bndkt

2021-09-15

Six Popular Types of Newsletters

Mountains
Photograph by Markus Winkler

Newsletters are all the rage right now, and I see many startups launch products around newsletter publishing while existing players like Twitter are also getting into the space. At the same time, lots of people with existing audiences (e.g., on Twitter) start building up mailing lists, and there's also a ton of people starting in this space from scratch.

When thinking about the various newsletters I see and that I'm subscribed to, I see a set of distinctive types that one could categorize them into:

News Roundups

This type of newsletter is typically published frequently (monthly or weekly, some even daily) and summarizes the news in a specific field, often with links to more detailed articles and sometimes with some commentary. This could be technical (like React Status with updates around the React ecosystem which I follow) or just world news like published in the Straits Times Newsletter.

Personal Journeys

Those newsletters are often very much tied to a personality, and most of the time, they're even named after their author. They allow subscribers to follow the author's journey through private and/or professional life. Some focus on the professional aspects like projects, learning, and new insight; others have a more personal touch and include things like travel or even personal life events. One of the most popular newsletters in this category is the best-selling author Tim Ferriss.

Long-form Editorials

Every email represents a proper article. This is probably a good summarization of the idea behind long-form editorials, which offer are mostly published infrequently and, for me, are very similar to many blogs: A collection of well thought out and carefully edited articles or essays which go beyond the pure collection of links or summarization of news and announcements. An example in this category would be Lenny's Newsletter, where Lenny Rachitsky publishes insightful posts about product management and growth strategy.

Tidbits

The promise of these newsletters is mainly that they're easy to consume as they're short and mostly consist of a few links and insights. I've mentioned Tim Ferriss already, but he actually runs a second newsletter called "5-Bullet Friday," which is named brilliantly in my opinion as the title gives you an excellent idea of what to expect: Five little tidbits in your inbox every Friday.

Company/Product Updates

This is the classical email list to keep customers or potential customers up to date on developments in the company or new product features and releases. I'm, for example, subscribed to the Readwise newsletter, where they just this week announced that they're working on a brand new product called "Reader."

Email Journeys/Courses

All the above types of newsletters have the same dynamic in terms of publishing: New emails are sent to all subscribers on a more or less regular basis, and as soon as you sign up, you'll be amongst the people receiving the next issue published. However, recently I see some people setting up formats that are inspired by a marketing technique called "drip campaigns," where people are put on an email journey which then sends a sequence of prepared emails starting with the day that people enter this journey (in the case of newsletters by signing up for the newsletter). This concept lends itself to scenarios where authors teach something or want to guide their subscribers through a pre-defined journey or experience stretching over several weeks. Examples of this would be Khe Hy, who, in addition to his weekly newsletter, offers productivity training via such an email journey or "Simplify," a 30-day email course about Minimalism.