the newsletter you don't instantly delete
August 23, 2018 4:22 AM   Subscribe

Can you recommend any commercial email newsletters you actually open and enjoy reading?

Recently, the owner of the neighborhood bakery that I do some freelance marketing for has decided that she should be sending a monthly email newsletter to her customers. I've always treated email blasts like spam, but now I have to figure out how the good ones work. So what companies have newsletters that get newslettering right?
posted by anonymous to Grab Bag (33 answers total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
I have three newsletters that I open very regularly:

- The Daily Stoic: It's not usually very "commercial", maybe 1 or 2 times a week it suggests something you can buy from them. But I open that thing almost every single day! It's very short, daily thought pieces around applying stoicism. It's funny how often they relate to something happening to me that day.
- Mr. Hyde: This is one of those "things happening in London" sort of newsletters. Themes range from food and entertainment. Sometimes they send sponsored email in the form of a competition or sponsored content. Sometimes I will enter the competition if they sound good.
- Net-a-Porter: Mainly emails around new arrivals. I like fashion and spend too much on it.

I would say that the things I like about these emails:
- Distinct, engaging, and good tone of voice/writing style. Mr. Hyde in particular is really good at it. At the end of the day it's like a Time Out magazine, but their writing is amusing and fun to read.
- Distinct and discrete subjects. My colleague who is a Content Strategist would refer to these as "Topics of Authority". They talk about specific things that they are knowledgeable about, and impart that knowledge to me in a credible manner.
- I personally don't mind frequency. Two of those three newsletters above are daily! As long as they have something good to say. Once a month isn't that often, and I wonder if it would backfire because it would get lost in people's inboxes.

I think the first thing to think about is: What can you talk about that will be interesting to your customers? It really is as simple as that. Is the bakery in a position to share recipes? Do they have seasonal themes to their offerings that they could talk about? What brings people into the bakery, could you replicate that trigger in these emails? Is there an in-shop experience that they can share over email? (ie "cake of the month" or Monthlly Specials or New products)

Pleeeease make sure it's legible over a mobile app. Like make sure the font and images are big enough. Please!
posted by like_neon at 4:42 AM on August 23, 2018 [1 favorite]

The Skimm ( is a company whose main product is a newsletter. People dig it for its voice and point of view.
posted by ejs at 4:45 AM on August 23, 2018 [2 favorites]

I like Toca Boca's newsletter - it's less than monthly, but I open them all. I read The Hustle and The Daily Stoic every day. Farnham Street and Stratechery, Goodreads, my local indie movie theater. Curiosity Quills Press has a good one but most book publishers' newsletters are garbage - just shouting at you about what's new. Several parenting newsletters are good - Amy McCready and Laura Markham. The key thing is making the newsletter useful to people - it can't just be advertising.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 5:02 AM on August 23, 2018

A local u-pick farm has a newsletter that I read through most of the growing season, so I don’t miss out on my favorite things (cherries have a pretty short season.) With that in mind, I’d say posting seasonal/short run/in demand things so the person across town who loves their brioche that always sells out in two hours knows when to come by.
posted by tchemgrrl at 5:03 AM on August 23, 2018 [6 favorites]

I enjoy monthly newsletters from Aromaleigh, an indie cosmetics brand. The owner makes them informal and brief, very visual (since it's sparkly makeup), pointing out new stuff, what's gone on sale, what's on clearance, what's the newest limited thing and what's this month's gift-with purchase. There's maybe a paragraph of personal chitchat, not more.

Limited items and special offers should do well. Maybe coupons?
posted by I claim sanctuary at 5:36 AM on August 23, 2018 [1 favorite]

Aesop has a shockingly good commercial newsletter for a skincare/bodycare line. Elegant and thoughtful content instead of endless pushes to buy stuff. I look forward to receiving it.
posted by rdnnyc at 5:44 AM on August 23, 2018 [2 favorites]

The ones I read are usually the ones that send me articles to read. I also prefer that they not be sending something more than maybe once a week at most. The ones that are constantly about SALE SALE SALE DON'T MISS OUT RUSH NOWWWWWWW I am pretty much ignoring/deleting. I am sick of hearing about SALE SALE SALE at this point, it's just too much. I know that's the entire point but it's like a flood. Some people are constantly sending SALE every damn day, they're never NOT having a sale.

