Write useful things in a fun and entertaining way. It sounds obvious, but according to our study, many newsletters have narcissistic tendencies. Companies simply forward links to articles they’ve written in the hopes of driving an extra little bump of traffic to their website. The newsletters, on the other hand, add commentary, insights, and context that readers can’t get elsewhere.
18% of newsletters used our inbox as a soap box to sell
How do I write a good newsletter?
Invest in good writers, either freelance or in-house. The top 10 percent of newsletters in our study used precise language, were easy to comprehend, provided sufficient context for non-experts to enjoy, supported their claims, had an inviting tone, and made us sad when they were over. They also used a copyeditor and were twice as likely as the average newsletter to invest in good design.
The great thing about studying newsletters is they’re public-facing. If you’re curious about what good writing reads like, you can sign up for anyone’s. We recommend:
With a very light touch. Many newsletters in our study buried whatever point they hoped to make in walls of tiny text, crammed non-essential images into two-column formats (not a death sentence, but difficult to pull off), and produced an experience that felt nothing like their website.
Companies that scored a five out of five on their newsletter simply did less. They wrote less (241 words, to the average 273), used fewer images, stuck to one column, and didn’t reinvent the wheel: They used the same colors and branding as their website.
How do I get more subscribers?
Branding. You have to know what you stand for and be able to communicate it clearly enough that passerbys on social media and in search can instantly grok what you’re about. CB Insights, the data startup, grew its newsletter to 500,000 subscribers (allegedly the biggest in tech) because its CEO Anand Sanwal wasn’t afraid to apply academic rigor to analyzing startups and openly criticize those who didn’t. CB Insights’ writing is clear, backed by research, and immediately recognizable.