How the Best Newsletters Get – and Keep – Readers’ Attention

How the Best Newsletters Get – and Keep – Readers’ Attention

Is your newsletter all work, or does it include a little play? Deliver news in new ways Besides providing news stories worth reading, consider how you might get inventive in your delivery. The blue button on the bottom right brings up a single bubble on an unrelated story. If you click that button, you see more Warren Buffet stories. This newsletter – “a weekly collection of 10 ideas to help you learn, do, and become better at your work, art, and life” – points readers to recent articles that Josh has either created or curated. I see why Scott trusts Josh’s judgment and looks forward to the For the Interested newsletter every week. Scott declares his favorite newsletter to be Next Draft by Dave Pell, self-proclaimed managing editor of the internet. Eventually, you get to this statement from Dave: I am the algorithm. The managing editor of the internet relies not on big data or digital algorithms but on his singular, analog, non-scalable nose for news. What else do you do to bring in new subscribers and keep the old?

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best-newsletters-keep-readers-attention

Nobody wants more email. Yet, as a marketer you want your prospects to want more email – to want your newsletters, at least.

How do you create a newsletter so compelling that people not only subscribe to it but also continually look forward to receiving and reading it?

Scott Monty, CEO and co-managing partner at Brain+Trust Partners, has a few thoughts on this conundrum. Aside from publishing his own weekly newsletter, The Full Monty, he enjoys reading and evaluating other newsletters. He shared some of his favorites – and his reasons for liking them – at Content Marketing World in his talk How to Build and Maintain an Audience with a Remarkable Email Newsletter.

Try a little cleverness

Who says your newsletter can’t make people smile?

Scott points to The Hustle, which describes itself as “a daily email with a handful of the important stories in business, tech, and culture that you should probably know.” The Hustle makes it onto Scott’s list of favorites because, he says, “it’s brief and speaks to me in colloquial language.”

The colloquial language gives the hard facts a touch of cleverness. Here’s an example from The Hustle’s version of a story about Lyft, the on-demand ride company. The writer holds little hope that Lyft will succeed in its attempt to serve sparsely populated areas. “Will you really be able to hail a ride in the remote reaches of Alaska after a long day of ice fishing and dog-sledding?” At the end, the link to the full story on The Hustle website has this label: “Your ride will be here in 177 minutes.”

hustle-lyft-article-example

The Hustle doesn’t stick to just the facts. The editorial team throws in content that delights them. For example, Scott looks forward to the weekly section called Friday Shower Thoughts, which has all the wryness of a Steven Wright routine. Scott says, “The Hustle builds in this cadence, this expectation, so that I know what I’m going to get when I get to that section of the newsletter every Friday.”

hustle-newsletter-cadence

Here’s a snippet from a Hustle story about The New York Times that caught my eye because it gives a twist to the first joke I ever heard.

hustle-joke-example

This not yet 3-year-old newsletter has more than a million subscribers and boasts open rates of 40% to 60%.

Is your newsletter all work, or does it include a little play?

Deliver news in new ways

Besides providing news stories worth reading, consider how you might get inventive in your delivery.

Quartz has one of the most inventive news apps out there,” Scott says. It delivers bite-size news in a style that mimics the behavior of text messages, complete with text bubbles that float up as if someone is speed-typing them, GIFs, and buttons that readers click to choose what happens next.

quartz-news-snippet-example

Readers have three types of choices to indicate what they want to see next:

  • The small blue arrow to the right of a text bubble brings up the full story, which may be on the Quartz website or on another site.
  • The blue…

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