What's the deal with email newsletters?

An independent study by a UNC journalism student

Final findings from my independent study on email newsletters

For the past few months, I have been researching and monitoring the rapidly growing media fad that is email newsletters. I analyzed 14 popular, hand-curated newsletters belonging to media outlets and individual journalists alike in an attempt to figure out the best practices of delivery, format and voice. You can find a full list of links to all of the newsletters I analyzed here.

I also conducted my own primary research to see which of those same practices millennials prefered. I wrote about my research in detail, and in this paper I will be comparing and contrasting the different approaches different newsletters take as well as the results that I found through my own research. I include my recommendations in each section.

MY RESEARCH

DELIVERY

 

Media outlets analyzed

The first question I asked when analyzing these newsletters is “What kind of outlet is this coming from?” I chose that question because it’s important to see what kind of information the outlet is dealing with before analyzing the format and voice decisions they make with their newsletter. A serious news organization will probably have a serious voice, and one that is more fun will probably include GIFs or photos. It’s extremely interesting when they diverge from that pattern. It was also important for me to analyze the type of media outlet it’s coming from because from that I can tell what type of outlets are utilizing newsletters — be it to reach the older crowd that prefers email to social media, or for the younger crowd who likes the individuality of voice and format as if it were a zine.

I only chose outlets with hand-curated newsletters because the focus of my study was to look at the writing style and voice. You don’t get that with automated newsletters. Though there is certainly strategy involved, it’s programmed, and it carries on.

Of the outlets I analyzed, three focused strictly on hard news like The New York Times, two focused on soft news like Elite Daily, four focused on a mix of hard and soft news like BuzzFeed, two came from newsletter-only companies and two were run by journalists independent of a media outlet. This is pretty reflective of all companies using newsletters — everyone from silly to serious is doing it in their own way.

Time sent

In my research, I split the times that newsletters are delivered to inboxes into five categories — early morning (before 9 a.m.), late morning (between 9 a.m. and 11 a.m.), early afternoon (between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m.), late afternoon (between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m.) and evening (after 6 p.m.). A significant majority of my respondents said they wanted to receive newsletters in the early morning.

Of the newsletters I analyzed, the delivery times were pretty evenly split between the early morning and the evening. I think this reveals a dichotomy in the purpose of email newsletters — the ones sent early want to prepare you for the day, whereas the ones sent at night want to roundup what you missed from the day.

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Format

Story presentation

The first element of format that I looked at was story presentation — are stories written in blurbs, lengthy summaries, paragraphs, teases, bullet points or single words? The results of my research project revealed that people prefer to read newsletters in bullet point form when they are in a rush or looking to read an entire newsletters. That is their overall preference. When they want to feel fully informed, they prefer to read full paragraphs that explain stories to them.

Most of the newsletters I analyzed tried both tactics, including the New York Times and BuzzFeed. theSkimm opts for paragraph-only form, which is sensible for a standalone newsletter service that wouldn’t benefit from linking to a website after giving a quick tease of a story. Caitlin Dewey’s “Links I Would GChat You If We Were Friends” goes dramatically all over the map — she starts with long paragraphs and switches to writing 3-4 words about a story and blocking them all together in a paragraph. Most of the analyzed newsletters started with bullet points at the top and switched to paragraphs later on. DigiDay Daily presents stories in both forms, starting with bullet points at the top and explaining those stories further down in the newsletter in paragraph form.

Newsletter length

In my research, I found that people prefer a short newsletter that gets straight to the point, but I can see why certain outlets would rather have a long newsletter that hits a lot of different stories and formats. There’s always a chance that someone will read all the way through, and those interested consumers can bring a lot of traffic to their websites. More importantly, though, it gives outlets a chance to try out different ways of telling stories and to explain some in depth. Of course, that’s a gamble. A reader might automatically delete a newsletter because they think it’s too long and overwhelming. Personally, I’d enjoy a long newsletter with lots of different formats. If I don’t like the way one section looks, I will skip to the next. But I’m not the voice of the masses.

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One thing I noticed that I wonder about is what difference it makes for the newsletter to contain a lot of words versus just seeming long because of formatting. Does that formatting length take away from the reader’s attention span, or is it just the words that are overwhelming?

