The email newsletter, an old trend that has recently come back in full force, is the intersection of digital media and the ‘zine. It’s a remedy for people who feel overwhelmed with the impossibility of keeping up with social media.
I did a five-month study on tons of different newsletters, analyzing content and public opinion to figure out what the perfect newsletter would be in format, voice and delivery. I wrote about my complicated findings here.
What I learned from subscribing to more than 100 newsletters written by news outlets and journalists and other personalities is that there are a million ways of expressing yourself through email; you just have to find the ones that work for you.
I made a list of my 10 favorites and some honorable mentions so that you can start your own newsletter or build on an existing one:
This newsletter is written for millennial ladies, but the sheer force of style is undeniable. The format is gorgeous and the voice is clearly targeting a specific audience. It offers an eclectic mix of content from the website, articles from other sites and recommendations of books, music and more.
The takeaway: A beautiful layout with lots of different content will keep people interested in opening your newsletter every morning, and a voice that targets them will make them want to read.
Links I would Gchat you if we were friends
Caitlin Dewey, digital culture critic at the Washington Post, pens this weekly newsletter based on what’s happening in internet news this week. You see a lot of stories here you won’t see anywhere else, and though the newsletter has a lot of links to a lot of stories, it never seems too long.
The takeaway: When you provide content that no one else does, people will flock to it no matter how long your newsletter is.
Dave Pell, a writer who calls himself the “managing editor of the internet,” creates a top-10 list of the most important stories of the day. He explains each story in a short paragraph with a punchy, punny headline. He hits news, longform pieces and “the bottom of the internet.”
The takeaway: Linking out to lots of different sources will make people trust you — like you’re serving their needs and not just your agenda.
Lena Dunham and Jenni Konner’s project isn’t like the other newsletters on this list. It’s essentially an email zine, with entire articles pasted into the copy. But the articles are always riveting, eye-opening and original. In a world of personal essays, these somehow never cease to feel refreshing.
The takeaway: There’s a reason this email has a 70 percent open rate, one of the highest in the game — because it’s just like a unique magazine that you don’t have to pay for.
The Ringer is a brand new sports website, the brainchild of Bill Simmons. Before the site launched, it started as a newsletter, and I’ve been hooked ever since. It transcends sports to provide culture commentary, and the format feels like an extremely trendy magazine.
The takeaway: Including the actual text of stories into the newsletter revamps the magazine feel that people are so fond of, and providing cultural commentary and voice people don’t get from standard news outlets.
Digiday publishes a top-of-the-morning, top-of-the-news update on the world of digital media every day, sending you the five most important things you need to know. The best part of this newsletter, though, is it’s format. Instead of trying to find a balance between brief and thorough, it does both. The top of the newsletter is a numbered list of headlines. The bottom consists of the longer headlines of those stories and a paragraph explanation. There’s something for everyone.
The takeaway: A visually striking newsletter will set itself apart from any competition, and if you present stories in multiple ways, you are sure to hit the mark of what people want.
Mic’s daily newsletter is different from the other daily roundups. It comes out later in the day instead of trying to tackle the “here’s what you need to know this morning” gimmick that most others do, and it doesn’t necessarily send out evergreen stories, but they aren’t the absolute hottest of the day. When they do share the news of the day, it’s an interesting take on it, like a focus on a statistic or a trend and not just a headline.
The takeaway: Instead of trying to keep people in the loop with the top stories of the day just like everyone else, try to provide information people don’t keep hearing.
Fusion brings a little bit of everything to the table, from content to format to tone. It opens with a paragraph explanation of the biggest news story of the day told with a clear voice and turns into a top five list of totally different stories you need to read. Then, it includes a full read you should check out.
The takeaway: Long newsletters can be risky because often readers feel overwhelmed, but you also have the opportunity to share more links, get more clicks and hit a stride in a certain section that a reader really enjoys.
This. is a peculiar website — users can share their favorite stories with others on a newsfeed like Facebook, but they can only choose one per day. That leaves you with a roundup of the absolute best of the best of the day — the top five of which are rounded up and sent in the email newsletter.
The takeaway: Let your readers tell you what your most important stories are, and make sure no one misses them.
BuzzFeed DIY/Health and Beauty/Today/Books/Sunday Features
Okay, yes. This is not just one newsletter, it is five, but I can’t resist — BuzzFeed simply does it best. These newsletters range from semi-weekly to weekly to daily and tailor to the exact interests you have. The emails are frequent, but they never feel tired. Some of them have more voice than others, but they are never complicated and never feel like you’re being talked down to.
The takeaway: It’s OK to find a formula and re-apply it over and over again.
Muck Rack, Nylon, Brooklyn Briefly, The Marshall Project, Longreads Weekly, American Press Institute, The Atlantic Daily, Vox Sentences, CNN’s Reliable Sources, Literary Hub, Sami Man’s pep talk, The Awl’s Everything Changes, theSkimm
Kelsey is a trending content and social media fellow for AOL and a former web culture intern for Mashable. She’s done extensive research on email newsletters, which she has written about here, and she writes a weekly edition of her own. Kelsey’s life goal is to write the great American listicle.