When you think back to 1971, what comes to mind? Bell bottoms were in fashion. John Lennon released the timeless album “Imagine,” and the Race to Space was in full force.
But, 1971 also marked the birth of email. The very first messages were sent on the ARPANET system, a precursor to the internet.
Today, it is hard to imagine a world without email. By some estimates, nearly 270 billion emails are sent every day. That is a massive amount of content traveling through the internet every day.
Email is one of the most powerful marketing channels, as well as the preferred method of communicating with businesses for 73% of millennials.
So, how do you make your email stand out? How do you create a true work of art and avoid the spam tab?
Every good artist needs inspiration. In this post, we will look at some of the most original, compelling, and creative email newsletters landing in email boxes everywhere.
1. Muck Rack
Muck Rack is a PR software platform designed to make it easier to connect with journalists, pitch stories, and allow PR reps to track the results of their efforts.
They also send out a daily email newsletter, the Muck Rack Daily, a daily digest about the state of journalism. Their digest is a collection of important changes in the journalism field written in an engaging tone. There is no fluff, but the email newsletters aren’t dry either.
They also do a fantastic job of writing more or less depending on the topic. The day before Michael Cohen’s testimony, we got a long, GIF-filled email newsletter covering all the hot topics. (Amazing, and amusing.)
Another day, there were just a few highlights. I appreciate that they value my time, which makes this email newsletter a favorite.
Why Muck Rack made the list: The balance of news and trends, and the focus on being useful, not meeting a certain word count.
2. The Skimm
Founded by Danielle Weisberg and Carly Zakin in 2012, The Skimm offers a daily rundown of all the important news in the world with a tongue in cheek tone. This is absolutely my favorite digest email newsletter. It keeps me informed, and I LOVE tone and creativeness of the copy.
Here is a recent sample of their email newsletter:
Funny, and filled with great information. They also do deep dives into topics, such as the Russia investigation, US-N Korea relations, elections, and entertainment topics like football and the Oscars.
I also love that two women turned a difficult to monetize email newsletter into a powerhouse of a company, with a newsletter, app, podcast, and several other products.
Seriously, who thinks “Hey, I have an idea; we will send out a daily email newsletter about what is happening in the world, people will love it.” There are dozens of similar email newsletters, it doesn’t sound like something you could monetize it.
Yet, they did it and The Skimm is unique and stands out.
Why The Skimm made the list: It is hilarious, I always learn something, and they link to more info about tons of topics so you can learn about new topics instead of being embarrassed about what you don’t know. They are also transparent about advertisers, which I appreciate.
InVision is a digital product design platform that makes it easy to create, approve, and collaborate with team members. They are used by some of the top companies in the world, including Uber, Netflix, and Twitter. InVision also offers plenty of educational resources, including a robust blog, books, podcasts, and list of workshops.
InVision also sends out a weekly email newsletter filled with news, tips, and interviews about the design industry. They also include updates about InVision, but the main focus is on useful content.
Why InVision made the list: I love the blend of industry news, tips on how to better use InVision, and education, It makes this a useful email newsletter for designers and their teams, as well as a way to educate them about InVision.
4. Austin Kleon
Austin Kleon is a best selling author, artist, and former librarian. His weekly email newsletters are short, but packed with useful and inspiring info.
Take, for example, one of his recent email newsletters:
Austin includes a (somewhat random) assortment of topics including:
- What to say when you have nothing to say
- Why Austin keeps writing
- Recommendations of books for parents
- His favorite record
- Films you should watch
What really stands out about his email newsletter is the laid-back tone. He does promote his books, but in a natural way. You feel like you are getting an update from a friend who cares about you, not being sold to by a best selling author.
Why Austin Kleon made the list? I love the authentic feel. You feel like you are talking with a good friend, not reading a promotional email newsletter (which it totally is).
5. Brain Pickings
Brain Pickings is a weekly Sunday email newsletter filled with inspiring articles about art, science, books, and “other strands of our search for truth, beauty, and meaning.”
At first glance, this email newsletter feels all over the place. And, to be honest, the design is not very inspiring. You get a review of a book, the recording of a poem, children books, Charlotte Bronte on faith and atheism.
But all the topics do have a similar thread: they are all related to what it means to be human. Not all email newsletters need to stick to the exact same topic, and this example shows that well.
Why Brain Pickings made the list: Content can be more important than design. This email newsletter is packed with intriguing information, but the design remains very basic.