There is one mailing list I am on that I ONLY stay on it because they do a yearly event I'm interested in and otherwise I wouldn't know when they are doing it this year, but every single other damn e-mail I delete. That dude is constantly e-mailing at least every few days and even when he's not technically all SALE SALE SALE it feels like SALE SALE SALE to read it.

In all honesty I would have zero interest in reading a bakery's email list (I do not love me some cooking and I don't go to a bakery more than maybe once a year), so I don't know what to tell you would get a person who loves cooking to be interested in signing up. like_neon probably has it right as to what to do.

I actually co-run a mailing list for a knitting/crochet group. We technically don't have to do much of anything but say "hey, we're meeting on Friday if you want to show up, same as last week," but if we know of any yarn-related things going on in this end of the state, we'll mention them. I attend some of these events and take photos/do a writeup. I also like to do link roundups of silly things related on the topic (yesterday I wrote up something on profanity and embroidery/cross stitch, other upcoming topics include science and knitting, yarn themed T-shirts and the show Making It), or book reviews that feature textiles in the plot.

So I guess in your case, either recipes, when you are having events in the bakery, or maybe cooking-related things.
posted by jenfullmoon at 6:00 AM on August 23, 2018 [1 favorite]

Jetpens' newsletter is brief and to the point: we have these 1-3 exciting new things! We are taking preorders for this other thing! Maybe a coupon. The end.
posted by bagel at 6:12 AM on August 23, 2018 [4 favorites]

Not corporate, but I occasionally (like 10% of the time) glance at the Appalachian Mountain Club's newsletter rather than deleting it unread, because it sometimes has tips on trip ideas that I hadn't thought of before.

However, every single advertising newsletter that I ever get gets instantly deleted, usually with a slight scowl of irritation. They're just categorically annoying and I never ever ever want them. The only time I open the email is when I feel like taking a minute to try and unsubscribe. Sorry, but I already get too much of people trying to sell me crap in literally every other part of my life. Commercial newsletters are just mental clutter.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 6:15 AM on August 23, 2018

I always read three: two from libraries in places I used to live, and one from my kid's old daycare. The library newsletters, I like because they're pretty information-packed. They list upcoming events, new additions to the collection, trivia, etc. When I lived in those places, reading the newsletter would usually result in a trip to the library within a day or two. (Although one of those libraries was two blocks from my house, and I'd take a trip there every few days even without the newsletter.) I like the daycare newsletter because of the voice. It sounds exactly like you'd expect someone who runs a daycare for infants to sound. It's very warm and caring, and always makes me happy.

Based on that, what I would suggest is to:

-Have a distinct voice that fits the business.
-Provide useful information that's timely and new.
-Be fun.

A coupon isn't a bad idea either. :)
posted by kevinbelt at 6:17 AM on August 23, 2018 [1 favorite]

Christie's Online Magazine newsletter. There are probably a lot of money and people behind it though.
posted by StephenF at 6:23 AM on August 23, 2018

I've always treated email blasts like spam

which is perfectly appropriate because that's exactly what they are, unless the recipients have explicitly opted in.

In my view, your bakery owner would be better off creating a blog for which customers or potential customers could subscribe to new-post notifications.
posted by flabdablet at 6:31 AM on August 23, 2018 [4 favorites]

I read a few newsletters from podcasts I like. They are short, and I read them because they have a few links to stuff the hosts and producers think are neat. The Smitten Kitchen newsletter always has a few (mostly food related) links up top, and I open it for those.

I read the newsletter from my local gardening store because it has tome-sensitive tips about gardening.

