he said.

The second: Toronto Sun columnist Gary Dunford, who wrote for the newspaper from 1971 to 2005. “He had a thing that was kind of like a Page Six in the Toronto Sun. It was something I grew up reading, and it was always a cornucopia of items of things this guy came across while in the city….I don’t think anyone came along and replicated that.”

To produce the newsletter for its daily afternoon delivery, Weisblott said he tends to look for stories and conversations that pop up just before, and well after, working hours—when mainstream audiences aren’t as likely to be reading immediately posted stores, but the “journalist, media junkie or observer,” as he said, are more likely to be talking about them. “A lot of the fun stuff that happens online is either before 8 or 9 a.m. or after 9 or 10 p.m.”

Plans for TwelveThirtySix don’t go beyond producing its daily newsletter at the moment, said Hunt, though advertising and other monetization options have been discussed for the future. “For a relatively new experiment, I don’t want to predict where it’ll go in the future, other than that it’ll continue so long as people are reading it,” he said. “The focus right now is on creating a great product and really engaged audience.” 

“The newsletter is the ultimate anti-clickbait,” said Weisblott, who produces the newsletter on a full-time freelance basis. ”It’s not some fleeting thing you come across in your Facebook feed; you need to go in for the full package. It’s about some degree of loyalty and connection and relationship between producer and consumer.”