The Newsletter's Big Comeback

Something interesting is happening. The Instagraming, Snapchatting hipster crowd are readjusting their glasses and peering at something on their screens. It’s a communication form so old, that it’s about to enter its retro phase. And if hipsters have taught us anything, retro is cool.

What am I talking about?  Curated newsletters.  These digital relics that initially emerged in popularity in the late 90s/early 2000s are experiencing a major comeback that is largely being driven by Gen Y’s love for email.  

As social media becomes a pay-to-play space for marketers, some of the authentic connections between brands and consumers that it initially promised has boomeranged back to email. A newsletter, especially, can be a viable way to deliver personalized content to consumers that is approachable, genuine and less formal.    

Should every brand have a newsletter?
While I love a good newsletter, I don’t think it makes sense for every brand. If you have invested in a lot of content, such as a frequently updated blog, then a newsletter definitely makes sense.



If you’re short on content and can’t invest in changing that reality through content production or curation of content from other sources, you’ll want to pass on creating a newsletter. The worst thing you can do is promise great content to subscribers only to fall short of expectations. If you’re going to do it, make sure you do it well.  

If you need inspiration and great examples, take note from companies that have centered their business models on newsletters: The Muse, The Hustle, Refinery29, The Skimm, Lenny Letter, Clover, Finimize and The Daily WTF. There’s even a site that curates the best newsletters in a single place by topic called, Letterlist. The site touts that you can “fall in love with your inbox like it’s 1999” by signing up for many different types of newsletters based on your specific interests.    

If you’ve decided to go all-in on a newsletter, here are some areas to think about:

Design. The great thing about newsletters is that you can consider it the B-side of your brand. As a result, much like the less-censored and creative songs on the B-side of vinyl records, you get some freedoms here to be more expressive and authentic with your subscribers.

Be creative and personable, but keep simplicity in mind. Make sure the design is organized in a way that makes it easy to skim—especially on a mobile device.

And sure, if it fits your brand, you can inject personality through funny animated gifs/memes and other creative elements that are a bit risky elsewhere. Just make sure you keep visual friction to a minimum. You don’t want the design to be so busy and heavy that it seems like too big of a time commitment to read upon opening. That will drive down readership.

Content. Much like the design, you can be creative with grabby subject lines, headlines and content. This is your chance to share the edgier and less formal side of your brand, so don’t be afraid to inject personality into your content to engage your subscribers. You also want to ensure that the content is personalized to the recipient.

You can ask recipients what they are interested in or reference an individual’s behaviors across channels to determine the content each will receive. For example, if a recipient recently clicked on an article about travel, then ensure she receives content on travel in the next newsletter.

Frequency. While I don’t normally advocate for allowing subscribers to modify frequency since that gets too challenging for marketers to manage, newsletters are an exception to that rule.

If your newsletter is sent on a daily basis or multiple times per week, allow your subscribers to manage frequency in a preference center to a less frequent option. Daily may be too much of a commitment for many of your subscribers, but many may be fine with a weekly or monthly cadence.

Does your brand have a newsletter? What are some ways you’ve approached the design, content and frequency? What are some different ways you’ve engaged subscribers to give them a glimpse into the less formal side of your brand? Let me know in the comments!

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