Use of multimedia

Almost every single newsletter I analyzed had some sort of media in it. Most of the media involved were photos pertaining to the main stories highlighted in the newsletter, like New York Times and Hellogiggles. Others included photos for every single story involved, like Elite Daily. Caitlin Dewey and Ann Friedman both include a GIF in their independent newsletters.

The fact that so many newsletters use photos is fascinating to me because in my research I found that only 56 percent of participants wanted to see photos in newsletters, and only 20 percent wanted to see GIFs. So much of social media is so focused on multimedia, I wonder if people are growing tired of it, or if when they read newsletters they are focused on reading the words and moving on quickly so they don’t want to be distracted. I think this goes back to something I was thinking about in the newsletter length section — maybe the attention span of readers decreases with length of time spent scrolling through the page, not just the number of words read.

Voice

Stories chosen

The basis of deciding what voice to use is to look at what stories are going to be used in the newsletter. It’s not groundbreaking to say that what voice newsletters use is going to depend on the audience. For almost all newsletters I analyzed, the outlets or writers included the most important stories of the day or the day before. The ones sent in the morning usually explain the stories from the day before that people might want to chat about around the water cooler. Elite Daily has an interesting take on selecting stories — their newsletter is sent at 9 p.m., long after most of the news of the day has been digested, so they focus on evergreen content that is more entertaining than informative.

Most newsletters link to tons of different websites, including those that would send traffic away from them. Choosing a story that your own outlet didn’t cover reveals a deeper meaning of newsletters  — they are more than just the new tool replacing social media. They are here to make sure you are informed and entertained, even if that means losing your traffic. Vox does this excessively — they break down stories into bullet points, and each bullet point has a new bit of information and a link to a different news site.

For independent journalists, choosing stories is more personal. Caitlin Dewey writes her own newsletter about the internet, which makes sense because she writes stories about the internet for the Washington Post all day. But she rarely ever links to the Washington Post content. When she does, she links to her own, which is a sneaky (but ethical) way to self promote. Ann Friedman is a freelance journalist, and she links to all sorts of news outlets and topics that are nearly impossible to pinpoint. She has a whole section dedicated to links to her own work, though, at the very top.

Voice used

In my research, I split up two important categories of voice. The first is the tone, which can be casual or formal. The second is the quickness in which the story is told, which can be brief or long.  Respondents found the brief and casual stories easiest to understand, but they felt more informed by the formal and long stories. Overall, they said they would most like to read something in a casual voice told in a brief way.

All of the newsletters I could find are written in are pretty predictable in tone based on what media outlet they come from. They’re all sort of slanted toward a fun tone, which I attribute to the popularity of theSkimm. As opposed to the other elements of newsletters I studied, I think voice is something for which you can find a happy medium and please everyone. The BuzzFeed News letter has mostly serious content, but it often takes a more casual voice, although it is never disrespectful.

In the same way media outlets like to play with how long each story is, they play with whether the story is told in a brief or long way. Stories tend to be told in shorter sentences at the beginning, and spiral into longer and more informative as the newsletter goes on. Sometimes stories written in paragraph form but in short sentences, and sometimes bullet points are packed with details. Though seeing a long paragraph might keep someone from reading something, I believe they will stick around if the story is told in a concise way.

MY NEWSLETTER

I started a newsletter at the beginning of this project, and from my own “Pocket” of saved stories from the week, I crafted a weekly newsletter based on the format and voice of the newsletter I analyzed that week. It’s been fun to change week-by-week, and I will be continuing my personal newsletter now that this project is complete with a permanent plan that I am making based on my research. That research is, of course, contingent on my audience, which is mostly my friends and people my age who are looking to read more interesting stuff.

Delivery

I will send my newsletter at night, but not at a fixed time. Its purpose is to be entertaining, not to prepare everyone for the day ahead of them. The stories I choose will be ones that caught my attention during the week, and who knows, maybe some of my own content!

Format

My newsletter will mostly have quick blurbs about stories, with maybe one or two longer explanations at the bottom. It will be around 500 words long. I will include photos and GIFs for big stories, but I’ll hold back on doing it for everything possible like I would if I were writing an article.

Voice

I’m going to be casual and brief, which is what I know my personal audience will enjoy. It’s also what’s easiest for me with my personal voice as a writer, and I’m not trying to fit into a mold of any certain media outlet although I discovered I totally can.

