Letts Group Launch News Publication Focused on Business, Climate and Life

We are excited to launch the Letts Journal – a free, weekly publication that talks straight about business, climate and life. The Letts Journal is the latest Letts Group venture, from the family that invented the commercial diary over 200 years ago. It is the first step in our news media strategy.


Along with its main section, the Letts Journal has channels which include ‘Surviving’, ‘Liberty Shrugged’ and ‘Photo Synthesis’, providing future trends, political satire and photo cartoons. We’ll add more as the publication develop.

The Letts ushered in diary keeping, journaling and personal media. For a long time the Letts family have been innovating with new media products and dreaming of a time when news reporting would become more democratic and independent.

This year is the 225th anniversary of Letts. We believe it is the right time to launch a news publication with a difference.

News gathering is getting increasingly commoditised. User generated news is the future. We think there is a need for a new kind of digital publication that focuses on news commentary and insights. One that keeps busy readers informed AND entertained.

We take a view and we keep it short. Who’s got time for more?

News publications have become increasingly dry and jargonistic. We want to make reading the news easy and fun again.

The Letts Journal is about commentary, conversation and a more open and inclusive approach.

Straight from the hip… with a sprinkling of tongue in cheek.

We are excited to welcome you to the Letts Journal and hope you will enjoy our approach to talking straight about business, climate and life. Head over to our website for all the news and register to get updates direct to your inbox.


For all the updates and news from Letts Group go to our twitter page.

225 Years of Letts – The Charles Letts Years

This year is the 225th anniversary of Letts. We are celebrating this extraordinary milestone with a series of articles (and events) – from the early years right up to today. The third article looks at the transition to the third and fourth generation of the family business – run by Charles Letts.

A miniature tortoise shell Letts diary – 1940

In the 1870’s Thomas Letts, who had now been joined in the publishing business by his son Charles, took advantage of recent changes in company law to convert the business to a limited liability company. At the same time new capital was introduced to help finance the expanding business, and non-family directors became involved.

This, and the more academic nature of Charles, led to tensions between the family and non-family directors which culminated in Charles leaving the company in 1881 to set up on his own and thus create the business which developed into the 21st century diary publishing business bearing his name.

Thus two competing brands of Letts diaries were published until 1945, when Charles Letts & Co Ltd re-acquired the copyright of the original business founded by John Letts.

Charles Letts was not as innovative as his his father or grandfather. The diary and stationery products changed little during his time.

To set up on his own was a brave step for a man of forty-two with a growing family, and the first years of developing his own business were an uphill struggle. Charles was a scholarly man, author of an excellent essay on Celebrated Diarists, and the business only developed slowly under his control. It was not until his two sons, Harry and Norman, joined him that real signs of growth and prosperity were apparent. Harry, in particular, displayed many of the characteristics of his grandfather, Thomas, and he was mainly responsible for developing the business from one publishing a few hundred thousand diaries per annum at the turn of the century to a circulation of 2.7 million at the time of his retirement in 1932.

The fluctuations in the fortunes of the business were not reflected in the product. If you compare a diary produced in the early part of the century with a similar model at its end, what is apparent is the slow pace of change, no doubt reflecting the gradual maturing of the product and a more stable and conservative society. Designs and formats developed almost imperceptibly, while the information alone became more detailed and comprehensive. Even prices remained stable, with the 1856 and 1894 editions of the same model retailing at an unchanged shilling.

One innovation which occurred in the 1860’s was the introduction of advertising in the diaries which, no doubt, allowed for a better value to be provided at the same price. It was not until the twentieth century that a certain dynamism becomes apparent in the product, reflecting underlying changes in demand which took the diary from a conventional but restricted market of a few hundred thousand to the mass consumer product of today.

In the last of our anniversary articles about the past history of the eponymous Letts diary family, we will look at the development of the Letts Diary business in the twentieth century and the gradual transition, by the Letts family, to the new, twenty first century Letts Group.


