The average office worker receives 121 emails every day.

For most people, an overloaded email inbox is anxiety-building, and often frustrating to deal with. So the last thing your customers need is ANOTHER boring email newsletter crowding their workflow.

Many of those 121 emails are likely coming from businesses, and some will get opened, while others will get redirected straight to the trash.

What is it that entices people to open and click the emails they receive from brands? And perhaps more importantly, how can you replicate that for your business?

The main purpose of this article is to answer those questions by illustrating how some of the best brands deliver compelling email newsletters. But before we get into that, you need to ask yourself one important question…

Should you have an email newsletter?

Email newsletters help nurture prospects at every section of the sales funnel. They can help onboard new audience members, and inform the user right through to customer retention. When used in conjunction with a full digital marketing strategy, email newsletters and sequences can really help drive home your product or service.

But they aren’t necessarily for every business. Maintaining a consistent email newsletter is time-consuming and requires a certain level of discipline, not to mention a regular injection of relevant content at your disposal.

If you DO, however, decide that sending out a regular newsletter is a good fit for your business and its customer group, then it’s important to learn from other successful examples to make sure yours stands out from the crowd.

Creating a great email newsletter for your audience involves a winning combination of style and substance. Consistent branding and a compelling headline are key to getting lots of opens and clicks, but without great content and strong calls to action, the newsletter itself won’t serve much of a purpose.

Fortunately, there are plenty of best-in-class examples of newsletters out there already that you can use to help style your own. I’ve picked some favourites from around the web and highlighted what I think they do right. While they are varied, targeted at diverse audiences with different needs, I find they do many things the same, including:

  • Consistent branding
  • Responsive formatting that works across devices
  • Calls to action
  • Clear social sharing buttons
  • Personalisation (such as addressing the recipient by their first name)
  • Credible business information in the footer
  • Effective, to-the-point copy organisation and formatted with compelling design

Below you’ll find 13 of the best email newsletters along with descriptions of what I think they do right – from their content through to their design. They are in no particular order.

1. NextDraft

Dave Pell’s NextDraft is a trusted daily news aggregator that’s run by a human instead of an algorithm. Visiting about 75 sites daily, Dave picks out the best of the best and delivers it straight to your inbox.

While NextDraft has an app, the email newsletter is the lifeblood of this service. Without it, NextDraft simply wouldn’t exist. Pell really needs to make it work and we think he does. Here’s why:

It has memorable branding, big and bold at the top of the screen, NextDraft’s typeface is eye-catching and the logo is memorable and simple. ‘Powered by Betabrand’, a San Franciscan clothing company and current NextDraft sponsor, is also clearly visible. Previous sponsors have included WordPress.

In an interview with Techcrunch back in 2014 Pell says of his newsletter:

“The idea is I want you to feel like you are just getting an email from me that you could reply back to… it’s always the personal stuff people remark on. We’re all dying for human connection on the web”.

In keeping with its editorial and curatorial tone, NextDraft’s layout is simple and consistent. 10 sections clearly divided by number and heading outline key stories for the day in Pell’s witty, concise fashion. Outbound links clearly marked in green, a colour thematically relevant to the branding. It is this minimalist approach that makes NextDraft so appealing to around 200k subscribers.

Each section is comprised of a couple of paragraphs, with subdued social sharing buttons at the end of each section. In keeping with the minimalist nature of the layout, these grey buttons work well. In a brighter, more visual layout, they might be lost in the grey.

Finally, Pell ends each newsletter with

Thanks

Dave Pell

Managing Editor, Internet

This cheeky, confident sign off creates a personal connection and is terrific branding. After all, who wouldn’t want to be managing editor of the internet, even if it is a made up job? Social sharing and the ‘head’ logo are also included right after, along with business information and calls to action in a separate grey box.

Like just about every email newsletter I look at in this article, there is also an option to unsubscribe.

2. InVision

InVision is a prototyping application for UX designers. It helps you take an idea and turn it into something more tangible, with clickable designs and smart workflows.

Seeing as their whole organisation is built for designers, InVision needs really high standards for their own marketing collateral, and they certainly don’t disappoint. To a database of over 2 million users, they distribute a regular email newsletter with a collection of the best design articles from around the web.

Here’s what it does really well…

First of all, they kick off the newsletter with a compelling headline. It leverages “Halloween” to make it current and contextually relevant based on when the email was sent. But that’s not the best part.

