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Planning a newsletter

There are a million newsletters out there. Hence, it is critical to name or tag-line your newsletter so that audiences know up-front what it contains and why they should read it.

Choose a type:

Newsletters are about:

  • Personalization-based on audience’s interest, for example, Medium or NYT For You.
  • Build on your personal brand: Personality, i.e., you are following a particular author. Audiences do this to build a relationship with that person or look up to how that person thinks about what’s happening. Sometimes, these newsletters can also be a conversation between two people.
  • Niche. Sometimes newsletters help you stay on top of an industry, for example, Neiman Labs, WAN IFRA, etc.
  • Other times, some newsletters have a very high utility value and are Work Products. For example, Harvard Business Review’s portfolio of newsletters support people through various stages of their career. Alternatively, these could also be pre-programmed courses served over newsletters.

How you write depends on the metrics you want to move:

1. Increase Sessions Per User: If your goal is conversion, registration, or to get audiences back to your platform, then you cannot give away the story and hence the newsletter includes out-links to your platform.

  • Editor’s Choice: To make it premium, the editor can explain their rationale behind sharing these specific links for you.
  • A good practice is to combine the functions of out-linking and highlight, i.e., out-link on the specific words with highest information density.

2. Retention via Engagement: In this situation, you want to give away the story (or insight) in the email itself because the audiences have already paid upfront for the content and hence there is no need for them to come to your platform.


It is highly recommended to send your newsletters at a specific time, so opening the newsletter becomes Habit-forming.

Put yourself out there

Generally newsletters written by committees suck. Make it easy for readers to contact you. Readers who reach out to you tend to be more engaged.

Running your newsletter

Writing style: Always write your newsletter as if you are talking to one person.


  • Always respond back to emails from readers.
  • If you’re taking a break from the usual newsletter schedule, then let audiences know in advance.
  • Do not automatically sign-up users to your newsletters. This results in audiences spamming your email, which eventually impacts delivery. Instead seek permission from people before adding them to your list.
  • If users are not opening the newsletters for many days, then reach out to them personally and re-engage them. If you don’t hear back then email asking if they would like to be removed.

Growing your list

  • Add newsletter sign-up widgets on your platform.
  • Request other authors to cross-promote your newsletter.
  • If audiences are log into your platform, then on-platform do not ask for email ID again.
  • Build a landing page for your newsletter so loyal audiences can share the link.
  • Proactively onboard new users.

Measuring performance

Quantitatively, you can measure open rate and click through rate. However, Apple’s Do Not Track and other such initiatives make it tough to track this. Other measures include:

  • Is the list size going up?
  • Are people actively unsubscribing? This a big red flag. It is worse if someone is unsubscribing from all newsletters.
  • Embed polls and surveys in your newsletter.
  • How many readers are replying back to you?


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