Master list of all the newsletters I analyzed this semester

Analysis: Vox Sentences

  • What kind of outlet does this newsletter belong to? Vox, a news outlet famous for explaining complicated issues in the news. Link to the latest newsletter.
  • Who is in charge of the newsletter? Various different writers
  • Which stories are chosen? Lots of different sections: top news, miscellaneous news, stories with interesting quotes and random stories specifically from Vox.
  • How stories are presented in writing (blurbs? summaries? teases? bullet points? paragraphs?) What’s most unique about this newsletter is how they tell different stories by using lots of links to lots of different stories from lots of different news sites and break them up with bullet points.
  • How is multimedia used? (photos, links, gifs) A photo with every story and lots of links
  • What kind of voice is used? (humorous, informative, brief, etc) Casual, easy to understand, sometimes humorous
  • How do I interact with the newsletter? (do people click or skim?) I skim it, there’s just so  much information and just a few stories
  • What is the length of entire newsletter? 1200 words
  • What is the length of each mentioned story? 20 to 200 words (long if it’s a top story, short if it’s miscellaneous)
  • What varies daily about the newsletter? It runs Monday – Friday and the format stays the same
  • Are there any other newsletter options at the media outlet? Nope
  • How does the newsletter end? With a “read more from Vox” section that is just headlines
  • When is the newsletter sent? 8 p.m., which I think really works for Vox since it very easily breaks down stories you hear all day
  • My thoughts: This newsletter is one of the most genuinely helpful. I love all the different sections and links to outside sources. I do wish it wasn’t so long, though — it’s overwhelming and makes me want to give up

Analysis: Hellogiggles

  • What kind of outlet does this newsletter belong to? Hellogiggles is a women’s lifestyle and culture website.  This newsletter is by far my favorite visually. Zoey Deschanel is the Chief Creative Officer, if that gives you any idea of the vibe of the site. Don’t be distracted by the name.
  • Who is in charge of the newsletter? N/A
  • Which stories are chosen? Two stories are always from Hellogiggles, but they love to link away from the site. It’s clear that the aspects of the newsletter are curated by a human being.
  • How stories are presented in writing (blurbs? summaries? teases? bullet points? paragraphs?) There are always two paragraph excerpts for stories from Hellogiggles. The first is an evergreen story and the second is a top story from the day before. There are links at the bottom in bullet point/sentence form. Down the right side are quick blurbs and links to things that aren’t stories. There’s also a quote of the day at the top of every newsletter.
  • How is multimedia used? (photos, links, gifs) Lots of links. There are photos with every long blurb and with the links to “things” on the right side.
  • What kind of voice is used? (humorous, informative, brief, etc) It’s like reading a note from a friend or a big sister.
  • How do I interact with the newsletter? (do people click or skim?) It’s so interesting (and appeals to my demographic!) I click on or read every single part.
  • What is the length of entire newsletter? 500 words
  • What is the length of each mentioned story? 100 words for long bluebs, 10-20 for short ones.
  • What varies daily about the newsletter? It runs Monday – Friday and the format stays the same
  • Are there any other newsletter options at the media outlet? Nope
  • How does the newsletter end? With links to follow them on social media
  • When is the newsletter sent? 10 a.m.
  • My thoughts: I know I say that I love a lot of newsletters, but this one is truly my favorite. It appeals so specifically to me, and the format is just beautiful. It looks like a virtual magazine. It links outside of the Hellogiggles website a lot, but I love that. I think it’s important for newsletters to want to serve their readers and entertain them, even if that means directing traffic away from themselves.

Analysis: Digiday Daily

  • What kind of outlet does this newsletter belong to? Digiday, a media company that covers digital media, marketing and advertising
  • Who is in charge of the newsletter? N/A
  • Which stories are chosen? The five top Digiday stories of the day
  • How stories are presented in writing (blurbs? summaries? teases? bullet points? paragraphs?) At the top of the newsletter, the stories are presented in a few short sentences and ranked 1-5. Past some advertisements, those same five stories are explained in greater detail.
  • How is multimedia used? (photos, links, gifs) Lots of links to Digiday content and some photos in the bottom portion of the newsletter
  • What kind of voice is used? (humorous, informative, brief, etc) The quick blurbs about stories are punchy. The long explanations are interesting but formal.
  • How do I interact with the newsletter? (do people click or skim?) I always read the top 5 stories and if I’m interested I will read the longer form.
  • What is the length of entire newsletter? 30 words for brief story summaries, 150ish words for long ones.
  • What is the length of each mentioned story? See “how are stories presented”
  • What varies daily about the newsletter? It runs Monday – Friday and the format stays the same
  • Are there any other newsletter options at the media outlet? All sorts, check it out
  • How does the newsletter end? With job/event listings
  • When is the newsletter sent? 6 a.m.
  • My thoughts: In my research I found a divide between whether or not readers want long or short presentations of stories, and this one finds a loophole by presenting both. My question is this, though — why not just present the short stories and link out to the descriptions instead of explaining them more below? Shouldn’t newsletters like these be used to direct traffic back to the website? Or are they going for the standalone zine type thing?

