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How to create a newsletter you don't give up on
👉 a lesson from 12-year old Ian
One of my very best memories as a kid in the 70s is going on a family holiday to Benidorm.
I remember playing crazy golf. Staying up late in the hotel drinking ultra-sweet chocolate milk. Pong. They had Pong. First time I’d seen anything like it. I was in heaven.
And when we came home, in addition to the mandatory stuffed donkey that everyone had, our family returned with a guitar.
My parents had taken us to a bar where they had a flamenco guitarist and the very next day I nagged them so hard to get me a guitar they eventually gave in.
We were lucky that just down the road from us at home was a young guy who’d been on TV as the North East’s most talented young guitarist. My dad knew his dad and so a deal was struck where I’d become his protege.
Cure visions of me as a 70s rock god…
Every week I went for my lesson. Every week he set me practice exercises. And every week I showed up to the next lesson not having done them.
After a year we both decided it was probably best if I gave up.
I loved the idea of being able to play the guitar. Still do.
But I hated the practice.
When you’re deciding what to do for a newsletter you have to avoid being 12-year old me.
Once you have a topic within your field that people want to hear about (see my previous post for how to do that) you need to decide what type of newsletter to create.
There are 4 main types of newsletter:
The In-Depth Article. Each post is a detailed analysis or run-down on a specific topic, usually running to thousands of words. Good examples of this style are SatPost by Trung Phan or Zero to Marketing from Andrea Bosoni.
The Digest. This is a curated list of some of the most interesting articles or resources the author has spotted on a topic, usually with a short commentary on each. Tim Ferris’s 5-Bullet Friday is an example of an eclectic, multi-topic digest based simply on what Tim has found interesting that week. Sunday Snippets from Ali Abdaal is much more focused - in this case on productivity. A daily news digest is a common version of this type - for example The Hustle for business and tech or The Peak for Canadian business.
Snackable Tips are newsletters designed so you can get a quick tip or insight in a few minutes or less - perfect for busy people wanting a quick injection of new ideas. James Clear’s 3-2-1 newsletter is one of the originals in this format with 3 ideas from James, 2 quotes from others and 1 question to ponder. Thomas McKinlay’s Ariyh shares 3-minute practical marketing recommendations based on the latest scientific research.
Conversational Emails are the type I like to write. They illustrate points and ideas with personal stories rather than in-depth analysis and data. Sairam Krishnan’s CMO Journal is a great example of tips and ideas for startup marketing illustrated through personal experience and opinion. Terri Lonier begins every issue of Working Solo with a personal story that links to the main idea of the post and adds personal credibility. Conversational emails can build a sense of personal relationship between the author and reader. And as we know from psychology, the use of stories to make a point is often more persuasive than hard data.
Of course, it’s possible to mix and match too. I’m always astounded at how Scott Galloway manages to mash up hard data and analysis with personal stories so well in No Mercy/No Malice. You end up being both impressed by his expertise and feeling like you know him.
Now in theory, different types of newsletter match up with different audiences and different objectives.
Want to build deep credibility as an expert? An In-Depth Article newsletter is probably best.
Want to earn a bunch of ad revenue from a daily newsletter read by a big subscriber base? A news-based Daily Digest has proven to be the best model.
Want to build more of a relationship where people trust you and want to work with you personally? Conversational Emails could be the way to go.
You get the picture.
But here’s where 12-year old Ian sticks up his inconvenient hand and points out the spanner in the works.
“What if I don’t enjoy doing in-depth articles?” Or scanning the news to publish daily. Or baring your soul a bit with personal stories.
Then the reality is, you won’t do it.
I’m a big believer that if you want to achieve something then every now and then you need to just grit your teeth and do something you don’t enjoy.
But 12-year old Ian knows that you just can’t do that week in, week out.
And success with a newsletter needs you to do it week in, week out.
So you have to be realistic here.
You have to choose a style of newsletter you’ll be able to create on at least a weekly basis for years.
If you can’t see yourself doing that, pick a different type of newsletter. Maybe try it out to make sure.
Of course, you’ll have a run of bad weeks where you don’t love it and you struggle to come up with ideas. We all get that.
But if you don’t enjoy it most of the time, you’ll stop doing it.
And if you don’t enjoy creating any type of newsletter at all - then maybe newsletters aren’t for you.
I hope not though as they’re so powerful. And for most people they’re much, much easier than other forms of marketing.
I reckon even 12-year old Ian could have done a weekly newsletter (provided it was about Blake’s Seven or card tricks).
What type of newsletter will you create?
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