Keep up to date with the latest Letts Group news – follow us @LettsGroup.

Letts Group’s Incubator

Corporate incubators have been all the rage. Around 10 years ago, a number of corporates started to set up some kind of corporate incubator or accelerator to nurture new business lines and innovative products. They had a limited vision of ‘incubator’ – generally designed to host new startups within their facilities. They offered them resources, support and, as they matured, market access.

10 years later many of these corporates have scaled down their efforts or largely abandoned them. Corporate incubator 1.0 did not realise its somewhat loose ambition. A number of the more innovative corporates and a few management consultants are working on the next generation of corporate incubator.

Letts Group has taken a different approach. Our incubator is an internal function that is central to the organisation. It is our growth engine – period.

“We see our incubator as a strategic, internal, centralised function. We have repositioned the group as a ‘branded incubator group’ to underscore this. We don’t just make small bets on our incubator or outsource it’s core capability. We’ve bet the entire shop on our incubator. It is our core capability.”

The concept of incubator has been with us for 225 years. In 1996, our original founder, John Letts opened a stationery shop and publishing incubator in the city of London. The front rooms the shop and the back rooms the incubator studio. From this setup he launched the world’s first commercial diary in 1812. It was market tested exclusively in the store and designed and made in the back rooms.

Letts Group’s Chairman, Philip Letts, started to develop the latest generation incubator in 1998. It was a separate entity, called Prophete, that nurtured external, non-branded innovations. It developed concepts such as Beenz, the Web currency, and Surfkitchen, a mobile operating system and media platform. It was an important parallel initiative as we started the process of divesting some of our book publishing interests.

In 2007 we further developed Letts Group’s latest generation incubator, after initial successes. We built a proprietary incubation methodology, which is called Innov@te™, and we designed our first incubator studio with a clutch of then, very new, cloud systems and processes. From this base we launched b-uncut, a social network for artists and blur Group, an online marketplace for creative services. Both were successfully spun out and became independent businesses.

It took much of the last 10 years to perfect the methodology, systems and processes to get to the point where we felt comfortable that our incubator was ready to develop multiple Letts branded businesses and products from scratch – and in parallel.

At the end of 2020 we gave the go ahead for 3 new Letts branded ventures to go to ‘live concept phase’. The tech industry would call it ‘beta launch’. The first hits the market in June. We have engineered the group, and developed the incubator, to the point where we feel comfortable that we will be launching a new Letts venture per year, starting this year.

It’s taken us 20 years to get to this point but we believe that we might have a line on corporate incubator 2.0. The proof will be in the pudding – starting next month!

If you would like to keep up to date with the latest Letts Group news follow us on twitter.

225 Years of Letts – The Thomas Letts Years

This year we celebrate the 225th anniversary of Letts. We will mark this extraordinary milestone with a series of articles and events – from the early years right up to today. The second article looks at the transition to the second generation of the family business – run by Thomas Letts.

The fortunes of a business tend to fluctuate with each successive generation of a family. John Letts, our founder, was succeeded by his son, Thomas Letts, the second generation of the Letts family business. Thomas took control in the 1830’s, provided a degree of enterprise and acumen less apparent in his one-time apprentice-bookbinder father.

Thomas diversified the business into maps and a wide range of stationery products and, in the 1850’s, extended the sale of diaries to overseas markets in response to the demand from Britain’s rapidly-growing Empire.

Then, in February 1858, a wonderful exchange of letters between Thomas and Dr David Livingstone, in which Thomas offers a free supply of diaries for life to the famous African explorer and missionary, marks what must have been one of the earliest examples of corporate sponsorship.

Thomas’s foresight in this gesture must have been repaid many times over in that Livingstone kept a detailed and poignant record of his travels in Letts diaries to the day of his death and thus provided one of the best examples of diary-keeping.

In the 1870’s Thomas, who had now been joined in the media business by his son Charles, took advantage of recent changes in company law to convert the business to a limited liability company. At the same time new capital was introduced to help finance the expanding business, and non-family directors became involved.