Analysis: ReadThisThing

This week’s newsletter is ReadThisThing. Here’s the archive.

  • What kind of outlet does this newsletter belong to? It’s a standalone newsletter.
  • Who is in charge of the newsletter? An ambiguous force named Austin
  • Which stories are chosen? It’s what Austin thinks is the best story of the day, be it longform or a blog post. It’s interesting content without an ~agenda.~
  • How stories are presented in writing (blurbs? summaries? teases? bullet points? paragraphs?) Just one story in one to two paragraphs
  • How is multimedia used? (photos, links, gifs) One photo at the top and a button to click that links to the story
  • What kind of voice is used? (humorous, informative, brief, etc) It’s a bit frilly and yet manages to have very little voice
  • How do I interact with the newsletter? (do people click or skim?) There’s not much to read, it’s a click and go type thing
  • What is the length of entire newsletter? 50 words
  • What is the length of each mentioned story? Two paragraphs
  • What varies daily about the newsletter? It runs Monday – Friday and the format stays the same
  • Are there any other newsletter options at the media outlet? N/A
  • How does the newsletter end? With an invitation to “TweetThisThing”
  • When is the newsletter sent? 6 a.m.
  • My thoughts: I love it. Short and sweet. Always good content. No reason to ever unsubscribe. I think it’s brilliant.

Research Study: Millennial preference of format, voice and delivery of email newsletters

Proposal

As the online managing editor of The Daily Tar Heel, it’s my job to be always thinking about new ways to distribute our stories online and attract viewers. In early 2015, I got obsessed with theSkimm, and a group of editors at the newspaper decided to try it for ourselves by launching a hand-curated email newsletter of our own called DTH at a Glance.

The concept that email newsletters could be a new medium for sharing stories is funny to a lot of people who see it as an outdated technology, especially compared to social media. I know I’m tired of Facebook and Twitter, so email newsletters to me and to many other millennials are a refreshing new idea. I like that there isn’t some feed I have to keep up with or an algorithm to play roulette with — my email is there, loaded with roundups of the stories news outlets deem most important, and it never goes away.

There’s no question that email newsletters are making a comeback. According to BuzzFeed, they get the same amount of traffic from their newsletters as they do from all of Twitter.

Now the question is this — what is the best way to write email newsletters? In this research, I will address three different topics. The first is the best format for email newsletters. That includes many layers — should they use bullet points or paragraphs, should they cover several stories quickly or just a few in depth and long each story and the entire newsletter should be.  Second, I’ll be looking at which sort of voice people prefer, whether it is silly or serious, or brief or detailed. Finally, I’ll be researching the specifics of newsletter delivery — when they should be sent, how many newsletters a person can handle and what makes people want to subscribe. For all these categories, I will be studying which format people enjoy most and which makes them feel the most informed.

There hasn’t been a lot of research done in the field of email newsletters for media outlets so far, and there is a lot of ground to cover. I chose those categories to research because I think they could be the most beneficial for media outlets looking to polish the presentation of their newsletter content, and the most helpful for media outlets or even individual people looking to launch their own. These topics are also ones that I encounter the most when I’m analyzing all of these different newsletters.

For my research, I’ll be doing a survey. After talking to one of the pioneers of the BuzzFeed News newsletter, Millie Tran, about the user testing they did, I realized this survey is going to be a massive undertaking. Tran said that in order to get the best results for their survey, they couldn’t just ask people what they wanted. They had to show people their options for different formats and layouts and have people choose that way. That means that for my project, I have to prototype several different types of newsletters. I’m going to choose a topic and present it in all of the different ways that I want to test it.