I open emails from a specialty ice cream shop I visited on vacation because I like to see their wacko new flavors, even if I can’t try them.
posted by juliapangolin at 6:37 AM on August 23, 2018

I would probably read a monthly newsletter from a bakery (or other local food business) if it was a. short, b. gave a quick overview of fun events and foods that are seasonal/very popular and c. easy to read on mobile. Coupons don't hurt either!
posted by brilliantine at 6:38 AM on August 23, 2018

I'm a great hater of spam, and rarely sign up for "send me offers" or "newsletters." I often, but not always, read the aforemention Daily Stoic. If it were a weekly stoic, then it would probably be always.

I always read the newsletter from DC Rainmaker that's actually written by his wife. I think specifically because it's written by his wife and she gives a different view of all that's going around in their lives is why I read it - otherwise it would seem quite redudant to his weekly recap entries.

I'll lastly note that I quickly skim through the newsletter/update that I get from Sony/PS4 because occaisionally there's codes of 10-20% or $10-20 in PSN credit. I have this source set to always display images (definitely not my default) and I literally scroll down to the bottom to see if there's a code. My eyes and brain pick up on somethings, but I'm not a typical gamer - 98%+ of my spending in the last 2 years has been for VR only games and they're rarely mentioned in the main PS4 updates letter.
posted by nobeagle at 6:39 AM on August 23, 2018

It's not online, but I religiously read Trader Joe's Fearless Flyer when I receive it, cover to cover.

I like the tone and the old-timey nature of it. I also like that it's not just advertising what's on sale, but also what they normally have that's especially good. I like the once in a while frequency as well.
posted by Temeraria at 6:49 AM on August 23, 2018 [2 favorites]

I always read the bean newsletter from Rancho Gordo. It's an exercise in bean masochism because we can't get them delivered in Canada. But for the right bean, maybe I'd go to America.

Anyway, it's a nice mix of behind-the-scenes stuff + recipes + timely information.

I also read newsletters from a bunch of publishers. I want to see what their latest books are. They also frequently highlight sales. I believe most are once a week. Here's the page from my publisher.

In all these cases, the newsletters are to the point and prominently feature photos.
posted by veggieboy at 6:51 AM on August 23, 2018 [2 favorites]

I read a local restaurant's newsletter.
I think that the main reason I read it is because it's the only vegan restaurant in my city (they have more than one location). So I actually want to know what they're adding to their menu and what interesting things they're starting (poetry reading nights, live music). They're working to build a sense of community, and I like feeling like I'm part of that community. They don't send it out very often - no more than once a month. I would probably be annoyed if it came out more than that.

I also read the newsletters of a local yoga studio and a therapeutic massage place. For those, the newsletters provide information I want - they're having specials or starting new classes.

I can't imagine reading anything that's not local. I like Trader Joe's, but their flyer goes right in the recycling bin with grumbling about the waste of paper. I'm glad to hear somebody's reading it and enjoying it.
posted by FencingGal at 6:57 AM on August 23, 2018

I like studioneat newsletter. Each issue is usually just two things, recommended by the owners, and occasionnally a link to a promotion or a new product they're running. Here is an example of a recent issue.
posted by motdiem2 at 7:58 AM on August 23, 2018

I have signed up with Bookbub, which tells me about free or low-cost ebooks. They let you select which genres you would like to read, and then every day they send an email with a list of five or six titles, with a short descriptions and links to purchase or download the ebooks.
posted by Multicellular Exothermic at 8:47 AM on August 23, 2018 [1 favorite]

I find the newsletter from Juliet, an all-day restaurant in Somerville, Mass., to be pretty compelling.
posted by Jasper Fnorde at 9:12 AM on August 23, 2018

I read American Science and Surplus every time it comes in even if I don’t need any science or surplus. This is a holdover from their catalog days— they are characterized by their unique and funny product listings. I get about 3 a week and I often click through because the writing is clever and sometimes informative.

