My interest in email newsletters has recently picked up again as I’ve watched Substack, Ghost, and Revue reinvigorate the model by modernizing and monetizing a channel on the verge of collapse from overuse (cc: Hey.com).
As a result, I’ve proactively looked for some new email subscriptions. Also the pandemic shifted so much that I knew I had to become especially attuned to trends to forecast and understand what this year could bring, and email newsletters have helped deliver on that.
So today, I’ll take you through some of my favorite – mostly marketing – newsletters and highlight what I think they do particularly well. Then, you can use apples to castles thinking to apply the best email newsletter examples’ ideas to your specific niche to deliver an awesome newsletter that people actually look forward to opening rather than junking.
Explore 8 of the best email newsletter examples
From bulleted quick fact updates to conversational combinatory play perspectives to trends charts, see what makes up the best email newsletter examples.
1. Joe Youngblood’s newsletter
This is probably my favorite newsletter currently. What I love most about it is that I can learn everything I need to know directly within the email. If I want to go deep into anything, of course, there’s the option to click out – but mostly it saves me time by not needing to because of its brief bullets.
The content is awesome too because it gives me quick visibility into what moves every major digital network has released. Because digital moves so quickly, it’s really important to stay on top of and take advantage of the latest technology improvements – anything that can give you an edge over competitors. It also kicks off by highlighting one big story, so it grabs my attention immediately, and I know even if I read that one sentence I’ll be better informed and better off.
2. The Simon Owens newsletter
OK up next we’ve got a newsletter that covers media and marketing. This is another one where I oscillate on whether I like the content because it varies week to week, but I definitely appreciate the format.
Simon provides a few paragraphs summarizing his key article highlights for the week. Basically the meat of the post is included in the email. He includes anywhere from 2-4 main pieces like this, and sometimes throws in a some extra links at the end. I like it because his voice is very conversational and I think he bridges across mediums well to reveal interesting ideas and new ways of looking at things.
You can check it out and subscribe here.
3. The WITHIN Retail pulse newsletter
This newsletter is awesome because it summarizes findings from their data dashboard which is tracking the retail industry’s ad spend across major digital channels. They also share insights from conversations with marketers at Fortune500 companies about how they’re responding to the market. They show compelling graphics of what’s trending so you can see in an instant. And they typically highlight only 1-3 things, while giving you enough information that you learn something without having to click.
You can check out and subscribe to it here. Just click to check out the dashboard.
4. The Cassandra Daily newsletter
This email newsletter shares one emerging trend every day, and highlights three specific examples that brought it to life. It’s probably the most old-school email newsletter in the sense that the writing isn’t all that interesting, and it’s a classic block image plus block of text format, but the trends are pure gold. Plus, you can just read the first section and know the trend, so it’s a speedy way to stay current and keep your mind thinking creatively about new opportunities.
You can subscribe here.
5. The Morning Brew newsletter
I think I learned about Morning Brew on LinkedIn. You might have read Alex’s story. The thing that stood out to me there was “By May 2019, the Morning Brew had spent over $1 million on paid acquisition channels.” because they never quite mention where that came from.
Anyhow, I actually really disliked this newsletter at first, because I found the voice off putting. But I stuck with it because I think it’s important to try to understand all sorts of perspectives (especially ones that other people clearly enjoy).
Now I like that there’s a good mix of content: stocks, arts, business. It feels like a mini-newspaper. My favorite part is the markets section because I’m an active investor. But occasionally I pick up a bit about SnapChat’s latest release or what Covid-19 is impacting, and I find those very valuable. Similar to the style I appreciate in other newsletters, they use a few sentences to reveal the dirt, rather that forcing the click. They’ve converted me into a regular reader.
You can check out and subscribe to Morning Brew here. They just started a Marketing Brew, but I haven’t really enjoyed it so far because the perspective and information hasn’t been net new relative to what I already find elsewhere.
6. The Exploding Topics newsletter
This is a handy visual email that reveals 1-5 of the latest Google search trends by combing the Internets. I like it because they show you the data, and then provide context as to why they think it’s happening. For example, this morning I learned that Lofi Music is trending because it supposedly boosts productivity. That makes me think linking out to or including a few Lofi music songs in a marketing newsletter (and explaining why) would be a quick win! Anyhow, because this year is so unpredictable, tuning into trends like this is key to adapting, and selecting content topics.