The phrase at the end of the headline is where this one gets really interesting, “only designers will understand”. They know exactly who their audience is, and they also understand that their audience, “designers” like to be included in an exclusive group. This headline makes them feel like they are apart of the inner circle.

The other great thing about the top of this email newsletter is that it starts with the InVision logo on the left. Brand recognition is immediate, and trust and credibility follow.

As you make your way down the newsletter the brand colours are consistent, and there is absolutely no confusion as to who this email has come from.

They then round out the email with one more subtle logo and some social sharing buttons. The social sharing buttons create familiarity and encourage people to interconnect with the brand on other platforms. The logo? Well, that just further embeds the brand name in the reader’s subconscious.

Another thing that works really well with this email newsletter is the use of a diverse set of visuals and regular call-to-action (CTA) buttons.

They start off with a caricature, but as the email continues there is real-life photos used, as well as graphics. All of the images are high-quality and contribute to the overall experience of the email.

To reinforce each of the images and their supporting articles, there is a strong, brand congruent CTA button under each. The CTA text for each button is also descriptive and varied, drawing the eye to the button and increasing the chance of someone clicking on it.

3. Medium

Medium is a social blogging platform with a reputation for long-form writing, minimalist design, and authority on a wide range of topics. Medium’s success is down to leveraging those key traits to encourage writers of all backgrounds to make great content that others can engage with, comment on and share.

Medium’s email newsletter has a pretty simple goal. The daily digest is a small, curated list of popular daily articles delivered to your inbox in the hopes that you will spend more time on Medium. Let’s break down some of the key elements, starting at the top.

The subject heading is eye catching and makes good use of the space provided. “The Polygamy Question” is an enticing topic, not outside our understanding, but potentially outside of our experience.

This is one area where great Medium articles can really work their magic, by being easy to understand, yet pitched from a position of authority. The rest of the subject line backs this up “Published in Arc Mag by Berry Belvedere”.

The sender isn’t just ‘Medium’, it’s Medium Daily Digest. This helps with consistency and differentiates these emails from account related emails the recipient might have from Medium.com. A small but important detail.

In the newsletter itself, we see the Medium logo and newsletter name in grayscale, as it would appear on the website. The first text tells us the content is recommended by Medium staff, then you get into the first image, which relates to the feature article.

A quick perusal of the Medium site shows their love of particular colour palettes, bright green, deep blues or purple and a not-quite-fuschia pink. You see this colour scheme reflected in the main image. This consistency subconsciously orientates the regular reader with the Medium colour palette and branding.

It’s also worth noting how the four recommended articles are laid out:

  • The first includes a large feature image, larger text and takes up more than half the email body.
  • Article 2 features a long title and is text across the width of the email.
  • Articles 3 and 4 have featured image thumbnails accompanying the text.


Not only is this cohesive yet visually diverse layout a bit more exciting than a simple list, it is also a great opportunity to run a bit of A/B split testing on what people actually want to read and how the position of that content affects readers.

The bottom of the newsletter offers up a strong call to action ‘Follow your interests’ in Medium’s traditional green, followed by familiar social icons and app store icons to download the medium app. It’s a three-way party for Medium.com. Their newsletter not only drives traffic to their most popular articles, it also encourages social sharing and app downloads.

Finally, we see relevant business information and unsubscribe options in the footer.

4. Brain Pickings

Brain Pickings is a fabulously bespoke website and blog by writer Maria Popova. It delves into topics of art, science, philosophy, poetry and history as a self-styled ‘one-woman labor of love’. Donations fund the progress of the website, which began as an email newsletter among friends founded in 2006.

Brain Pickings history as an email newsletter shines through. This isn’t merely a short reminder of what you can see at the Brain Pickings website, it’s a fully-fledged document, rich with content. There’s a solid 20 minutes worth of reading here. Interspersed we find:

  • Inline citations and links that encourage readers to delve deeper
  • Robust quotes marked in their signature yellow. Popova doesn’t only review books, essays, and texts, but includes deep quotes, giving insight into the texts under review.

  • Images and pictures, some intimate portraits of authors and muses, others stunning and moody artworks that amplify the reading of the text.


The bottom of the newsletter includes another yellow box with a gentle call to action to donate and support, mirroring the same request higher up the page.

Brain Pickings is a rare sort of newsletter. A literary journal of kinds that extends outside academic circles. Its success is an inspiration for any small organisation or self-starter, and lessons in care and attention to detail, with a focus on beauty, should be heeded.

