The Return of the Newsletter


When I first got started with online marketing back in 2008 people would call newsletters ‘e-zines’ (anyone else remembers that?).

Which basically meant it was an online magazine, except they weren’t really.

Keep in mind this is when people were excited to get an email, which is hardly the case today. Most people I know have a love/hate relationship with email and email marketing.

It’s still vital to running an online business, but it’s harder to get people to open it and take action.

Which in many ways is good. The nonsense and spammy marketing of years ago aren’t working anymore (although I’m sure there are people that still try it, and it might work a couple of times but you simply can’t build a business on that model).

Back in the day when I was still figuring all this digital marketing stuff out the ‘guru’s’ would preach about “building your list.”

You heard it everywhere… it was a little exhausting because unless you bought their $2000 course you’d be screaming at the computer “how am I supposed to build my list?!!” (or was that just me?)

So you did what everyone else was doing.

You created a lead magnet, put an opt-in box on your website, and hoped for the best.

Of course, there were plenty of people online who understood paid traffic at the time, which was more or less Google Adwords, or were doing things like buying email lists or solo ads. I’m going to give you a basic quick and dirty explanation of solo ads because all the articles I found when researching a good reference for you were by people selling solo ads (which speaks volumes about what they are, right?).

Here’s how a solo ad works (keep in mind I’ve never run these types of ads, but looked at plenty of different platforms years ago when I was testing CPA marketing, which was so not for me):

  • You sign up with a solo ad company or service
  • You find your market or niche
  • You select someone who has an email list in your market
  • You pay for them to email your offer to their list based on a click price and guaranteed number of clicks

Not rocket science, but doesn’t exactly feel like something you’d want to tell people you were doing right?

Then there were list swaps.

People would email their list for your freebie and you would email your list for their freebie.

Just typing this makes me feel like I need to go shower.

This strategy worked for a lot of people.

People who were simply focused on numbers and selling whatever the latest internet marketing guru was pushing (you always knew when someone was launching something because you’d get slammed with multiple emails from all their friends too, if you were naive enough like me to assume these people were doing more than just selling each other’s high ticket courses and were on multiple lists. And some of these marketers actually sold things with value, so I’ll stop generalizing).

Moving on.

I tried my fair share of ‘newsletters’, but they all felt flat.

I was way too caught up in how things looked as opposed to what I was saying, which I think happens to a lot of people until they find their voice. Click to Tweet

I would send out an email that looked like a newsletter, but it felt… I don’t know…flat. My heart just wasn’t into it and my half-hearted effort came across as such. I was way too caught up in how things looked as opposed to what I was saying, which I think happens to a lot of people until they find their voice.

Then I got pissed.

At myself.

I had been trying every tactic under the sun instead of doing what I knew in my gut was right. I won’t bore you with the details of all the things I tried (and for what it’s worth, it wasn’t the things I tried as much as me not having a foundation and faith in myself that was the root of why they didn’t work).

I was frustrated.

So I went back to fundamentals and decided to focus on mastery of what I was doing as opposed to an end result.

Thanks to Ben Settle I jumped in and tried my hand at daily emails.

I had been an email subscriber of his for over a year before I bought his Email Players physical newsletter (shipped monthly… I still love getting stuff like that in the mail) and dove in. I jokingly say that it was my ‘almost daily email’ because even though I had weeks where emails went out daily, hitting 7 days a week was pretty rare. Emailing Monday through Friday however, wasn’t.

My goal was simple.

Get better at writing, show up consistently, and start making offers.

For the first 30-days of this experiment, it was nothing.


Then after that things started to pick up.

My open rates, click through rates, and even sales all started to increase.

Did I lose subscribers? Of course.

But every time someone unsubscribes you’re getting clearer on who you serve and are keeping your list clean of people who want to hear what you have to say.

These ‘almost daily’ emails are simple. It’s a story format email with one call to action (or none at all. I sent one of those recently too because I had to get something off my chest, which I then posted as a blog post and got quite a bit of validation on).

