When you’re constantly inundated with social media, news, and emails, every day can seem like a case of information overload – trying to parse what’s important is a challenge. Subscribing to the right email newsletter can deliver the information you need. Done well, an email newsletter with a purpose is like a trusted source helping you cut through the clutter.
In this blog post, we provide tips and tricks for creating a newsletter that delivers value to subscribers and include examples of exemplary newsletters, explaining what makes them work.
An email newsletter is a recurring email sent to subscribed contacts containing curated informational content from news articles to resources and tips. The goal is to provide ongoing value while surfacing important industry- or niche-related topics.
The curation serves to up-level the journalistic quality of your content, which results in two things:
- Increases the value you provide
- Improves your authority and credibility in your audience's eyes
When people first start doing email marketing, they often assume they need an email newsletter. However, newsletters are only effective when done well.
"It'll have everything our customers care about, all in one place," they rationalize. "Our list will be different -- people will actually look forward to getting our newsletter," they argue. "Since we're only sending it once a month, it'll be a breeze to put together," they say.
And while all of those things may become true for a few lucky individuals, lots of email newsletters flop. They become an uninteresting mush of content people automatically ignore, archive, delete, or straight up unsubscribe from. And this isn't great for you, your metrics, or your company's success.
So if you're thinking about creating an email newsletter, keep on reading. In this post, we'll cover:
- Ideas to make your newsletter an effective one
- Design tips that help ensure a great reading experience
- Examples of newsletters that are crushing it (to draw inspiration from)
Email Newsletter Lookbook
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Email Newsletter Ideas
Email newsletters can include a weekly round-up of blog posts, case studies regarding your product or service, upcoming company events and webinars, or even a behind-the-scenes look at your company.
Of course, you don't want to create a newsletter just for the sake of creating one — instead, you should do thorough research on what your audience might prefer, and what your company is well-suited to offer.
If you're looking for general email newsletter inspiration, you're in luck. Here's a list of some of our favorite ideas for email newsletters:
- Round-up of popular or recent blog posts or videos
- New job openings at your company
- New case studies or product launches
- Membership/customer deals and promotions
- New best practices or tips
- Industry news
- Recent survey results related to your industry
- Internal employee news, including anniversaries, promotions, and birthdays
- Listicles (i.e. "10 Best Vacation Spots of 2020" if you work for a Travel publication)
- A team spotlight with pictures and bios
- Photos or stories customers have shared
- Behind-the-scenes at your company, or interviews with company executives
- Monthly business recap
- New training opportunities
- FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) and answers
- Upcoming webinars, or recordings of past webinars
Next, let's explore some newsletter designs to inspire the aesthetic of your newsletter.
Featured Guide: Email Newsletter Design Examples Lookbook
Learn how to build an email newsletter from scratch, and see dozens of email newsletter examples from real businesses with this free guide.
Email Newsletter Design
While you can get creative with the structure of your email newsletter, the general anatomy typically includes:
- Your logo or masthead
- A featured image and other eye-catching visuals
- Top stories featured at the top
- Additional content and promotions following
- An email footer with social links and subscription information
From a design standpoint, your company's newsletter should be a true reflection of your brand. For instance, if your website features minimalist design and clean, plain black-and-white text, then you don't want to create a super colorful newsletter, which might confuse new subscribers.
There are a few best practices, however, you can employ to ensure your design is up-to-par regardless of your audience's preferences:
- Clean, crisp images (no blurry images)
- Text (use same text throughout), company logo, and icons
- Try filters, memes, or video
- Make the CTA clear and obvious — and just have one (i.e. "Click here to shop" or "Click here to read")
- Create a hierarchy with CTA early-on
- Test the length of your newsletter to ensure it's not too short or too long for your audience
Of course, the design of your newsletter will depend on your brand, as well as the message. For instance, you might want to create a colorful, attention-grabbing newsletter if it largely focuses on visuals of new products — alternatively, if it's a round-up of recent blog posts, perhaps you try a more minimalist look to mimic the appearance of a letter.
Of course, you'll want to A/B test whichever design(s) you choose, to ensure they resonate with your audience.
I'd also recommend looking into pre-made templates if you're not familiar with designing emails. If you're a HubSpot customer, you'll have a bunch of pre-made templates in the email tool.
However, if you're still unsure about your newsletter design, there's nothing better than looking at examples for further inspiration.
