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  • Ashley Hockney

A running list of newsletters we actually read

Updated: Jun 27

As a marketer, I love emails.


As a person, I hate them. Like really hate them. Like "I don't care about points, deals, or your wedding invitation, I don't check my email, you can text me" hate them.


So what gives? How do these two ideas coexist?


While my inbox might be at 1,356, there are a small handful of exceptions to my Batch Delete rule.


I religiously open the first email that a company sends me after I sign up, and the newsletters below. Why? Because the content deserves my attention.


The first email confirms what I've signed up for, tells me how to use a product, gives away that discount code, and the content tells me if I'm going to unsubscribe.


The newsletters I continually open are just plain good.


It's that simple.


I open the content that I care about. The kind that's valuable and worth seeing.


And that's the same bar I use as an email marketer. If I wouldn't read it, I don't write it. You've got to be the exception to your audience's rule.


With that in mind, we curated a list of nice newsletters and broke down what makes them interesting to us. This is a study in creating good email content and a guide I use as I work with my clients on their conversion and email marketing goals.



Example 1:


AngelList


We love the AngelList newsletter because it very quickly gives us the start-up and industry news we need. It’s our shortcut to having to read 5-10 other newsletters and/or surf tech communities. Not only is this newsletter useful, but the tone is decidedly “unstuffy professional.” So are we. Skimmable. Useful. Enjoyable. It feels like the gold standard in smart content.


What it says about the brand: This newsletter positions AngelList as leaders in the startup and funding space. All content pushes forward the idea that if you want to know who is raising and hiring (and who will be), you seek AngelList.


Here’s how the newsletter is formatted:

  • Subject line: AI in the Art world (topic focused)

  • Section 1: Content: Newsworthy info, companies, job postings that relate to the subject

  • Section 2: Job posting highlights

  • Section 3: Startup spotlight

  • Section 4: Funding and acquisitions/General business news


Example 2:


ElleVest


Five years ago when I left the 9-5 to start consulting, the ElleVest newsletter featured a video of Sallie Krawcheck suggesting you make your current company your first client. That advice kick-started our consultancy and was utterly, and financially, life-changing.


That’s why we stay subscribed to ElleVest. The content is damn good and valuable. Chock full of opinioned essays & blurbs, links to webinars, and great resources, it’s a newsletter too good to ignore.


What it says about the brand: This newsletter positions ElleVest as a brand you can trust for their intelligence and like-minded opinions. Targeting women with a distinctly opinionated POV on current topics, What the Elle proves to subscribers they’re here for women looking to invest.


Here’s how the newsletter is formatted:

  • Subject: Everything feels heavy (topic focused)

  • Section 1: Letter from the CEO re:what's got everyone feeling heavy with links to articles to back it up

  • Section 2: Sharing recent, subject-relevant Ellevest content

  • Section 3: On-topic tweet to keep things 'light'

  • Section 4: Social proof that promotes Ellevest content

  • Section 5: Weekly digest with links


Example 3:


Exponential View


Sometimes, you need to zoom out of the day-to-day to understand how global and market forces are changing the landscape of your world and work. Exponential View (quite aptly named) does just that. We read this newsletter as life-long learners and thinkers. We’re happy to stop skimming if you can teach us or show us something worth thinking about.


What it says about the brand: Exponential View IS the brand. It’s the bedrock of founder Azeem Azhar’s brand, thought-leadership, and career as an author (or at least that’s how he labels himself on LinkedIn). Yes, we read his book, too.


Here’s how the newsletter is formatted:

  • Subject: Collective Intelligence (topic focused)

  • Section 1: Intro letter from the author, Azeem

  • Section 2: Sponsor placement (in same voice as newsletter)

  • Section 3: Summary of what's covered / why

  • Section 4: Essay on this issue's topic broken into sections with a visual and a How-To section

  • Section 5: Updates from readers sharing their own work/successes


Example 4:


Ann Friedman


The Ann Friedman newsletter delivers an earnest, relatable read rooted in good writing. It’s a look inside the mind of a cultural-thought leader that makes you feel like part of her inner circle, benefitting from her recommendations for articles, shows, and music she’s currently enjoying.


A constant source for news and new ways of thinking, this weekly newsletter is a casual, humorous read that does an exceptional job of leading you to more of her content and integrating ads seamlessly using the author’s own voice. When the news gets too dark to constantly keep up, we stop refreshing the NYTimes and simply read what Ann curates for us once a week.


What it says about the brand: The Ann Friedman Weekly was how I came to know Ann Friedman and her role in the cultural zeitgeist as a trustworthy, researched, and sharp-as-hell journalist, podcaster, and author. There’s no way you can read this dispatch and not trust and seek’s Ann’s POV on news today.


Here’s how the newsletter is formatted:

  • Subject: A slug's life (funny x topic focused)

  • Section 1: Summary: An intro about slugs

  • Section 2: Content: The week's digest via a readable paragraph with dozens of hyperlinks to the week’s best thinkpieces

  • Section 3: Visual content: A funny, humorous, image. A pie chart about Summer games. Available only to paying subscribers (which we are!). Worth it. Support writers!

  • Section 4: Gifspiration

  • Section 5: Contributor content

  • Section 6: Paid ads (that don't break voice!


Example 5:


Alicia Kennedy


A deeper dive into one of the many ways we like to spend our time outside of writing and marketing, this weekly newsletter explores food in a way that brings us beyond our own tables and explores the history and culture of the way we eat as well as its political implications. It balances well-researched, impeccable writing with a personal, human perspective and offers additional content that builds on the brand with podcasts, recipes, and additional readings. Alicia’s format, style, and intelligence is something any company could learn from.


What it says about the brand: Alicia Kennedy’s newsletter shows you exactly what you’ll get from all the projects she works on–a thoughtful and important dive into a food or food-adjacent subject that will leave you wanting more.


Here’s how the newsletter is formatted:

  • Subject: Topic (Oyster Culture)

  • Section 1: An essay about the timely topic + multiple references that add credibility (history of oysters and her connection to them)

  • Section 2: Her Content: Links and info on her podcast, as well as this week's paid subscriber content

  • Section 3: Images (of oysters in her life)

  • Section 4: What she's been up to--recently published work, what she's reading, what she's cooking


Example 6:


EdSurge


With a passion for education we’ve become edtech specialists, and this newsletter keeps us up to date on the latest in this corner of the world. Sharing their own heavily researched, newsworthy articles, briefs, and podcasts, EdSurge delivers serious but skimmable content that promises to leave you feeling fully informed each and every week.


What it says about the brand: This newsletter makes it clear that EdSurge is a go-to when it comes to news and insights into the world of education. The content makes sure you know that they’re an expert on all things related to education news.


Here’s how the newsletter is formatted:

  • Subject: For-profit Colleges

  • Section 1: Sponsor

  • Section 2: Reporting on newsworthy subject

  • Section 3: Other current news

  • Section 4: Columnist corner

  • Section 5: Recent podcast info

  • Section 6: Sponsored webinars

  • Section 7: Additional content (quote that summarizes a recent article, archived content that relates, quick news-y article links, relevant and light hearted tweet)

  • Section 8: Job and event postings



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