This type of email doesn’t look anything like the newsletters I was referring to (err, e-zines… crazy how corny that sounds now, right?) and nothing like the newsletters that I see making a comeback today.

Email marketing and communication online are changing.

The bullsh*t just won’t work.

With the popularity of messenger apps and chatbots (I’m a fan of those too, but we’ll save that for another day), your email communication has to rise above the noise.

Which brings me to…

The Return of the Newsletter

I first realized that the ‘newsletter’ was making a comeback when I came across Josh Spector’s publication on Medium, which then led me to his website of the same name: For The Interested .

I clicked through and read ‘For The Interested’ on Medium for one simple reason: the content was good (stating the obvious, I know, but the content has to be good to keep you there, right? It’s not just about creating a good headline). After reading the publication on Medium I subscribed and started looking forward to his newsletter every week.

I also joined his Facebook Group, Newsletter Creators.

The beauty of a newsletter is that you can also post it as a blog post (which I often do with emails as well). Here’s a snapshot of a recent post/newsletter from Josh Spector (which will give you an idea of how you can structure your own newsletter):

Title: 10 Ideas for The Interested This Week

Here are the 10 Ideas, each with a couple of paragraphs and links that support each idea.

  1. How to Write Something Useful for Others
  2. How to Do What You Love
  3. You Will Be Young for a Very Long Time
  4. Why You Never Seem to Have Enough Time
  5. David Bowie’s Advice to Artists
  6. 20 Secrets to Creating Memorable Presentations
  7. The Seven Commandments of The Unmistakable Creative
  8. Nine Simple Questions to Ask When Interviewing Somebody
  9. How to Build a Brand on Social Media
  10. 10 Ways to Stop Checking Your Phone So Much

In addition to this content, he’s linked to something related in every section.

Here’s what I love about this newsletter…

It’s not all solely based on business updates, advice, or hacks. There is a ton of value in the business-related content, but it’s clear Josh knows the ups and downs of being an entrepreneur and isn’t afraid to ‘keep it real.’


The second newsletter I’ve fallen in love with…

Total Annarchy, by Ann Handley 

First, this is a fortnightly newsletter (and yes, I had to double check that a fortnight was two weeks before confirming that for you).

If you’re not familiar with Ann, you should be (don’t worry, we won’t shame you here). Check out her website and her amazing book ‘Everybody Writes: Your Go-to Guide to Creating Ridiculously Good Content’ if you have ever felt like you have no idea where to begin when it comes to writing content.

Her newsletter, Total Annarchy, usually sends me down a bit of a rabbit hole, in a good way of course.

It’s sent out on Sunday morning, I settle in with my coffee and get sucked in for a while.

The format always starts off with a great piece of content from Ann. This last week it was a story about how to ask in a big way when you have a big ask of someone else. The story she shared was about receiving a letter, via air mail (which I’ve never received but really want to now) asking her to speak at an event.

It was a handwritten letter, sent via airmail.

To quote Ann:

“Big” doesn’t mean “budget.” “Big” means “heart.”

Nuff said.

After the original content, she has a list of things she shares (5 or 6 seem to be the norm). The topics of the things she shares vary but they’re always useful (this is the value in knowing your audience). After that, it’s tools, love letters (thanking people for the mention), and other features such as ‘department of shenanigans’ and a list of her upcoming speaking engagements.

Entertaining and helpful (I almost wrote educational, but for some reason, that felt too dry), every single time.

Both of these newsletters have inspired us to create a newsletter for this brand, coming to an inbox near you in June of 2019.

My recommendation:

Before you decide whether or not a newsletter is for you, search your market, subscribe to a few newsletters and see what resonates with you.

What do you like, what would you do different, and most importantly, is it something you can keep up with?

If you can’t find a newsletter in your niche, subscribe to the two I’ve shared with you here.

I promise you won’t be disappointed.

Formerly known as “The WordPress Chick,” is an entrepreneur, coach, podcaster, and content creator.

She has built her lifestyle business over the last 12 years using WordPress, content marketing, and through growing her community. She lives by her commitment to #JustShowUP.

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