Newsletters are signature texts, focused on a topic and designed specifically. And they work: to such an extent that begin to be a voice of the subscription economy. Here's the thinking behind the one that actually work

There is one embarrassing thing about newsletters: they are promiscuous. They are sent to hundreds or thousands of people, and that's their big problem. Because a newsletter tends to be a loyalty tool. But human beings need uniqueness and dedication to be faithful.

Newsletters accumulate, unopened, in mailboxes. Subscriptions are ephemeral enthusiasms, which would need continuous relaunches to break through the already ultra-informed lives of people. We are digital individuals yet actually dream of receiving real letters, and we sigh every time a Bridgerton character breaks the sealing wax on a hand-delivered love note. To get out of this ambiguous impasse, there are various possibilities and only one goal: to convince us to open the newsletter to which we have willingly subscribed.

How to design a successful newsletter

Designing an authorial cut of content is the elementary solution and almost everyone does it now. The tone, the type of language, the graphic layout and the degree of interaction are the basis on which an ongoing relationship is built between a newsletter and its recipient. It takes a certain amount of courage to crash into a stranger's mailbox at six in the morning. Better to do it with grace and a convincing idea, with a very narrow angle of recognition but not predictability.

The secret of the perfect newsletter: one news at a time

Let's take for example a very successful project: Will Loop. It is the newsletter of Will, the news magazine founded by Imen Jane and Alessandro Tommasi. “Will has a clear goal,” explains Alessandro.Simplify, unpack complexity to make news and topical issues understandable. His newsletter is a project consistent with Will's idea of ​​information”.

One news at a time, the invitation to learn more by exiting the newsletter and landing on a page on Will's site. Once there, it is difficult to get out. The videos follow one another, short, focused, interesting. An eclectic choice of topics to say the least, another ingredient to guarantee immediate, gut-wrenching interest. Try to resist a newsletter that greets you at half past seven in the morning with: “Hi Elisa, it's time to talk about the dog industry”.

Will Loop: Go deep without getting lost

“Will Loop's project is the result of our format. Go deep without getting lost. Each newsletter offers only one link, no other distractions”. Difficult to leave Will Loop once you land on the newsletter. It is addictive. But is addiction one of the ingredients of fidelity? “We have 20 thousand subscribers and an opening rate of 88%”.

Evidently this is the case: fidelity is also made up of dependence. But Alessandro Tommasi on the other hand which newsletters are you subscribed to? “Morning Brew, Politico and The Information”. Three newsletters of current affair – above all tech economy – and news, with a very high editorial and authorial quality. And that respect the golden rules of beautiful newsletters as Alessandro states them: “ Correct length in terms of reading, non-trivial themes and immersive experience”.

Ultra Violet: Ester Viola's newsletter

Speaking of immersions and engaging experiences, let's talk about Ultra Violet, Ester Viola's newsletter, which also talks about contemporary relationships and loves from a Io Donna column. The fact that the author is a divorce lawyer speaks volumes about the fragility of the subject. Her newsletter is the equivalent of a twentieth-century stream of consciousness translated into thin, precise, sometimes moving language. Because Ester Viola talks about how disarmed we are in front of our own humanity. And try not to open a newsletter about We are in a Balzac novel. And continues with: “One could be optimistic necessarily. We could apply and find and believe ten reasons why February will be the month of improvement”.

Read also about an epistolary project that combines photography, writing and theater

A personal newsletter as a consolatory gash (for a fee)

In reality, in the other columns of the newsletter, Ester doesn't even speak, she imagines questions and looks for answers in books, news, quotes. The point is that, in the midst of media noise and information democracy, interventions like hers are comforting glimpses, cultural micro-illuminations and gift packs of thought and meaning.

Even if gift is a wrong word: Ultra Violet has been on subscription for a couple of weeks. A minimal price, but it's new. “The newsletter is already doing it on its own now, and is able to bear the costs of collaborations and from March it will also begin to deal with pro bono projects, thanks to part of the registration fees.

Perhaps newsletters will become the format for a literature that lands in mailboxes, a different form of narrative production. “I don't know what the newsletters will become. We'll see. My part – the fun part – is to look around and think that A is strangely connected to B. And that therefore A and B will end up in next Friday's newsletter ”, concludes Ester Viola.


Cover photo and below, works by Chiara Fumai. From 2 April to 29 August 2021, the Luigi Pecci Center for Contemporary Art in Prato dedicates the retrospective Poems I Will Never Release (2007-2017) to the prematurely deceased artist, in collaboration with Centre d’Art Contemporain Genève. The exhibition exposes a corpus of works that translate Chiara Fumai's performances into material form, while respecting the artist's programmatic intent not to document them.