This, and the more academic nature of Charles, led to tensions between the family and non-family directors which culminated in Charles leaving the company in 1881 to set up on his own and thus create the business which developed into the 21st century diary publishing business bearing his name.

Thus two competing brands of Letts diaries were published until 1945, when Charles Letts & Co Ltd re-acquired the copyright of the original business founded by John Letts.


Keep up to date with the latest Letts Group news – follow us on twitter @LettsGroup.

Letts Media Publication Examines Solutions to the Climate Change Crisis for Earth Day

Letts Media publication ‘Surviving’ outlines a possible roadmap to reduce global warming – for Earth Day.

We should all understand the challenge by now. If we don’t keep global warming to 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels we risk an irreversible climate crisis.

“There are two ends of the problem that need to be addressed. We need to both reduce emissions and get better at capturing and storing carbon in the right places, rather than letting it escape into the atmosphere which adds to the heating problem.”

From ‘Surviving’

The article goes on to look at 5 macro-level solutions to the crisis that are proven, deliverable in the shorter term and internationally relevant. As we celebrate Earth Day 2021 it is important to not just focus on the risks that climate change presents – but to highlight the advances and approaches that can start to solve the problem.

“We have boiled it down to just 5 macro-solutions to the problem that combined should get us there – they include renewables, electrification, replacements, rewilding and lifestyle.

Extract from Letts Media’s ‘Surviving’

Letts Media publication ‘Surviving’ is about navigating business, innovation and life. It is edited by Philip Letts who is supported by some amazing analysts and researchers at the Surviving thinktank.

To read this and other articles go to Surviving.


Keep up to date with the latest Letts Group news – follow us on twitter @LettsGroup.

225 Years of Letts – The Early Years

This year we celebrate the 225th anniversary of Letts. We will mark this extraordinary milestone with a series of articles and events – from the early years right up to today. The first article examines the founding of the original diary business by John Letts.

John Letts founded the business 225 years ago, in 1796, when he opened a stationery shop in the City of London. The first of our commemorative articles will look at how we invented the commercial diary and our approach to developing new products.

John Letts invented the world’s first commercial diary in 1812. It was an innovation in that it was future-focused and not designed simply to record past events. It was also a commercial product responding to the growing trade in the City of London. Moreover, the 1812 edition is interesting in that it is quite clearly testing this market. It is a single gathering of 104 pages, stitched into marbled paper wrappers. It simply prints the dates of a six-day working week from Monday to Saturday with no information other than the public holidays as they fall. The product is branded by a printed label on the front cover.

That this test was successful is demonstrated by the rapid sophistication of the product both in content and presentation, and by the early 1820’s a range of diaries providing different sizes and formats was published. They were a most effective combination of the old and new, incorporating between one set of covers the detailed information, governmental, legal, commercial and astronomical, of the long-established almanac, substituting for the plain notebook often sold in conjunction with it the printed format of the diary or bills due book.

The diary soon established itself as an essential feature of commercial life, unaffected by the slump which followed the boom years of the Napoleonic wars. It was given a further boost by the publication of the works of two major diarists – John Evelyn in 1818 and Samuel Pepys in 1825. These publications created a literary interest in diary-keeping and and no doubt stimulated demand for the new product in its more traditional role.

John Letts demonstrated a keen ability to read the market in his popular stationery shop while developing products in the back room. He located himself at the heart of things in the bustling City of London, and his early products were clearly aimed at the traders and financiers that surrounded him. He developed an effective process for testing new concepts and ideas which today is at the heart of Letts Group’s modern day incubator.

Letts Incubate may be a little more sophisticated and high-tech these days but the core principles remain the same. Indeed, we are currently testing three of our latest projects with paying customers in the live environment – just as John Letts launched his first ‘concept’ diary in 1812.


Keep up to date with the latest Letts Group news – follow us on twitter @LettsGroup.

