Audrey asks, “What do you all look for in a good email newsletter? Are there any you just love & can’t wait to receive? Any that you signed up for that just fell flat?”
This is a great question and an important one, because the answer is very different based on the subscriber’s intent. Broadly, email newsletters fall into two buckets – educational and entertaining. What kind of newsletter a person subscribes to is incredibly dependent on their intent, and if you publish one, you have to know what kind of audience you have or want to have. Other basic considerations include frequency, length, personality, and specific topic.
Some examples of great newsletters I subscribe to include:
- Katie Martell’s marketing email newsletter
- Ann Handley’s writing newsletter
- Jeremy Singer-Vine’s Data is Plural
- Scott Monty’s Full Monty
- Morning Brew
Shameless plug: I produce two newsletters, Almost Timely and In the Headlights. Please subscribe to both if you want marketing and data science news and opinions. Almost Timely is more individually-focused and In the Headlights is more business/organization-focused.
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What follows is an AI-generated transcript. The transcript may contain errors and is not a substitute for watching the video.
In today’s episode, Audrey asks, what do you look for in a good email newsletter that you just love and can’t wait to receive any you sign up for the just fell flat? This is a great question and an important one, because the answer is very different depending on the subscribers intent.
So there’s the producer of the newsletter side, the subscriber side.
Broadly speaking, email newsletters are going to fall into two buckets, educational and entertaining, and every newsletter is almost certainly going to be a blend of those two.
But what that blend is what that mix is, is dependent on both the subscribers and the producers.
Now, what kind of newsletter a person subscribes to is incredibly dependent on their intent.
So if you are publishing an email newsletter, if you’re trying to create one for business purposes, you have to know what kind of audience either you have, or you want to have.
One of the tricks that I do for that is to look at your social audience, look at what they post and you know, just do a sample of a random mix of 100 posts and look at how much entertainment versus education people are trying to publish out there in the world and gives you a sense of what they share, and how entertainment or education focus they are.
Now, if you’re trying to produce a great email newsletter, or even just a good one on one that doesn’t suck, you need to have a few other things as well.
You have to be clear on your intent.
What is your intent? Do you want to entertain? Or do you want to educate? Do you want to do both? Can you do both? Well, in the email newsletters, I publish, I publish two of them.
I personally email newsletter almost timely and in the headlights, the trust insights newsletter.
And I don’t go for entertainment because as it That to me is that’s not my background, I don’t have any formal training.
And so I focus really on the education aspect, because processing data is what I do.
Second question, what frequency Do you want to publish, there is no wrong frequency, other than what is the maximum frequency you can publish at while still retaining quality while still producing something that people want to read and enjoy reading? For some people that’s monthly.
And that’s okay.
You know, it’s better than nothing, as long as its quality.
For other publications.
There are some that publish three times a day, and they maintain quality that way, but they create a lot of content.
And as long as it’s useful, it fulfills the mission.
And then great.
length is another consideration how much content and what kinds of content go into your newsletter, your best bet for making a newsletter is to create content that is scalable, in the sense that you can produce a newsletter relatively quickly and it at the frequency you choose, but has any basic template all the way to, to having machines really put together a good chunk of it.
About two thirds of my newsletter is generated by software that I wrote, because I couldn’t just create a whole thing.
And then there’s about a third of it is custom that I build every issue.
I publish weekly.
Some companies published daily, some companies publish three times a day depends on on your company, and what you can do.
The third is personality, what personality does your newsletter speak with? Generally speaking, the better newsletters, have a personality to them, either one person who’s writing them, and you’re getting that person’s perspective.
Or there’s an editorial board but it still has the voice of a person.
Remember that a newsletter, my friend and Hanley about which is a terrific newsletter, you can find it in Hanley calm often talks about how companies focus too much on the news and not enough on the letter.
And so if you can write with the intent of it being one person communicating to another, because that’s the way it’s read newsletters are a lot like podcasts, right? They’re not something that is a communal thing.
You read that was a one to one communication.
It’s like a podcast, you’re listening to another person.
You’re not people don’t communally listen to podcasts for the most part.
So your personality should reflect that when you’re typing out your newsletter when you’re creating a newsletter should reflect I as the creator and writing to you are writing a letter to you the reader one person at a time.
The fourth consideration is the specific topic What is your newsletter about? and be very specific and clear on this so that you can tell what doesn’t does not go into the newsletter.
The best newsletters the ones that I love are very specific.
They are clear on their intent there’s no question when I sign up for this newsletter I know exactly what I’m getting.
Katie Martell publishes a great marketing newsletter and handling newsletters writing a lot about writing these days.
Jeremy singer vines data is plural newsletter is all about data sets you can take a look at Scott Montes is all about general business strategy.
Help a reporter out is all inquiries from reporters who need help with stories.
Morning brew is all about mostly finance and business.
So these are examples of very clear topics, very clear intent by the publishers, whether their individual organisational for the readers, like this is what you get.
And and there’s no question that if you want a newsletter that covers x, this is the source to go for.
where companies go wrong is when you read their newsletter.
If you scratched off the the logo, would you have any idea it was that companies newsletter? Or would it just be some like random generic newsletter? That personality is really really important.
In terms of testing out your newsletters, though, thing that I recommend is the same as podcasts.
Could you from memory, re subscribe to all the newsletters you subscribe to right now.
Try it as an exercise.
I don’t mean like unsubscribe for anything.
I just mean to get a open a new text document, get out a post it note whatever and list out the ones that you kind of remember that you subscribe to by name.
And then compare it to what you actually get.
And that is your benchmark and the same that your goal as a producer is to be on that shortlist of things that people actually remember signing up for.
If your newsletter isn’t at that point, you have more work to do.
You have more work to do to make it more memorable either.
The brand itself mine is called almost timely.
Or the content where the person behind it I subscribe to to Ann’s newsletter.
Okay, I can remember that.
Do I subscribe to Johnny’s newsletter, gosh, I don’t know if I do, do I.
That’s an example of where that newsletter has not done a good job, a good enough job with branding to be memorable, to be trustworthy.
So that’s what from my point of view goes into a good email newsletter as someone who’s been publishing an email newsletter of some kind for almost one yours now.
You need to have those things clear purpose, frequency, length, personality, and very specific topic.
As always, please leave comments below and please do subscribe to the YouTube channel on the newsletter and all the links for the newsletters mentioned in this episode are in the show notes on the blog.
Go to Christopher penn.com slash blog.
Find this episode.
How do you make a great new email newsletter and you can get all the links if you want to subscribe to these newsletters as well.
Thanks for watching.
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