The population I’ll be focusing on for this research is college-educated millennials. It’s not that I just want to reach out to people like me — I certainly do, but I want to research how the “social media generation” who might not necessarily see email as an outdated medium interacts with it. In this group, I want to gather people who are invested in the news and those who don’t care as much to get a balance.

Literature Review

According to a study by Polis, smartphone users access emails much more frequently than they use email. The study notes the start of a trend with email newsletters — people realize there is a lot of information out there, and newsletters are written by someone they trust to curate information for them. Email has improved a lot in the past few years. It has less spam, it’s short and digestible, easy, personal and makes finding the exact demographic for target ads. The study also noted the importance of an appealing design for the newsletter, and over and over again repeated that smartphone technology and mobile reading have led to the resurgence of email.

This New York Times article from 2014 reinforced the concept that many media outlets have been afraid of newsletters because they see them as a dead, outdated medium. David Carr repeats that “having something finite and recognizable show up in your inbox can impose order on all that chaos.”

BuzzFeed did a lot of user testing when they launched their newsletters. Millie Tran talked about the importance of testing new tactics and formats of a newsletter even after you have launched it. She said the best way to find out what people want is to protoype it, and to make sure any testing you do on hypotheses is in small increments. BuzzFeed did a lot of their newsletter research on Facebook to avoid the media types of Twitter since they decided their audience is people who wouldn’t typically be as informed as someone who is involved in the media.

Research Questions

What format for email newsletters do millennials prefer?

What voice for email newsletters do millennials prefer?

What delivery preferences for email newsletters do millennials have?

Survey

This is a link to my survey. It was open for two weeks and a total of 100 people took it. Can you say something here about the time period it was conducted and number of people who took it overall?

Data

Sample

  • 90 percent of my sample was between the ages of 18 and 35, which was my target demographic. I threw out the answers for those who were older and younger than that.
  • 96 percent of those surveyed said they were either moderately or very informed about what is happening in the news.
  • 17 percent of respondents said they do not subscribe to an email newsletter. 50 percent said they subscribe to a couple, 24 percent said they subscribe to a few and 9 percent said they subscribe to a lot. The following graph shows the breakdown in responses:

Screen Shot 2016-04-11 at 9.56.11 PM

Format

  • Two sample newsletters were presented, both giving information for the same one story. The first was written in paragraph form and was a bit wordier, and the second was brief and written in bullet points.
    • When asked which newsletter they would read entirely, 66 percent said the one written in bullet points and 44 percent chose the paragraph form.
    • From the same group of samples, 79 percent of the participants said the longer paragraph format made them feel more informed, while 21 percent chose the other.
  • Three sample newsletters were presented, each giving information for the same four stories. The first was written in paragraph form and included details. The second was in bullet point form and contained no more than the headline. The final was in one single paragraph that had no more than three words describing each story.
    • When asked which story made them feel the most informed, 79 percent said the paragraph version, 21 percent said the bullet point version and  0 percent said the short word version.
    • When asked which version they would read entirely, 50 percent of participants said the paragraph form, 53 percent said bullet point form and 29 percent said the short word form.
  • Participants were given a selection of elements for a potential newsletter and asked to choose which ones would build their ideal one. Here are the exact responses:

Screen Shot 2016-04-11 at 9.54.49 PM

  • According to that data, a significant number of people would prefer links to a lot of news sources as opposed to just one website. They want a simple format over a unique one. They would rather have solely important information rather than lots to skim through. They would prefer photos to gifs.

Voice

  • Two versions of the same story written in different voices were presented. The first was in a fun, casual voice and the second was straightforward and formal.
    • When asked which version made them feel most informed, 45 percent of respondents said the casual voice and 55 percent said the formal voice.
    • When asked which one was the easiest to understand, 63 percent said the casual voice and 37 percent said the formal voice.
    • When asked which story they preferred reading, 57 percent said the casual voice and 43 percent chose the formal voice.
  • Two versions of the same three stories written in different voices were presented. In the first version, each story is a single paragraph and detailed. In the second, each story is a sentence long and brief.
    • 45 percent of respondents said the detailed option made them feel the most informed, and 55 percent chose the brief option.
    • 54 percent said the brief option was easiest to understand while 46 percent chose the detailed option.
    • 54 percent said they prefer reading the brief option, while 46 percent chose the detailed version. (Yes, same as the last one!)