The History of the Letts Diary

Letts has been a name associated with diaries since the beginning of the nineteenth century. It was for the year 1812 that John Letts, the founder of the present-day business, published his first diary and thereby originated a new concept of diary-keeping completely different from the traditional use as a personal historical record.

John Letts had been in business as a stationer in the City of London since 1796. His shop nestled among the arcades of the Royal Exchange and his clientele must have included the merchants and traders in the City. Their requirements were clear: they needed to know about movements of ships to and from the bustling Port of London, as well as being able to control their finances which were commonly based upon rates of exchange. That the early diaries were designed to meet these requirements is readily apparent. Prominence was given to the working week of Monday to Saturday and Sunday was often excluded. In most editions cash ruling was included throughout the diary section and information at the beginning of the diary invariably included the tide tables so essential to those connected with shipping.

While John Letts opened the first shop in 1796, the Letts family have owned a number of shops over the centuries. The newest is an online bookshop called Letts Books.

The diary which John Letts published in 1812 was an innovation in that it was future-focused and not designed simply to record past events. It was a commercial product responding to the growing trade in the City of London. Moreover, the 1812 edition is interesting in that it is quite clearly testing this market.

That this test was successful is demonstrated by the rapid sophistication of the product both in content and presentation, and by the early 1820’s a range of diaries providing different sizes and formats was published.

The diary soon established itself as an essential feature of commercial life, unaffected by the slump which followed the boom years of the Napoleonic Wars. It was given a further boost by the publication of the works of two major diarists – John Evelyn in 1818 and Samuel Pepys in 1825. These publications created a literary interest in diary-keeping and no doubt stimulated demand for the new product in its more traditional role.

This is the first of a series of articles on the history of Letts by Anthony Letts.


Keep up to date with the latest Letts Group news – follow us on twitter @LettsGroup.

Letts Media Publication Examines Rewilding in London

Letts Media publication DSP Online is currently running a series on rewilding in London.

When we think of rewilding, too often we imagine vast wilderness or national park’s such as Yellowstone Park. Less known, but potentially as impactful, is smaller-scale rewilding which yields similar benefits in smaller green spaces in cities and the countryside.”

Sebastian Letts

This series is timely given that researchers and scientists have recently stated that we could reverse much of the damage of global warming by rewilding around 15% of key lands. A study in the Journal of Nature has shown that by doing this we could avoid 60% of expected wildlife extinctions while sequestering 30% of the CO2 increase in the atmosphere since the industrial revolution.

To achieve wider rewilding targets we will need to develop rewilding techniques for urban and rural settings. One of Letts Environment’s rewilding experts is producing a series of reports which looks at approaches that could be taken in smaller, well known public spaces in London.

Rewilding such spaces would enable them to absorb the cities emissions while creating habitats which support wildlife. It would also educate Londoners about the importance of rewilding and hopefully inspire them to rewild their gardens.”

DSP Online

Rewilding could prove to be the most cost effective and holistic approach to reversing the damaging effects of climate change by absorbing emissions back into the soil while restoring and rebuilding wildlife populations. We have lost 68% of our animals worldwide in the last 50 years.

DSP Online is the leading publication for people who want to understand the affects of climate change and the growing array of solutions. It also examines eco-futures, research, findings and the environmental arts.

By subscribing to DSP Online you also get to support one of the worlds leading centres for smaller-scale rewilding based in southwest England.

If you want to understand more about climate change and the range of solutions being developed, subscribe to Letts Media publication DSP Online today – CLICK HERE.


Keep up to date with the latest Letts Group news – follow us on twitter @LettsGroup.

Eco Change Management

Is this the new direction for corporate board rooms?

We have all heard the term, the new norm, enough times to give us the shakes. We understand that things are different and that we need to adapt. But adapt how? If the landscape has changed so much how do we best navigate it?

Corporate board rooms around the world will be ringing with such questions. Managers have been playing defense most of this year. Now that their employees are back to work, whether they are working from home or at the office, managers will need to paint a new direction.