You can check out and subscribe to this newsletter here.
7. Ann Handley’s newsletter
Let me start by saying, you have to subscribe to this legend. Ann is the queen at conversational writing paired with deep thinking. Her advice is actionable and specific: my favorite kind.
The format is lengthy but the spacing helps make it easy to digest. Ann covers a handful of topics in depth, and has fun regular sections such as “writing tip of the week” and “department of shenanigans”. The email is 80% text and 20% images, but the images aren’t just random – they always have something important or helpful about them. They’re not stock photos!
You can check out and subscribe to Ann Handley here.
8. The Kyle Sulerud newsletter
What I like most about this email is how simple and conversational it is. Actually Trends is great at writing in this style too. I feel like I’m hearing from my friend. The copy piques my interest by alluding to what I’m going to learn and giving the expert credibility.
I also like that the content is offered up in multiple formats to appease whatever my digestion preference is. And as a result it’s really only one CTA, rather than some newsletters that really diversify your attention. I generally chose to click through to read the transcripts. To be honest, I typically don’t learn much. But this email is so well written and because I like the idea of digging into a specific case study, I’m compelled to check it out most of the time anyway.
I can’t for the life of me figure out how I got on this list (which might be more of a drip), so unfortunately I can’t give you a subscribe link.
Here are a few takeaways you can apply from the best email newsletter examples
1. Be specific
The most critical thing these days is to pick a very specific niche. We’re talking a three to four word long niche. Not “dogs”; not “Siberian Huskies”; maybe “Female Siberian Huskies”; definitely “Funny Female Siberian Huskies”. That immediately establishes for your audience what they can expect, and will help you find rabid fans.
Furthermore, be sure to engage with your readers as you build your list. Set up an automated email asking why they’ve signed up for your emails. It’s a great way to get new topic ideas, and to deliver on your promise in exchange for their email address.
2. Use variability
Send when you need to, not when you want to. Basically let the type of content you provide and the news that piles up, hit a critical mass before you send to ensure you’re delivering real value. While I subscribe to some daily newsletters, it seems most of my favorites are sporadic, based on when they have enough content to be interesting.
3. Include daily data
If you’re sending daily, there must be an included reason to. The daily newsletters I read tend to provide some sort of daily data that keeps me intrigued, for example NASDAQ metrics. I’ve seen Facebook achieve something similar by showing the day’s weather on my home feed.
This might mean you have to get up at 3AM every day and scoop the news before anyone else, but that’s one day to get some daily original data in. It could be numbers of people using a product or viewing a page, etc – I’m sure you’ll think of something! Consider what shared interests your audience might have.
4. Have a single perspective
The newsletters I consume the most of are written by a human, and more importantly one who owns it. They’re not under the guise of a brand. It’s their voice and their curation, and they bring the heat by picking sides. As Associations Now elaborates:
Give primary ownership of the newsletter to one person. For years, DC has been getting some of its hottest news from Mike Allen, the former Politico and current Axios reporter whose pitter-patter of reporting has come to define the way that many political types consume information in Washington. His style of newsletter-writing—and you can tell it’s him, right off the bat—is a model that associations might draw inspiration from, because many readers know it well. Other organizations, such as the nonprofit Poynter Institute, have followed suit with this strategy, making the voice the big star—in Poynter’s case, by handing its primary newsletter, The Poynter Report, to its senior editor, Tom Jones.
5. Stay short and sweet
Because there are always other “tasks” waiting in an inbox, emails still are not a comfortable medium for engaging with long-form content. “Rather newsletters are not (yet) regarded as a go-to platform for long-form article reading, but rather for the consumption of news and facts in between work and to-dos.” writer Liza Jansen of the popular Dutch platform Newspresso explains.
So, keep your writing concise and get the full point across as quickly as possible. I think it was Hemingway who could tell the saddest story in the fewest words: Baby shoes never worn. So channel your inner-Hemingway, no pressure LOL.
6. Write it like it’s a letter, because it is
Pretend you’re writing a physical letter to your grandmother or a pen pal such as your best college buddy. This can be the simplest way to come across as genuine. Whatever you do, don’t use buzzwords. Don’t be that gal.
As Ann Handley says in “2020 Small Business Email Marketing Statistics from AWeber, “Write to one person. Not a segment or customer base or persona. One. Person. At. One. Time.”