Delivery

  • 66 percent of respondents said they would most like to receive a newsletter before 9 a.m. 19 percent preferred late morning, 9 percent preferred the afternoon and 6 percent wanted to receive them in the evening.
  • 72 percent of the sample said they would only be open to subscribing to more newsletters if one was extremely good. 17 percent said they already subscribed to too many and 11 percent expressed interest in subscribing to more with no stated exceptions.
  • For this question, participants could select more than one response. 70 percent of the sample said they would unsubscribe from an email newsletter if they found it annoying. 59 percent said they would if they found it repetitive. 55 percent said they would unsubscribe if they didn’t like the voice or the format. 14 percent chose the other category. Free responses to this question of note include “significant change,” “too wordy,” “too frequent,” “stops being interesting,” “doesn’t give me information I can find somewhere else” and “bad content.”

Analysis

Sample

This study assesses the email newsletter reading habits of millennials, age 18 to 35. Almost all of them are moderately to very informed, so I know I’m working with a sample that reads the news a lot. 17 percent of my respondents don’t subscribe to any email newsletters at all, but the rest subscribe to more than one.

Format

People will read a newsletter written in bullet points or just a few words in its entirety, but paragraphs make them feel the most informed. This is the case when they are presented with both just one story by itself and with several stories at the same time. When it comes to the specific elements of a newsletter’s format, people prefer links to a lot of news sources as opposed to just one website. They want a simple format more than a unique one. They would rather have solely important information rather than lots to skim through. They would prefer photos to gifs.

Voice

When presented with a single story, people feel more informed by a formal voice than a casual voice, but they find the casual voice much easier to understand. Overall, they prefer reading the casual voice. When presented with multiple stories, people feel most informed with more details, but they find the brief option easier to understand. Overall, they prefer the brief option.  It seems they would rather read something that’s easy to digest than one that throws a lot of details at them.

Delivery

Most people prefer to receive a newsletter before 9 a.m., but there’s a niche audience who likes receiving them later in the day. Most said they are open to subscribing to newsletters, but the majority of them said they would have to be really impressed by the newsletter to do so. Most people said they would unsubscribe to a newsletter if they found the newsletter to be “annoying.” They also don’t enjoy repetition, either in the newsletter or from the multiple news sources they read throughout the day. They won’t stay subscribed if they don’t like the voice, format, changes made and level of interest to them personally.

Conclusion and Recommendations

Millennials who are interested in the news and subscribe to email newsletters have several preferences. Here are some recommendations:

  • No matter how many stories you present to them, make the summaries short, but not so short that they have to click away before they are fully interested.
  • Include lots of links to several different news sites and keep the format simple.
  • Keep the information you include simple, and if you use multimedia, choose a photo over a gif.
  • If you want them to really read and understand your newsletter, give it a casual voice and keep it brief.
  • They’d rather have something easy to digest than tons of information they could just find on Twitter.
  • Send your newsletter before 9 a.m.
  • Avoid repetition.
  • Tailor the information specifically to the audience you’re trying to reach. If they feel like that audience is not them, they will unsubscribe.

Analysis: Miccheck daily

This week’s newsletter is Miccheck Daily.

  • What kind of outlet does this newsletter belong to? Mic is a digital media company that has a little bit of everything from news to science to music to culture.
  • Who is in charge of the newsletter? No author listed or information on the website.
  • Which stories are chosen? According to the description, it’s the five stories from the day that challenge you to change the world.
  • How stories are presented in writing (blurbs? summaries? teases? bullet points? paragraphs?) There’s a quirky headline in bold followed by a sentence summary.
  • How is multimedia used? (photos, links, gifs)  Lots of links to their content, and beneath every story there’s a link to share on Facebook and Twitter.
  • What kind of voice is used? (humorous, informative, brief, etc) Often playful but effective. It’s not trying to make you laugh, but it’s not trying to bore you with facts either.
  • How do I interact with the newsletter? (do people click or skim?) I would read the whole thing all the time if it didn’t come at the end of the day.
  • What is the length of entire newsletter? 221 words
  • What is the length of each mentioned story? One headline + One sentence
  • What varies daily about the newsletter? It runs Monday – Friday and the format stays the same
  • Are there any other newsletter options at the media outlet? Nope.
  • How does the newsletter end? With an invitation to pass it on
  • When is the newsletter sent? Around 5 p.m.
  • My thoughts: I like this newsletter, it’s simple but still manages to be unique.  I just wish it came earlier when I was in the mood to read a newsletter.