Take a look at the following newsletters that knocked it out of the park, and consider using some of their design elements as inspiration for your own.
Email Newsletter Examples
- The Hustle
- Atlas Obscura
- The Washington Post The 7
- The New York Times Cooking
- Quartz Daily Brief
- Moz Top 10
- Vox Sentences
- Below the Fold
- The Ringer
- The Marginalian
- The New Yorker Recommends
- Polygon Patch Notes
- Apple News+ Audio
- The Strategist
Each newsletter on this list is fabulous for different reasons. Some have exceptional design, some have exceptional copy, some have exceptional calls-to-action ... but all are exceptional at solving for their subscribers' needs.
1. The Hustle
The Hustle is a daily newsletter that promises "business and tech in 5 minutes or less."
While there are a ton of business and tech newsletters out there, what makes The Hustle remarkable is its tone at the intersection of informational and hilarious.
Take two of their most notable headlines from 2021 as an example:
- "Inside the world’s most booked Airbnb"
- "How Bob Ross paintings became a coveted investment"
The Hustle also allows subscribers to customize the content they receive to fit their interests (see the "Snippets" section in the example below).
The formula of great content + unique tone + personalization works well for The Hustle's audience as they've grown to more than 1.5 million subscribers.
Image Source: The Hustle
Atlas Obscura’s newsletter does more than provide travel recommendations – it also delivers compelling stories about the world to your inbox.
With stories like “Spotting Squid in the Tides of Oahu” and “Dreaming of Spaghetti and the Sea,” the Atlas Obscura newsletter is a portal for exploration. They do an excellent job of writing attention-grabbing headlines and finding unexpected, delightful details – library apartments, haunted coffee, and 19th century skulls are just a few examples.
Combining interesting stories, captivating photos, and incredible destinations, the Atlas Obscura newsletter reels in the reader.
Buffer does a great job at keeping the newsletter concise, making it easy for readers to get the knowledge they need with a skim. They understand that readers want to catch up on the fast-paced and ever-changing social media landscape, so they break down the latest news and trends.
The newsletter is packed with information without feeling overwhelming due to its simple and organized structure.
The news is overwhelming and trying to scroll through Twitter to catch up on what’s happening can lead to distractions. The Washington Post understands this and created “The 7” to break down the seven most important stories of the day.
The newsletter is memorable because you can expect exactly seven stories to be sent to your inbox every weekday morning. The listicle format makes the newsletter skimmable. Under each story, they include bulleted points like “why this matters,” “why now,” and “the numbers” to get the point across succinctly. Complex news is made digestible.
Phrasee’s weekly newsletter is as informative as it is delightful. They deliver curated articles accompanied by fun graphics, GIFs, and memes.
Their tone is personable and lively, almost like the newsletter could fit in on social media. With their unique and daring tone, they know how to stand out from the crowd.
Image Source: Phrasee
A picture is worth a thousand words, says the adage. This couldn’t be truer for newsletters – if your content lends itself to imagery, use it to your advantage like The New York Times Cooking newsletter. The New York Times may be known for delivering news, but it also has a robust cooking section packed with creative, multicultural recipes that are beautifully photographed.
Highlighting new recipes from different chefs, Their New York Times Cooking newsletter is never stale. They expertly include a variety of recipes so readers get value out of finding something new to try.
The Quartz Daily Brief provides a rundown of must-know news, Quartz’s most popular stories, and other interesting highlights about the economy.
The newsletter is straightforward like a brief without being dry, with visuals like charts to help pique the reader’s interest. Sections for need-to-know news, what to watch for, top reads, and surprising discoveries keep things organized. The breadth of material means the reader can choose from a variety of topics to further investigate.
8. Moz Top 10
Moz Top 10 is a semi-monthly roundup of top pieces of content about marketing. Essential to any marketer, Moz Top 10 links to key marketing content with actionable insights. The content is not just their own; they link to external sources.
Examples of digital marketing and SEO content includes how brands can take stands on issues and backlink index comparisons.
Vox Sentences is a nightly email meant to quickly get its readers up to speed on the best stories from the day. The content ranges from the day's top news to fun stories from all over the web. They do a great job balancing their own content with external sources, and the stories they choose are always really high quality.
Image Source: Vox
If you want to stay up on what's happening in the world and have some delightful writing delivered to your inbox first thing in the morning, look no further than TheSkimm. It's a daily roundup of what's happened in the news in short, punchy paragraphs.