Tip: Spend a little bit of time on the Brain Pickings website and you’ll be greeted by a popup to subscribe. The popup auto fills your email (if your browser allows it) and addresses the ‘pop-ups aren’t classy’ issue by focusing on Brain Pickings as ‘contemplative reading’. While the audience for BP might be deep thinkers and readers, the lessons here are valid for any organisation.

5. General Assembly

Let’s get right to it with General Assembly, as there’s plenty of ground to cover. General Assembly is a collection of international learning and accreditation campuses for all things digital, from web design and coding to marketing and data science.

As such, General Assembly’s website must be clean, functional and cutting edge. It’s a fine line to balance, but the team does it well. Elements of this can be seen in the General Assembly newsletter. Starting from the top:

The subject is ‘Keep Rising’. Anyone that’s been around the digital industry knows that almost all industries on the web evolve at a rapid pace. Coders must keep up to date with the latest libraries and languages, marketers need to know trends and best practice, product managers must be on the pulse at all times. In this primordial world, General Assembly knows their customers, people who either work or want to work in digital industries, want to be at the top.

This is how General Assembly positions itself and right from the get go they show us that ‘Yes, we understand what you want.’

The newsletter header is straight from the website, clean, bold, and with several menu options that can drop the user onto a relevant web page if desired.

What comes next is where this General Assembly newsletter really shines. GA’s goal is to sell courses, but the purpose of this email is to address the digital industry through a particular lense. It’s right there in the big text.

“What if you’re really good at…”

Who among us hasn’t felt some sort of dissatisfaction with their current career or life path? Who hasn’t thought; ‘Maybe I’d be better as a…’

General Assembly is banking on that.

Let’s look at this paragraph of copy.

Things it does right:

  • Asks questions, provides suggestions.
  • Highlights (in bold) the key text.
  • Brief and to the point copy.
  • Includes statistics.
  • Suggests sharing with your boss (Part of GA’s target market).

Next, we get a series of coloured boxes with bold letters as acronyms for the various qualifications (and jobs) you can learn at General Assembly. Each box is underlined by the actual name of the job, a quick blurb and a link to the syllabus. Great!

What’s really unique here, is what these boxes look like. Remember, the aim of this newsletter is to help readers figure out what ‘type’ of a digital expert they might be. Does this layout remind you of anything?

The Myers-Briggs Personality test is often presented in much the same way. Here, General Assembly is leveraging this common presentation of a ‘type identifier’ to stimulate our curiosity. It’s not easy to make work seem exciting, but General Assembly has really nailed it.

The newsletter closes out with copy inviting us to an info session and a strong call to action. GA know its stuff!

6. SaaS Weekly (Hiten Shah)

Saas Weekly, as you might have guessed by the name, is a weekly newsletter about all things Software as a Service. It’s produced by Hiten Shah, a fact we know immediately as the header contains both his name and a display pic, as well as calls to action to both, view the newsletter on the web and reply to Hiten with suggestions for next week’s digest.

Viewing on the web is a common call to action on many newsletters. Not only can web-hosted versions of your newsletter act as search engine friendly anchors for discovery, it can also help readers who use email clients that might not format your newsletter properly.

The subject header promises a blog worthy topic, 7 Principles to Mastering Growth Marketing, a topic that would be of interest to a SaaS audience and with a high degree of shareability. The sender is also personalized, it’s not sent from SaaS Weekly, but rather Hiten Shah.

The body content of the newsletter is detailed. In many ways, it is similar to the Brain Pickings newsletter, though with obvious differences in content and target audience.

Sections are clearly defined by black box/white text headers, each touching on a broad category in the SaaS world (Business, Marketing, Product) as well as Hiten’s Pick. There’s also a plethora of infographics, image quotes and a collage that help break up the text blocks and give context to each section.

Calls to action are represented by compelling and clickable headlines and in-line links. The actual content is curated, sourced from a variety of websites around the web. Each of these is listed beneath the article copy.

Hiten also does a few other interesting things to keep this lengthy newsletter interesting:

  • Use of dot points breaks up reams of text (like I’m doing right now).
  • Copy is to the point.
  • Format is consistent and works across desktops, laptops, tablets and phones.
  • There is credible business information and unsubscribe options in the footer.

Hiten Shah’s SaaS Weekly is a great example of how to create a long form curated newsletter. If you work in the software, technology and digital marketing space you might want to check out SaaS weekly as both an informative newsletter and a best practice guide to newsletter formatting.

