If you have a personal newsletter, the structure of newsletter should not be much a struggle. Personal newsletters tend to train their audiences in how they should be read.
So, the goal here is to find the format that not only attracts and keeps your ideal reader, but fits your style of working well enough that you won’t burn out.
The best reaction you can hope for from an audience is if your newsletter doesn’t come out on time and fans start asking where it is. Your doing something very right if that happens (minus the inconsistent scheduling).
Professional newsletters have it a bit tougher. Often there’s an existing audience with existing preferences for both subject matter and format. The bigger the company, the more audience feedback (and tracking) usually come into play. Serving the customer and establishing the appropriate relationship is the highest goal. The newsletter is shaped over time by its readers.
I could break down the most popular formats, but Paul Jarvis did it better:
The longform. This newsletter is an example of the longform, mostly because I’ve never met a word-count I didn’t want to demolish, so this is the style mine obviously falls into. Cait Flanders writes a spectacular longform newsletter, as does Jessica Abel.
The curated roundup. Roundups are a nice way to provide value to an audience without having to write 1,000+ word articles each time. By sharing only the best links on a related subject, you save people time so they get the information they need without having to dig. Joceyln Glei writes my favourite and Dense Discovery is a close second.
The news. Similar to a curated roundup, the news style of newsletter is more focused on topical or breaking information, instead of just evergreen content. My favourites here are Charged and NextDraft. This style of newsletter requires a lot of work because you’ve got to digest current events quickly and then share the best content while it’s still timely.
Most of my favorite newsletters are hybrids of these formats. My newsletter has been longform essays and columns at times, and is now a curated roundup that includes my writing.
I prefer to write longform, but my audience has told me (over many years) they prefer curation. I can foresee a mix of both in the future, but I do listen the audience more than most personal newsletters do.
Corporate clients almost always prefer curation. It means the company has a voice more than the individual writer, which makes sense — the writer can always move on and take the trust and authority with them. The company wants to retain that trust and authority, with a mix of authors and designers they can change up at any time.
Don’t know which one you prefer? Try them out. There’s no reason you need to publish the first version, or even the fourth. Keep drafting until you find something you can publish consistently and be proud of.
Check out the rest of this month’s posts on creating email newsletters.