I think the key is writing something that is interesting on its own, apart from what you’re selling. I would probably go more frequently to a bakery that had a newsletter that pointed me to interesting content even if that content were not bakery-related. Just a “hey this is really interesting to me, the bakery owner, and I thought you’d like it PS donuts are on sale.” Do they have connections to local artists or local farmers or something? The trick is, of course, that a baker is not always also a compelling writer.
posted by blnkfrnk at 9:17 AM on August 23, 2018 [1 favorite]

I usually read the Zingerman's email newsletter (not sure if it's weekly or not). They sell unusual foods so they usually have some little story to go along with the products they're featuring, and the tone is relaxed and appreciative, rather than too personal or Internet-hyperbolic ("this week we're TOTALLY OBSESSED with this skin cream, OMG!"). Also, cute drawings.
posted by praemunire at 10:05 AM on August 23, 2018

I read:
Now I Know by Dan Lewis -- Informative surprising history snippets
Poem-a-Day from -- Like it says on the tin
Brain Pickings by Maria Popova -- My regular dose of High-Falutin' mixed with High Woo Woo
The Public Domain Review -- Way back machine, copyright free
Juxtapoz Art and Culture -- Street, urban, and alternative art
On Being -- More High Falutin'
The Curiosity Daily -- Learnin' and Fun Facts
Fresh Arts on Tap -- A weekly Houston Arts scene

Of the above I read most within the day they come, but I usually need to find the right time/mindset for the high falutin' ones. And I go looking for the Fresh Arts every Tuesday because it helps me plan my upcoming week.
posted by cross_impact at 10:30 AM on August 23, 2018 [1 favorite] puts out an email flyer about their properties that is written in a sort of tongue-in-cheek folksy way; I enjoy reading them even though I'm not interested in actually buying anything.
posted by The otter lady at 10:46 AM on August 23, 2018

As you build out your emails, you might want to look into A/B testing to learn what's working and what isn't. Any major email campaign provider should have this feature.
posted by Leontine at 11:19 AM on August 23, 2018

My wife used to enjoy the weekly email from a local bar. It would start with a super-lame joke and then lists a special of the week. Short.

I need to follow a number of newsletters at work and some of them are just so damn long and full of information that I don't need or want. Keeping yours short will help.
posted by grouse at 12:47 PM on August 23, 2018 does a nice one (although not formatted well for mobile, which is a big oversight these days). It has little articles highlighting people /dogs/etc who use the bags/accessories and talks about upcoming new designs (which are infrequent, so pretty exciting) or new colors. Oh and does one with recipe teasers that I usually open and click through to drool/wonder about (cheddar smores, whaaat?)
posted by acanthous at 12:50 PM on August 23, 2018

Recommendo is short, interesting and often useful.
posted by mannyfeefees at 6:23 PM on August 23, 2018

If you're a Mac user Small Dog Electronics Tech Tails often has very useful information for troubleshooting
posted by a humble nudibranch at 10:19 PM on August 23, 2018

Huckberry. I'm not even their target audience, but I always read their newsletter.
posted by GoldenEel at 11:47 AM on August 24, 2018

The companies whose newsletters I like have a few things in common:
1. Infrequent mailing. Monthly is good. If you send out something every few days, I unsubscribe right away.
2. they contain relevant and useful information about the business. In thins case, your business owner needs to figure out what customers would want to be kept up to date on. New products? Deadlines for special orders for upcoming holidays? Special events, either at the bakery, or that they will be attending?
3. They have some fun element to them. Perhaps a picture of a special order (if they do fancy work) and the story behind it? A recipe (either for something they make, or made with something they carry), or baking tips?
4. Perhaps a coupon, or other special for subscribers.
5. Make sure its not too long, and that its well formatted. I need to be able to skim it and tell quickly if anything is interesting to me. A few small, fun pictures can help with that as well.
posted by nalyd at 5:37 PM on August 26, 2018

An example of a totally quirky-but-endearing approach that might work well for another local food business like a bakery is the old "Dirk's Friday Fish Flash" newsletter (archives here). In other words, go in the completely opposite direction away from slick, well-formatted, professional, etc. and make the owner's raving obsession with what they sell and their joy in educating people about the product create its own appeal.
posted by shelbaroo at 4:51 PM on August 27, 2018 [1 favorite]

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