The best part? You don't have to click out of the email to read the news if you don't want to -- although they do link to their sources if you want to read further.
For your own email marketing, TheSkimm is the place to go if you're looking for writing inspiration or for emails without much visual content.
Image Source: TheSkimm
11. Below the Fold
Below the Fold is a weekly newsletter (from Acciyo) that surfaces important and interesting stories that simply aren't making headlines due to the crowded, never-ending news cycle we all experience day in and day out.
Acciyo's editorial team handpicks great news stories that they believe deserve "front-page love" but are being beaten out by an "infinite scroll of breaking headlines" — stories that range from how investors are profiting from emergency room bills, to how one Mexican company turned prickly pear into sustainable fuel.
Image Source: Below the Fold
12. The Ringer
Remember Grantland, the sports and pop culture blog owned by ESPN that was started by sports journalist Bill Simmons? In October 2015, ESPN announced it would be ending the publication of Grantland. Shortly thereafter, Simmons formed Bill Simmon Media Group and recruited a whole bunch of former Grantland staffers to launch a brand new newsletter in March 2016 called The Ringer.
Although The Ringer is written and run by many former Grantland employees it's a different project than Grantland was. Where Grantland focused on sports and pop culture, The Ringer branches out into other areas like tech and politics. Jon Favreau, a former speechwriter for President Barack Obama, is among the contributors. I like how focused they are on experimentation: "We want to have fun, take chances, analyze, theorize, obsess, and try not to take ourselves too seriously," said Editor-in-Chief Sean Fennessey.
Another differentiator? The Ringer's website was developed in partnership with publishing platform Medium – which means the newsletter reflects that clean, minimal design.
Image Source: The Ringer
13. The Marginalian
The Marginalian is one of the most interesting newsletters out there. In fact, the folks who write it call it an "interestingness digest." Every Sunday morning, subscribers get the past week's most unmissable articles about creativity, psychology, art, science, design, and philosophy -- topics that are really appealing to a wide audience. At its core, it explores what it means to live a good life.
The New Yorker Recommends is a weekly newsletter highlighting what their staff reads, watches, and listens to. It is packed with curated recommendations for books, movies, TV shows, and music.
Having staffers select their own recommendations gives this newsletter a personalized, hand-curated feeling that helps readers connect with the content.
Polygon Patch Notes shares the staff’s picks for new movies, TV shows, video games, comics, manga, and tabletop RPGs. The newsletter also links to a free new game and highlights top stories on Polygon, ranging from reviews to guides.
The mix of curated staff picks and top stories in a simple format makes this an easy-to-digest newsletter. Polygon Patch Notes also employs a personable tone, making the read relatable and fun rather than overly businesslike and bland.
The mobile-first format for Apple News+ Audio capitalizes on people’s increasing reliance on smartphones – according to Pew Research Center, 85 percent of Americans have a smartphone.
The format is also interesting – rather than solely delivering updates with text, subscribers can listen to audio. It makes sense, given that the newsletter highlights best Apple News+ Audio stories; including the icon with a link to listen makes it easy for subscribers to dive into a story.
Medium is a blog-publishing platform that has been continuously building momentum since its launch in 2012. Publishing on the site has really picked up in the past few years, and nowadays, there are a ton of people publishing posts on the site every day.
Of course, that means there's a lot of content for the average person to filter through. To help bring great content to the surface, Medium uses email newsletters. And after I open this newsletter every day, I end up going to visit several Medium posts without fail. (Mission accomplished for Medium, right?)
Here's why: The newsletter feels pretty minimal. Because of the way that Medium uses colors and section dividers, they're able to give you a ton of content in one email without it feeling overwhelming. Plus, they offer both a daily and a weekly version of the digest, allowing users to opt in for the email frequency they feel most comfortable with.
Image Source: Medium
18. The Strategist
From New York Magazine, The Strategist curates deals, shopping advice, and discounts.
The newsletter does a great job of including relevant shopping information, paying attention to the trends. The Strategist also includes a wide variety of products and services to shop for, casting a wide net.
Creating an Email Newsletter Your Subscribers Love
Even though newsletters are one of the most common types of emails to send, they are actually some of the hardest to do right. We hope these examples gave you some quality inspiration so you can create newsletters your subscribers love to get in their inboxes.