Email newsletters are eating the world, and for good reason. Their blend of depth and simplicity makes them an ideal successor to the historical newspaper. In fact, the contemporary email newsletter is a significant improvement over traditional media, as it goes straight into the reader’s personal inbox.
Like most people, I’m careful about handing my email address to anyone. But because they sit in my inbox and can be opened (or ignored) at a time of my choosing, I’ve found newsletters keep me in the know about specific topics — which in my case includes media comings and goings.
– David Carr, The New York Times
In this post, we’ll look at nine of the best email newsletters from around the web and draw a lesson from each. While the format of newsletter is limited by the constraints of email technology, the content is not. Let’s get reading!
About: Smashing Magazine, a website dedicated to web/graphic/UI design, sends out a newsletter twice a month, filled with tips, tricks and resources for designers and developers.
Lesson: don’t be afraid of images and longform content. Smashing Magazine’s newsletter is really long, significantly more lengthy than almost any other popular newsletter. And yet, it works, largely because of sharp design and useful content. Is your newsletter too bare? Try adding images.
About: Remotive is a hub for remote jobs. Their newsletter includes remote job listings, tips and tricks for getting a remote job, and other useful information.
Lesson: Make money by making others money. Remotive helps both job-seekers and employers. By helping both sides of the employment equation, they’ve positioned themselves as a go-to spot for all things remote.
About: The idea behind Unsplash is simple: completely free, high-quality stock images. Their newsletter is equally as simple; every 10 days, they send out 10 images.
Lesson: Be reliably useful. Unsplash isn’t complicated; it’s just a bunch of cool photos. And yet, it’s immensely successful. Sometimes, less is more.
About: Startup Digest is a personalized newsletter for all things startup.
Lesson: personalize! Startup Digest is unique in that each newsletter is completely customized for the subscriber. Subscribers can choose from a number of topics that they are interested in, ranging from 3D printing to crowdfunding and everything in between. In MailPoet, try using separate lists to divide your users by topic.
About: Hacker Newsletter is a weekly newsletter of the best articles on startups, technology, programming, and more. All links are curated by hand from Hacker News, one of the most popular websites for startup founders and Silicon Valley entrepreneurs.
Interestingly, the Hacker Newsletter team has no relation to the actual team behind Hacker News; they simply piggybacked their product on top of the already-successful news site. Not a bad business model, indeed!
Lesson: focus on the content. The Hacker Newsletter, just like the actual Hacker News website, is sparse on design. Instead, the focus is completely on the content.
Content is king.
– Bill Gates
Are your newsletters too filled with extraneous content? Try cutting down to the basics. Always remember that your readers have limited time and attention.
About: Next Draft is a newsletter featuring a curated list of the 10 most important news articles of the day.
Lesson: curation beats automation. Dave Pell, the founder and editor of Next Draft, is widely praised for his ability to pick out fascinating articles (and skip boring ones.) Check out this profile of Mr. Pell on TechCrunch.
The idea is I want you to feel like you are just getting an email from me that you could reply back to. It’s always the personal stuff people remark on. We’re all dying for human connection on the web.
– Dave Pell
Do you have a good eye for content? Try acting as curator for your readers. Curation is an effective way to build a solid newsletter, but only if done correctly:
When curating content as part of your content marketing strategy, it’s crucial to add your own commentary — or annotation — to differentiate your content from that of other sources, comply with fair use requirements, and boost the overall SEO value of all your content offerings.
– Pawan Deshpande
Need some help organizing your curation process? Check out this post from the Content Marketing Institute.
The New York Times: What We’re Reading
About: Sent twice a week, the What We’re Reading newsletter includes articles from around the web, hand-selected by New York Times reporters and editors.
Lesson: leverage your expertise. The New York Times naturally has an enormous team of qualified editors, writers, and journalists from around the web.
Do you have deep expertise in a particular topic? (Or know people that do?) Include it in your newsletters.
About: Improbable Research sends out a monthly email that includes research that “makes people LAUGH and then THINK.” Interestingly, their newsletter is written in plain text, without any fancy HTML templates or images, which adds to the academic flavor.
Lesson: make the inaccessible accessible. Improbable Research covers academic research, a complicated topic indeed. But, by highlighting funny, thought-provoking research in a straightforward way, they make a detailed piece of research accessible. If your newsletter covers a technical or complex topic, think about how you can make it easier to understand.
About: We hope this doesn’t need an explanation! But, if you’re unfamiliar with our newsletter, it’s a once-monthly email, full of MailPoet news, tips and tricks, plus a curated selection of informative articles from around the web.
Lesson: experiment and embrace change. We’ve modified the MailPoet Newsletter format many times (and will continue to do so.) By being open to change and new experiments, we continue to improve. Is your newsletter getting stale? Try mixing it up with a new format.
That about sums up our overview of nine great newsletters from around the web. What are your favorite newsletters? Let us know in the comments!