This guide was written, developed, and edited by: Emily Roseman, Caroline Porter, Joseph Lichterman, Jacqueline Boltik, Charley Bodkin, Francisco Rivera, Abigail Hartstone, and Bobby Courtney.
In 2009, The Wall Street Journal declared email dead. “Email has had a good run as king of communications,” the newspaper wrote. “But its reign is over.” Then nearly a decade later, in 2018, Fast Company proclaimed email “the next great media platform.”
Both are correct.
The simplistic definition of email for news organizations is, however, obsolete. Sending an automated digest of stories is no longer effective in the increasingly crowded and competitive inbox.
But if executed strategically, newsletters are ideal for reaching readers directly and for building regular engagement habits. Most of us live on our smartphones these days, and newsletters are the preferred mobile-first platform for offering readers unique coverage they can easily access during their commutes, in line at the coffee shop, and at home on the couch.
To experience email’s renaissance as the “next great media platform,” news outlets must adapt to meet the changing definition of the email newsletter and the raised expectations of their readers, or risk falling behind.
Since applying email newsletter best practices can be surprisingly cumbersome, the Shorenstein Center at the Harvard Kennedy School and the Lenfest Institute teamed up with Yellow Brim to produce a series of open source newsletter templates.
But because the best newsletters are born out of so much more than templates alone, we also wrote this guide. We’re thinking of the guide as Newsletters 201—this isn’t an intro-level course. Section by section, it frames the activities and strategies required to elevate your newsletter to the next level by sharing best practices, examining what’s working, what’s not, and what’s next.
The Newsletters Guide includes the following sections:
- Section 1: Why Newsletters Matter
- Section 2: Getting Started
- Section 3: Different Types of Newsletters
- Section 4: Newsletter Workflows
- Section 5: Growing Your List
- Section 6: Email Monetization
- Section 7: Evaluating Success—Metrics and Health
- Additional Resources
One important note while reading the guide: It is meant to be a living, collaborative toolkit. Assembling its initial contents relied on contributions from a community of newsletter editors, writers, product managers, and developers.
To that end, when you see a box like the one below, it means we want to hear from you! If you wish to make a contribution to our guide by citing an example from your experience, please also include your email address. We are happy to keep you and your organization anonymous if you wish, but we will need your contact information to verify the information you provide.
Have thoughts and feedback for us already? Or have the urge to tell us something—what we got wrong, what looks right, or what could be improved—while you’re reading?
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