Litmus is a program designed to help businesses build, test, and monitor their email newsletter campaigns. They send out a monthly newsletter with tips on branding, segmenting your emails, finding jobs, and links to their podcast.
What really stands out is their design. The large block of color and modern graphics make this email newsletter beautiful to look at and easy to consume.
I also love the variety of topics. You expect a brand email newsletter to include a lot of their own content, and this one does, but they balance it out with truly useful information for their audience.
Why Litmus made the list: Perfect balance of branded and useful content and stunning design makes this perfect email newsletter for inspiration.
MasterWP is a weekly email newsletter filled with news, apps, tools, and other thought-provoking content designed just for WordPress professionals. I love the simple graphics, they evoke an old-school feel.
This email newsletter is a balance between news about the newsletter’s founders, Alex and Ben, as well as updates about WordPress, including more information about the new Gutenberg editor, and links to interesting articles.
Why Master WP made the list: I love the balance of in-depth and short form content. Overall the email newsletter is pretty long, but the content is really good, and the color blocks make it easy to skip through sections you aren’t interested in.
8. Wait But Why
Wait But Why is a unique and sporadic newsletter and blog from Tim Urban and Andrew Finn. The blog is entirely reader-supported (read: no ads) and filled with long-form essays written with incredible depth and research, despite the funny and self-deprecating tone.
This screenshot from their About page is a fantastic example of the tone you can expect.
(My personal favorite “Trying for 75 minutes to fix this table so the two columns are the same width because WordPress hates happiness.”)
When you join the email list, you get a weekly email newsletter featuring one of their best posts. Over time, you default to the general list and get sporadic updates when they’ve published a new post.
Topics include how to choose a career, Space X, marriage, Tesla, being late, and procrastination. Tons of topics, right? But most pieces are in-depth and are accompanied by kitschy stick figure drawings.
Why Wait Buy Why made the list: The clever tone and deep dive into different topics make this email newsletter a nice entry point to this unique blog. Who says shorter is better? Sometimes it is. But sometimes you just have to do what works for you.
9. Really Good Emails
Really Good Emails is a site dedicated to showcasing the very best of email design. Unsurprisingly, they also make the list! Here is my favorite recent email newsletter. (Can we talk about the heading: “🎵I like big fonts and I cannot lie… 🎵” — amazing.)
Their newsletter is a mix of industry trends, news, and the best emails of the week. You learn a little something and can get inspired to create your next great email campaign. I love the clever copywriting and the short and sweet approach.
Why Really Good Emails made the list: Love the balance of learning (seriously, who knew there were font scandals??) and examples of emails for inspiration, which is likely why most people subscribed to this email newsletter.
It is no surprise that MailPoet, a WordPress plugin for sending email newsletters, has a fantastic newsletter. Their newsletter is a solid mix of educational content about sending email newsletters and content about MailPoet as a brand.
They send it out once a month, which is refreshing in a time where too many brands seem to think more email is always better.
Their most recent email newsletter starts out with an update about the brand.
Then, they share the best content from their blog.
But, my favorite section is the “Links that got us chatting” section, where they share tools and interesting content from around the web.
Why MailPoet made the list: The balance of brand and industry related content as well as the clean, on brand design make this newsletter a compelling example of branded newsletters done right.
11. Ann Handley
Ann Handley is a best selling author of the book Everybody Writes, and the COO of MarketingProfs, a training platform for marketers. Twice a month she sends out a cleverly named email newsletter called Total ANNARCHY.
Each newsletter offers insights into who Ann is as well as interesting tips and resources about life, writing, and marketing as a whole. She mentions personal anecdotes, like going to a plane or having a conversation with a friend, but she also shares cool tools, interesting videos, and new trends.
The tone feels very personal and the content is intriguing and useful. The design, really, is very basic. No flashing graphics, just words, emoticons, and a few pictures.
Why Ann Handley made the list: This newsletter has a special place in my heart due to the no-BS, personal tone and the balance of useful and genuinely interesting content.
It is easy to get caught up looking at what everyone else is doing and trying to follow ‘best’ practices. The thing is, best practices don’t work for everyone. How boring would it be if we all sent the same types of email newsletters?
Some times longer is better; sometimes shorter works well. Depending on your audience, design might be incredibly important or you may be able to keep it very simple.
The key to designing newsletters that get read? Create an email newsletter the represents you as a person or a brand and aim to provide information your audience will find useful. Don’t worry about the best practices — worry about what your audience will enjoy!
Do you have any favorite email newsletters that didn’t make this list? Share your favorites in the comments below!