Your colleagues need inspiring leadership like never before. They seek clear direction with a concise, data driven analysis of how things have changed on the ground for the industry and for their company. They will hope for a new path forward.

So what’s new?

Well, of course, there is that elephant in the room which changes everything. Coronavirus has affected all our lives. The data, analysis and trends from this year are fundamentally different to anything seen in modern times. The world has altered course.

The pandemic has made us feel insecure and vulnerable. We realise for the first time in a long time that we are truly at risk. Our future might not seem as assured as it felt before. And if the elephant in the room is Covid-19 then the dinosaur in the room is climate change. Fix climate change and we might see fewer pandemics. Fix climate change and we might still be here in a hundred years time.

Climate change is the issue of our time. It will likely affect consumer behaviour more than any other issue. It might prove to be the constant backdrop to our future. The ultimate macro event. And as the Internet has changed society and business over the last 30 years, global warming will do the same over the next 30 years. This time though, there is so much more at stake.

Progressive businesses will want to steal a march and drive change in their business toward this new reality. To an eco change management programme.

This, was the challenge that the Surviving think tank set the Letts Group more than a decade ago. Over the years we have helped them to journey from awareness to analysis to action. Action has ultimately proven quite profound and far reaching. So much so that they developed a third area of business for the group focused on environmental solutions.

Looking back, it is clear that together we have undergone an informal, experimental eco change management process. We started with a simple desire to understand the implications of climate change on the business. Somewhere along the road we collectively decided to become eco-leaders in our sectors and through our products and services. We believed that our customers, employees and partners would share the same concern for societal wellbeing and the protection of the planet.

At the outset we read and watched as much as we could to learn about the climate crisis and to attempt to understand the science. We talked to those steeped in developing the early environmental solutions from a wide spectrum of sources including technology, energy, media, fashion, the arts, agriculture, wildlife, foods, transport, travel and more. It was amazing how much was going on at the grass roots level.

We started to map out a plan for how the business could follow some of the higher impact disciplines we researched so that they could get some early wins and become more eco friendly. Today it has developed into a 10 point plan that a wide range of businesses and eco warriors are in various stages of absorbing and adopting.

The Letts Group has ended up putting ‘eco’ into all of its offerings and business lines. The digital media products are skewed towards environmental issues and trends. The group is on a path to become a leader in environmental arts and has set up a whole new division focused on natural solutions to the climate crisis. We worked together to open a centre of excellence for the business and its partners which practices what we preach. It is an eco-learning centre for the Letts Group, partner companies and other worthwhile organisations.

It has been an amazing journey for the experts at Surviving’s think tank and it has been a pleasure watching the Letts Group and its partners embrace this grand safari into the new world. One that we feel we have traveled just far enough to be able to share.

More recently we have nudged the group to a next point of arrival with its all new, eco-friendly group positioning, website and a strap line ‘a brighter future’ that we think says it all.

In the mean time and in response to our partner companies questions about how to begin an organisational eco journey we have a simple answer – get in touch.

We would be happy to nudge you in the right direction. It has and continues to be the ride of our lives.

It might not be very long before your most valuable customers decide that they only want to buy from an environmentally responsible and environmentally active business. Don’t get left behind.

This article first appeared at the Letts Media publication Surviving.


Keep up to date with the latest Letts Group news – follow us on twitter @LettsGroup.

Welcome To Our New Website

We are excited to launch the Letts Group’s brand new website.

We opted for a clean, minimal look with a Buzzard soaring as the main image to support our new strapline ‘a brighter future’.

We wanted the website to look as fresh and fluid as when we first started. Even though we have been around for 250 years, for us, this is a new beginning.

The Letts Group is about tradition, quality, innovation and change.

John Letts invented the commercial diary in 1816. Today we are a branded incubator group run by the Letts family and focused on media, the environment and the arts.

We hope you can join us for the next leg of the journey.

You may want to sign up to our blog and follow us @LettsGroup.