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Using content to build a community

Anna from Revue
Anna from Revue
Hi there,
A huge part of engaging with your audience is understanding how they navigate your newsletter and guiding them through what you’ve created. While it’s true that many successful writers structure their newsletters like an article or essay, others tap into different needs of the reader by breaking the content down into sections that perform different jobs.
Today, I want to put the spotlight on newsletters using content structure in interesting and innovative ways — on Revue and beyond. I hope you’ll find inspiration in the examples below, and as always you can reach me by replying to this email if you have any questions. 
Let’s get stuck in.  
Break it up
We heard from Matt Navarra a few weeks ago about how his newsletter Geekout (a weekly update on all things social media) is structured like a funnel, guiding the reader from the big-news items at the top down to the skimmable lists of links at the bottom. But he also includes short sections with the same format every week, serving readers a sense of consistency and nuggets of extra value in every issue. 
With the Tool of the Week spot, readers are linked directly to an app or extension that will directly improve their experience of being online. Meanwhile, Question of the Week links back to a Tweet from Matt’s account, encouraging readers to get involved in a conversation topic and feel like they’re part of a community. 
On a similar note, I’ve been speaking in recent weeks to Jeff, a fellow reader of this newsletter, about his own new newsletter The Week in Games. As a gamer myself, his content appeals to me, but I also really enjoyed how Jeff is experimenting with sections that come back every week to serve his community of readers in different ways. 
Each week, the newsletter features a different out-of-print article from the archives of old gaming magazines, lovingly preserved by the Out of Print Archive. That’s a great example of a creator focusing on who their reader is and drilling down into specifics in order to bring them content that will delight them. Jeff’s readers are gamers, sure, but they’re also interested in retro games and information that isn’t widely available online. Smart.
Another content trend we’re watching is interactivity. Newsletter writers are seeking innovative ways to engage with their audiences, and offering exciting glimpses of what the newsletter of tomorrow may look like. 
We recently spoke to Ray Daly, creator of (a web app for reading newsletters) and (a collection of a wide variety of newsletters, organized into sections like a Sunday paper), about this trend. Ray highlighted a project called Would You Rather, a light-hearted newsletter that poses a silly question to readers each week, encourages readers to answer and explain their reasoning, then reveals the results and amusing, thoughtful comments from other readers in the next issue. 
That got Ray thinking about how Tweets responding to previous newsletter issues could form a whole section of the next issue. There are so many potential applications of that idea, from political polls to recipe collections to interactive fiction. And I’d love to hear your thoughts on how this could be applied — send me your wild ideas by replying to this email!  
Lower the bar for interaction
Of course, interactivity doesn’t necessarily need to be the sole purpose of a newsletter. While fancy CTAs and design concepts work wonderfully for projects like Would You Rather, other newsletters are taking a more experimental approach, throwing a few ideas out there to see what sticks.
Morning Brew launched a new Sunday newsletter this week, and it’s clear the people in charge of the newsletter have been putting their heads together to come up with new ways of sparking audience interaction with varying levels of effort required from the reader.
On one end of the scale, the new format includes a guess-the-listing-price-of-this-house quiz — with the answer at the bottom of the newsletter. The reader is involved in the game without having to actively do anything other than read to the bottom.
On the other end of the scale, there’s the Meme Battle:
How it works: We’ll give you an image template for a popular meme, and you have to add text to make it funny. It’s like a caption contest…with memes. 
The newsletter then links out to a meme generator and a Typeform for the reader to submit their entry. The winner features in next week’s edition.
It’s great how this format caters to different types of readers and ensures there’s value added for all.
Similarly, being a reader of Maangchi’s monthly newsletter about Korean food and recipes feels like being part of a family. Maangchi dedicates lots of space to highlighting comments and pictures from her readers:
The reader outreach here performs the function of engaging with individuals who write in to Maangchi, encouraging a supportive, familial atmosphere. But it also performs another job for a reader: it shows us that if other amateurs can cook up these delicious recipes then maybe — just maybe — we can too.
Wrapping up
The newsletters mentioned above have one thing in common: they actively consider how their structure influences the reader experience, and are playing with ways to invite the reader in. There are, of course, many other examples of newsletters doing smart things with content and audience outreach, but I hope this sprinkling of examples sparks some inspiration.
I love the idea of a world where community-building isn’t just a necessary by-product of running a newsletter, but an essential element of the newsletter itself.
As always, you can find me on the other end of that ‘Reply’ button. In the meantime, have a great week!
The week in newsletters
Ann Friedman on how she built and monetized her legendary newsletter
Axios Tampa announced they hit 50k subscribers
Morning Brew launched a new Sunday newsletter
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Anna from Revue
Anna from Revue @revue

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