7. BuzzFeed

When we think Buzzfeed we think news and current events in a mixed media format. Buzzfeed’s listicles and pop culture approach to news have made the news site one of the most popular websites in the word. In fact they are so popular Buzzfeed is able to segment its news and entertainment delivery into several ‘channels’.

Buzzfeed News provides a daily update of what’s popular in the media, delivered straight to your inbox in newsletter format.

Here’s what they do right, starting from the top with the subject line: “Better off without their support”

Framed a quote, it entices us to open the email.

  • Who said this?
  • What were they referring to?
  • It seems controversial, maybe I should read it?


The sender is Buzzfeed News. We already know Buzzfeed has multiple channels. This tells us exactly which channel it’s from, and what you can expect inside.

Like most of the newsletters I’ve reviewed, BuzzFeed’s logo is great branding and helps further orientate the reader. From here, the newsletter is clearly delineated into sections.Using red coloured ALL CAPS text, we can easily find:

  • ‘Here Are The Top Stories’
  • What BuzzFeed is keeping an eye on (i.e. trending).
  • Did you hear about this? Sounds intriguing, I want to know more.
  • Quick things you should know. A recap of news from around the world.

BuzzFeed’s approach to media delivery includes lots of gifs, captioned images, and tweets. In this newsletter, tweets are used to underline two of the top stories, one about Donald Trump, the other about Samsung’s exploding Galaxy Note 7 smartphone. Both are comical in their own way but serve to highlight the reality of the news reports and give a sort of ‘connected authenticity’ to BuzzFeed’s reporting.

Similarly, the final captioned image from a Kardashian not only finishes the news report on a lighter note but helps to ‘sum up’ the newsletter.

Finally, Buzzfeed’s use of inline citation links as calls to action is probably best in class. As I noted in some of the examples above, there are a few ways to use links in a newsletter. Some sources, like Medium, prefer a more structured approach. While Buzzfeed’s newsletter is structured, the links are placed contextually over phrases that match the news story. This lets BuzzFeed supply multiple links for a single story, and gives the reader more insight into the angle of the article they are clicking on.

8. J Crew

Crew is an American fashion brand that focuses on functional, well-priced garments. Their newsletter is a great example of how a fashion brand can use email marketing to both showcase products and provide value to their audience.

One thing that jumps out straight away in this J. Crew email is that there is no mention of discounts or specials in the subject line. Instead, we’ve got two solid calls to action in a news-style format.

Crew’s newsletter clearly offers discounts between the header and the ‘Freak-Out List’ text, so why isn’t that included in the subject line?

Here are some reasons why I think J. Crew took this option:

  • Standing out: Our inboxes are full of ‘10% off till Monday’ and ‘Buy 2 get 1 free’. It’s not uncommon for us to scan our inbox and ‘discount the discount’. J. Crew offers value in the form of a curated list.
  • Taste: Your audience matters. J. Crew markets itself as tasteful basics, fashion that is affordable and timeless. The discount is more tastefully placed inside the newsletter
  • A/B split testing: Trying different subject headers gives you opportunities to test open rates and see what works.

In keeping with the understated style of the newsletter (and brand), the body is simple and effective. Images with short copy and links to each of the products. The image and text pairings are alternately justified to give a ‘lookbook’ style to the newsletter, and model and product shots alternate to make the copy that little bit more compelling.

Crew uses text minimally but effectively. The goal is to suggest how and why you might wear this product.

Two strong calls to action are featured near the bottom of the newsletter, offering the audience the whole list of curated topics, and to shop for new arrivals. Presenting two options can be better than one, as it empowers the reader to chose, rather than decide and move on.

The subject line made a bracketed promise to show us the new workout collection. At the bottom of the newsletter, we have a single image and some copy introducing a New Balance/J. Crew tie in. It works as a value add. The use of a different model and imagery tells us it’s something different, and mentioning New Balance, a known sports brand, works as a kind of reveal (as it’s not mentioned in the headline).

9. NY Times

The NY Times is an international news source and one of the most well-known ‘newspapers’ in the world, so you’re expecting big things from this newsletter. Of course, the NYT delivers.

The main topic of the newsletter is, “What we’re reading”, which isn’t about articles published in the New York Times, but rather from other sources written by or selected from New York Times contributors.