Analysis: “Links I would gchat you if we were friends” by Caitlin Dewey

This week’s newsletter belongs to journalist Caitlin Dewey. Here’s a link to the latest edition.

  • What kind of outlet does this newsletter belong to? Not a news outlet — it belongs to Caitlin Dewey, a digital culture critic at The Washington Post
  • Who is in charge of the newsletter? It’s Caitlin’s independent project.
  • Which stories are chosen? These are the stories she finds that she would gchat you if you were friends! (According to the title of the newsletter, anyway)
  • How stories are presented in writing (blurbs? summaries? teases? bullet points? paragraphs?) There is an introduction, a couple paragraphs that explain different, longer stories, one “pocketable” long read and a huge paragraph full of links to stories. The explanations of those stories are short, usually not even a full sentence.
  • How is multimedia used? (photos, links, gifs) She always includes a gif in the middle.
  • What kind of voice is used? (humorous, informative, brief, etc) It’s conversational and often funny.
  • How do I interact with the newsletter? (do people click or skim?) Similar to Ann Friedman’s newsletter, I read this whole thing every day and pocket most of the links.
  • What is the length of entire newsletter? 300-400 words.
  • What is the length of each mentioned story? Between 2 and 100 words. Big variation, I know.
  • What varies daily about the newsletter? It runs normally Monday — Thursday, and Friday she includes all the best longreads of the week.
  • Are there any other newsletter options at the media outlet? This is Caitlin’s only newsletter, but Washington Post has a ton.
  • How does the newsletter end? There’s an automated “most popular” section that directs back to the Week that I won’t be trying to replicate due to formatting constraints. There’s an ad then a series of links back to The Week’s website.
  • When is the newsletter sent? Around 5 p.m.
  • My thoughts: One of my favorite things about this newsletter is the sheer variety it brings. Stories are from all over the place — from places I’ve heard of and outlets I haven’t. She’s always very funny in her delivery but she doesn’t waste time explaining it away. It’s one of the only newsletters I enjoy getting in the evening because the stories are so unique I usually havent’ read them yet.

The Week’s “10 Things You Need To Know Today”

This week’s newsletter belongs to The Week. Here’s a link to the latest edition.

  • What kind of outlet does this newsletter belong to? The Week is a print magazine with an online presence, but its newsletter has been around for a long time and I heard about the newsletter before anything else.
  • Who is in charge of the newsletter? I’m not sure. They don’t give credit to whoever it is.
  • Which stories are chosen? This one is what the publication deems to be the ten most important stories for the day. Interestingly enough, there is a section of the website that’s constantly updated that’s called 5 things you need to know.  I’d be interested to see what came first — the newsletter or this page
  • How stories are presented in writing (blurbs? summaries? teases? bullet points? paragraphs?) There’s a bold headline and a paragraph summary of the article. It’s the same the whole way down.
  • How is multimedia used? (photos, links, gifs) No photos or other multimedia, just one link per story.  They don’t mix outlets that they link to in a story, but they do link outside of their own outlet.
  • What kind of voice is used? (humorous, informative, brief, etc) Dry, but to the point.
  • How do I interact with the newsletter? (do people click or skim?) I skim very quickly and I never make it to the bottom. Too many words in big chunks.
  • What is the length of entire newsletter? About 1000 words
  • What is the length of each mentioned story? About 100 words
  • What varies daily about the newsletter? Nothing. Same thing every day, even on weekends.
  • Are there any other newsletter options at the media outlet? A bunch, including “today’s best articles” “top cartoons” and “this week’s best photojournalism.” See them all here.
  • How does the newsletter end? There’s an automated “most popular” section that directs back to the Week that I won’t be trying to replicate due to formatting constraints. There’s an ad then a series of links back to The Week’s website.
  • When is the newsletter sent? Between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m.
  • My thoughts: I was a little late to the The Week train. I didn’t know about it until I started looking for newsletters to analyze and I kept hearing people talk about it in the same breath as The Skimm. Millie Tran (who pioneered the BuzzFeed News newsletter) said she liked it a lot, and that’s how I knew I just had to give it a shot for this project. I like The Week, but it comes right at the time that so many of my newsletters do, so I often don’t even read it. I suspect I’ll definitely start reading it more after I finish this prototype.
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