What’s the difference between a curated newsletter and a traditional newsletter?
“All hepped up about… newsletters?”
My friends still wonder why I get “all hepped up” (that’s Mainer talk— or Maine-ah for those of you who really want the accent, for beyond excited) about newsletters.
Can you think of anything exciting about newsletters?
I know it’s weird. But let me explain. I am NOT talking about traditional newsletters. I saw one of those the other day — a monthly newsletter printed out on shiny paper from a local apartment complex. It was a mishmash of written garbage that you wouldn’t want to read even if you were trapped on toilet somewhere with only time to kill.
Those kinds of newsletters bore me too. And that is what most people think about when they hear the term “newsletter.” What’s even more damning about that “traditional” kind of newsletter is that they are damn hard to produce.
They take hours of preparation. It doesn’t matter if they are print or digital. Someone has to write each article. Then there is all the formatting involved with preparing the newsletter.
Suffice it to say, it is not fun and the output is not really worth the effort.
When I get all hepped up (see, you already understand how to talk Mainer) about newsletters, I am talking a “curated” newsletter and that is a totally different kind of animal. Different species. Much more valuable.
A Totally Different Animal — The Curated Newsletter
A curated email newsletter that is comprised of a list of links collected and “curated” by a person or team. Each link receives a short description or context so that the reader feels invited to click and learn more, but only if that topic is of interest to them.
I personally LOVE curated newsletters because I get a bunch of them, some daily, some weekly, some monthly — but in each case, I found the sender to be an interesting voice or perspective on the web and the share gold nuggets of content that I might not find anywhere else.
In most cases — I found their website and blog before the newsletter. I signed up for the newsletter so that at some point in the future, they would send a little tickler of a reminder to me that they exist. I gave them permission to stay in touch with me.
There are of course, hybrid newsletters that contain a bit of original writing from the sender, plus a series of links on related topics that might be of interest to their audience. For my experience, these are the best kinds of newsletters because over time you really get to feel like you know the people behind the newsletter.
The value proposition of a curated newsletter is that in about 30 seconds, you can browse down thru the links and descriptions. If there is something of interest, you click and that particular link loads in your browser.
Many days (for me, once in the morning and again in the afternoon) I find myself quickly browsing a batch of the newsletters that I receive, and cherry picking this link or that link, sometimes several from each newsletter.
Once I have my collection of several open browser tabs of interest, I take a few minutes later in my day when I want to take a break or read the news — I get to go directly to a blog post or something I might have never found on the web if the curated newsletter did not point me to it directly.
And that is the whole value of email. If it was just a valuable website, I would visit on occasion but generally, life gets busy and I forget about some of the best stuff on the web.
That is why I love my “curators” who each week — point me to the best stuff they are finding and over time, I have come to trust their recommendations.
Oh, and One More Thing…
Oh, and one more key thing to know about curated newsletters. This one is a biggie!
When you read a traditional newsletter, most of the content is from just one writer or just one perspective (the sender of the newsletter). A curated newsletter is a collection of the best stuff that the curator chose to share — often from many different sources.
Think of it like this — if you are at a cocktail party, do you want to talk to the person who only talks about themselves and their “stuff” or do you want to be in the company who is a brilliant conversationalist and is sharing all kinds of stuff that you might be interested in?
Not only is it much, much easier to prepare a curated newsletter (because you don’t have to create all that content yourself) but you get a view of the online world from that specific curator on whatever topic(s) they choose to focus upon.
That means those curated newsletters are fast, easy to browse, many tiomes filled with great discoveries, and even easier to delete from your inbox if they don’t suit your fancy on any given day.
I think curated newsletters (despite being decades old technology) are a kind of slice from the future, when we take back control of our attention away from social media addictions and click-bait news headlines.
With an email newsletter — YOU get to decide when to open it and browse for value. If the curator fails to deliver on multiple occasions, you unsubscribe. They know that and you know that — so it keeps the relationship extremely honest. Like the best of blogging and social media — but in small 30-second bites.
If you are not familiar with curated newsletters — here are several examples that I would produce myself or would recommend:
My own personal, weekly newsletter [Tobin Today]
Here is one I produced for a pretty awesome non-profit that I work with. You can sign up in the footer [The Wreaths Across America eNewsletter]
And here is a website that has captured a list of all kinds of newsletters on many different topics of interest [NewsletterStash]
And lastly — I created this curated list of AWESOME newsletters you that I subscribe to and that are great examples of what folks are doing with the curated newsletter form.
If you would like to see more examples of how we use curated newsletters to build a platform of authority and trust — check out our signature program Conversation at Scale.