Also don’t just include a list of a million links. That didn’t even used to be possible in real letters. Give the reader the information they need.
And keep in mind that one reason the more human plain-text email format where words dominate works well is that folks read from left to right. This email style mimics the way we’ve been reading books for years. When emails have intermittent blocks of text for example a 2×2 grid, it’s not natural to skip among content like that – so it feels like more work.
7. Use cliff hangers
There’s a reason you tune into your favorite TV show every week (shout out Insecure!). It’s because television writers have crafted multiple story line cliff hangers you just have to know the answer to. Think of your emails as episodic content. Ann Handley shares:
“Writing momentum inside each issue. Lively writing. Story. Open loops in the copy that keep the reader curious and engaged: an open loop in writing is a teaser. It’s the start of a story that the reader will scroll to satisfy. So in email, you might ask a question at the start, and answer it toward the bottom.
Momentum outside each issue: Your newsletter is not a tower; it’s a bridge to your other Marketing. Your social media especially. Do you have a LinkedIn or Facebook group? Highlight questions or discussions in the newsletter. Have an Instagram? Share its images in the newsletter. “
8. Make it easy to subscribe & unsubscribe
I get email newsletter forwards from friends all the time. It’s probably. the best way to grow your list because referrals are so trusted – so optimize for it!
Ann does a great job of introducing new readers to her overall concept, establishing her credibility by explaining what number issue they’re on, and has a quick link to subscribe.
Alternatively or in addition to above the fold, you can also close out with a final CTA for subscribers using a colloquial PS.
So there you have it: a few simple steps to better email newsletter engagement, inspired by the best email newsletter examples.
Check out newsletter introduction examples
Your email newsletter’s first sentence is key. If you don’t get people to read it, they’re not going to keep reading it. Here are a few good newsletter introduction examples:
- “AR tech allows beauty devotees to virtually ‘try on’ makeup” – Cassandra Daily
- “Big Story of the Week: Google confirmed a major algorithm update they are referring to as the May Broad Core Update. This update has had sweeping impacts on search results and other parts of Google where search data is used such as Google Maps.” – Joe Youngblood
- “Back in March, Ben Smith made a big splash when he devoted his debut media column at The New York Times to the subject of “Why the Success of The New York Times May Be Bad News for Journalism.” – Simon Owens
- “Ben Cohen isn’t the world’s biggest fan of Facebook.” – Simon Owens
- “Hello, Beautiful. Happy Easter, if you celebrate. It’s also National Grilled Cheese Sandwich day in the US. Which seems like a random pairing, until you consider that this very different, quarantined Easter Sunday is the perfect time to resurrect something else, too: the ultimate comfort food. There is no right way to Covid.” – Ann Handley
The techniques these email introductions use that work include:
- Instilling controversy/shock/surprise
- Providing a valuable fact up front
- Greeting the reader
- Including humor
- Nod to timely information/pop culture
- Starting with a question (OK none did this in the body, but it works! Many of their subject lines had a question. And, by the way, your subject line is the most important part of your email, because if no one opens it, it doesn’t matter what’s inside.)
How do you make a fun newsletter?
Gosh there are so many ways. You can get ideas from newspapers and magazines, maybe even video games. Here are a few examples of how folks have made newsletters fun:
- Hugh & Crye used to link out to a fun Easter egg (such as a surprising gif).
- Morning Brew has a trivia question and provides the answer at the bottom. And they give away swag and stickers.
- Ann Handley has a department of shenanigans and love letter links.
Some other ideas for fun newsletters that could work include:
- Include a joke of the day
- Hold a cartoon caption content
- Have a crossword puzzle
- Do a giveaway
- Share two conflicting opinions from influential people
Learn from the best email newsletter examples!
Welp that’s the scoop on email newsletters. Now you’re ready to write your way into the history books.
Up next, get ideas for fixing email deliverability.
Would it be too much to ask you to please send a $5 tip to my Venmo tip jar because this post helped you drive better results from your email newsletters? @megsterr.
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Everything you need to know about email newsletters
To write an email newsletter pick a very specific niche. Provide relevant content that’s short and interesting. Write like a real human and use a simple html format to improve engagement.
A newsletter email is an email regularly sent by a specific company or person containing information about a certain topic. It’s like subscribing to a magazine in your inbox.
To make a newsletter more interactive begin and end with a question, include activities such as trivia questions, and ask for responses.