How Dave Pell Created One of the Most Successful Newsletters of the Internet

How one man’s passion made him into a modern day news hero

Thoughts On Journalism
5 min readApr 21, 2017


Source: Forbes

These days there’s plenty of talk going around about fake news, cickbait articles and low-quality content. People tend to get their news from social media feeds and the attention towards publications is becoming second in line after the individual journalist (something that even a recent study of ours showed).

It’s been known that the trust in media outlets and some publications has decreased recently due to those exact same issues. Nevertheless, there is a certain shift observed where people are increasingly starting to follow the actual journalist rather than the publications itself. And it makes sense. The individual distributing the news and adding personal commentary to each news item makes up for a much stronger relationship between the curator and the reader.

And this is where people like Dave Pell come in. He’s a man with a burning passion for news who used to regularly send out his writing and opinion pieces to his friends even before the internet. He also used to write an earlier version of his newsletter and stopped in the early 2000’s for a while. But later on a friend of his convinced him to take up writing his digest again. Given that Dave loved both email and writing about news, the current form of NextDraftwas revived. So what is NextDraft all about?

Source: TechCrunch

Well, every morning he gets up bright and early, puts on his curating hat and starts browsing through 60 to 70 news websites to select the best of the best news and stories for all his readers. This intense process goes on for about 3 to 4 hours in which he carefully goes through the news websites. Then, he chooses the best ones to include in a compelling list of top 10 stories that seem to be the most relevant and newsworthy ones. Mainly, so you don’t have to. Then the newsletter comes together when he summarizes the gist of each story, provides his commentary and adds a healthy dose of friendly, warm humor. This recipe results in one hell of a successful newsletter. And that’s also what secured him the title “Internet’s Managing Editor”.

The personal touch in his newsletter is also something that just works for NextDraft. You know, there are plenty of daily news digests from big publications, but it seems that a personal newsletter from Dave is much more desired, awaited and most importantly-carefully read. And that’s no coincidence. After years of doing this, he has managed to establish such an intimate and personal relationship with his readers. People like that and they appreciate it. Knowing how much effort, care and attention goes into every NextDraft, it enables people to become addicted to his informational newsletter, that also strays away from the boring. Even though he summarizes the news stories (what many other news digests do as well), Dave also puts a lot of himself into the writing-whether it is personal commentary or amusingly clever wit.

This exact personality and perspective of his is what separates NextDraft from all other news format newsletters. And there’s something that becomes clear when speaking of his success, much like other super successful digests like theSkimm, Clover and the Lefsetz’s Letter- every issue feels like the author sat down and put his heart and soul into a single email and then sent it out to you, and you only. Not thousands of other people who have subscribed to the newsletter. There is no automated texts and impersonal copy/pasted paragraphs. Everything comes from a very intimate place that just clicks with every single reader.

Source: Wired

It is no surprise as to why Dave has done so well with NextDraft. In this day and age of fake news and clickbait nonsense, people recognize the lack of quality content and the trust between the reader and publications is slowly fading away. That’s why someone who personally has made it his mission to provide only high-quality, carefully assimilated materials and does it in an engaging way has managed to become a modern day news hero. This builds up a very special relationship with audiences.

He’s also a very approachable, down-to earth and modest guy who has previously spoken how much he enjoys the close relationship with readers that email offers. When people reply to him, he oftentimes replies back. And can you imagine how awesome that is? He’s someone that has a large readership and is adored by so many, yet he doesn’t let his popularity get to his head. Instead, he likes talking to people with the same passion for news who just want to talk and discuss issues of that nature. But that’s the beauty of email and he recognizes that himself quite well.

In an interview with The Verge, he stresses exactly on that:

“Email is still the killer app. It looks great on all your devices and the user experience is always exactly what you’ve come to expect. Look at the rise of Instapaper, Readability, and Pocket. People love plain, glorious, readable text. Email is also a technology that everyone understands, and it’s personal (if someone wants to respond to me, all they have to do is hit reply). Tweets and status updates flow by and disappear into the black hole that is the Internet of five minutes ago. Interesting links and stories you find in an email newsletter are always right where you left them.”

News has been and still is a lifelong passion of Dave’s. Expressing his personal views and insights with each news item in his newsletter is his way of expressing himself. It is his way of just doing what he loves and I’m pretty sure that is what makes him so gosh darn good at it.

And being personal with readers only helped NextDraft become what it is today. Using a personal newsletter to reach people with his talent was a good call. Email turned out to be the remarkable medium that enabled readers to feel closer and more connected to him, thus awaiting his latest piece in their inboxes, daily. Especially in times where quality, authenticity and perspective are craved so badly by audiences.