How to pick a topic for your next issue

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Anna from Revue
Anna from Revue
Hello there,
Hope your week is going well!
The topic for today’s newsletter issue is… topics (meta, I know). We’ll dive into how to gather good topic ideas, how to choose the right topic for now, and the big one: how to make sure your topic is valuable to your readers.
Ok, I’ve said the word ‘topic’ enough in this introduction. Let’s get started.
Why pick a topic at all?
I’ll start with a caveat: not all creators will need to structure every issue around one specific idea. Depending on your format it might make more sense to collect a whole bunch of topics rather than focusing on one (see the ever-relevant Ann Friedman Weekly for a great example of a newsletter that pulls together different subjects within each issue). 
But for creators who focus on a different topic each week, choosing that topic carefully before you get started with your draft can be the difference between a well-performing issue and one that performs… not so well.  
Here are some other benefits to choosing your topic carefully:
  • It will make the creation process easier, giving you a focus to come back to and jump off from.
  • It makes research easier. When you have a specific topic in mind, you can search for what you need to know before you start writing, and any time you spend on research will be time well spent.
  • It makes your reader’s life easier. When your newsletter is focused, your reader knows where they stand and what they’ll get out of the issue. 
  • It will help with concision. Once you know exactly what you want to say, all that’s left is to go ahead and say it. No need for sprawling asides that distract from the main point! 
The golden rule: Make sure your topic is valuable to your readers
Ask yourself these key questions before diving into your first draft:
  • Who is this for? 
  • What value does it bring them?
Put yourself in the shoes of your reader (or even better, ask them!) and drill down on their pain points: what’s stopping them from succeeding with whatever goal they have? What do they want to read about? What do they need guidance on?
Does your chosen topic address their needs? If so, perfect. If not, it might be time to pivot to a topic that bears more relevance (better now than after you’ve spent hours on a draft!).
The next thing is to figure out where your audience is in relation to your topic. It’s inevitable that there will be some variation between your readers in how familiar they are with the subject, but try to gauge the ballpark you’re aiming for. Tip: it’s safer (and more inclusive) not to assume your reader is an expert in that specific subject (unless you’re writing a newsletter for experts!).
Once you know where they’re at, decide where you want to take them. This may be different depending on the goal of your newsletter, and the type of content you provide. Maybe you want to get them to a point where they want to become paying members of your newsletter community. Maybe you want them to understand a particular concept before building on it in your next issue. Maybe you’ve received a specific question in your inbox (“How do I pick topics for my newsletter issues?”) and you want to answer that question to the best of your ability (hi!).
That gap between where they are now and the destination is a great way to measure the value you’re providing.
How to gather topic ideas
I touched on this a few weeks ago in an issue about tackling writer‘s block, but everyone‘s process for gathering ideas will look a little different depending on their newsletter. Here’s my process that I shared back then:
The main thing here is to pay attention. Where do you tend to find the topics that resonate most with your audience? That spark the most discussion? For me, these ideas spring up most when I’m speaking with my readers. For you, it may be reading a novel or checking up on the news.
How to choose the right topic for now
We’ve all been in that position where having just one valuable topic idea is a hallelujah moment (I see you, writer’s block). But now and then you’ll have a choice, and it’s always worth assessing the urgency of your options.
Is something going on in your industry/area of interest that everyone’s talking about this week? Maybe park the bright idea you’ve been working on for another time and focus on the big news instead.
If there’s no hot topic in your area at the moment, check social media and search engines for references to each of your subject options. There might be something going on that passed you by — or someone else might have addressed the same subject recently in a way that you can comment on or offer an alternative angle on.
If you want to position yourself as a must-read authority on a particular subject, it’s always good to keep your finger on the pulse to make sure you’re not missing important current info.
Wrapping up
If there’s one thing I’d like you to walk away with from this issue, it’s the importance of providing consistent value. Performing that value check on every topic you write about will ensure that you’re serving your readers what they want and need, which is the key to growing a committed and high-quality audience.
As always, if you have more ideas or tips on choosing a newsletter topic I’d love to hear them. In the meantime, let’s move on to some inspiration…
Newsletter inspiration
We’re loving the Some Things newsletter by Something™, an independent creative studio based in London and Byron Bay. It’s a weekly curation of “culture, creativity & other things worth sharing”, and there’s always something fascinating to check out in their list of links each week:
I particularly love how the newsletter follows a tight structure: a short introduction introducing a thought for that issue, a finishable list of interesting and inspiring links, a callout to their Instagram page, and an eye-catching image to round off.
Your tips on tackling writer’s block
A few weeks back, we asked the newsletter community on Twitter for their ideas on getting the creative juices flowing:
Revue
What are your top tips for tackling writer's block?
And the resulting thread is one I’m definitely bookmarking for future use — so many great tips! Here are some of my favorites:
David Bauer
@revue Remind yourself: Sometimes good enough is just that. Bonus: Once you’ve settled for less, flow often returns. I’ve written some of my best newsletter issues when I struggled the most.

(more on that: https://t.co/tVDm2IQTxl)
🟣Anita Lettink
@revue Go for a run - with my phone - because after 5k the words always start to flow
MicMac
@revue With @JimConnolly , the scariest most daunting thing is a blank page, dive in & write. Also set an objective & reward e.g . one page written then it's off for some tea & chocolate digestives.
And a deceptively simple solution close to my own heart:
Loved all of these suggestions. Now, onto what’s happening in the industry this week:
The week in newsletters
Why email newsletters are a new literary genre
23 newsletter writers on their favorite newsletters
How email marketing has changed in 2021
iOS15 round table with the CEOs & execs from Klaviyo, Omnisend, Drip, Privy, Sendlane & MessageBird
That’s all, folks! See you soon, and if you have any thoughts or feedback on this issue I’d love to hear it — just hit reply!
Until next week,
Anna
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Anna from Revue
Anna from Revue @revue

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