The sender is NYTimes.com, a stylistic choice that helps advertise the website and provide authority. An actual domain name would appear in lower case (nytimes.com). Here, the newsletter team has chosen to capitalise the NYT. This choice leverages the clout of a well-respected news service.

The newsletter begins with classic New York Times branding and a large heading that echoes the subject line promise ‘What We’re Reading’. This is followed by a strong call to action to share with friends.

From here, NYT employs an almost fanatically consistent formatting for the curated stories in their newsletter. Framed and bordered, each article stub includes an equally sized feature image, article heading, source website, copy, author and link to the full content. Most articles use the ‘Go’ link while the first also uses an inline citation.

The framing of each article snippet in near identical formatting provides New York Times level of consistency and NYT-ifies the newsletter and the content. The articles might be published on other sites, but NYT is the curating authority, keeping their brand front and center in the hearts and minds of their audience.

10. Startup Digest

Startup Digest is a hyper focused newsletter about startup culture. Depending on where you are located, the website will change to suit your local area. So for us here in Sydney, the top banner says: “For all things startup in Sydney and around the world”.

It’s highly focused subject matter and the newsletter creator, Miriam Meima, leverages that by personalising the email using her own name. The newsletter name is contained in the subject line. Though her target audience isn’t necessarily small, startup culture is a community that networks heavily and relies on personal branding. Knowing each other is important, and Miriam knows that.

Startup Digest uses some fantastic elements in the newsletters that help it really stand out. In many ways, it’s reminiscent of the Medium and General Assembly newsletters. Let’s take a closer look.

  • Consistent pallet: The use of colour symbolises technology on the cutting edge. Though the digest isn’t directly about technology, it’s safe to say that most startups and startup culture participants are interested in tech.
  • Topic/Theme: While the digest is dated, it’s also themed. Startup Digest is telling us right from the beginning that this week’s newsletter is about Leadership & Resilience. That makes it both topical and evergreen, as well as shareable among coworkers, colleagues, and friends.
  • Authorship near the top: I already noted the personalised nature of the Startup Digest newsletter. Right after the first paragraph of copy, you’re drawn to the author. There’s an image, a clickable email address, and Miriam’s name is mentioned 3 times in the space of a dozen words (not to mention it’s viewable above the fold from the sender. When it comes to personal branding, Miriam has it on lock.


Startup Digest provides a couple of ads before the content begins. One asks a question, the other provides a time limit ‘Applications closing soon’. Both are relevant to the audience and include the branding of their advertisers.

The newsletter then links out to 4 articles from around the web. It’s interesting to note that the newsletter doesn’t produce this content itself. The actual sources; Inc, HBR, and Mashable, are listed next to the author names and beneath the eye-catching and consistently coloured header links.

Startup Digest shows how a small operation can provide great value by simply curating an interesting list and presenting it in an eye-catching format.

11. Product Hunt

Product Hunt is a fun, popular website that helps users find products and services that are trending around the world. Users can filter by niche and product type. It’s a great discovery tool, and the Product Hunt Daily Newsletter keeps to the theme of providing discovery of new and exciting software, products and services.

The subject line is one of the best examples of email done right. “The geekiest email you’ll receive today” is both a challenge and a promise. The glasses and chart emojis both reinforce that, as well as offering a glimpse into what it’s actually about. Most importantly, in a world of bland and overused subject lines, they stand out.

Product Hunt does all the little things right. The sender is Product Hunt Daily which tells you immediately what it is and what it isn’t, and the address hello@ is friendly, cheerful and easy to remember.

This cute, geekish aesthetic continues into the body text, where you’re greeted by a rather eye-catching image of a spreadsheet. If you never thought you’d hear those words together, you’re not alone, but it does go to show just how well put together this newsletter is.

The first ‘theme’ in Product Hunt’s geekiest email is ‘spreadsheets’. Note the image takes up roughly the same amount of space as the text which is divided into:

  1. A paragraph of copy that talks about spreadsheets without being dry or boring.
  2. A series of dot points each linking to a spreadsheet product.
  3. A call to action to learn more about Google Sheets.

Product Hunt makes use of several calls to action throughout the newsletter. We see a blue box with some quick links to API libraries and another brand colored CTA ‘See more’ after a list of ‘Yesterday’s top hunts’.

You also encounter more emojis throughout the newsletter, making the experience fun and personal. Product Hunt also makes use of social proof by using a collection of display pics underneath each product to ensure that each listing is endorsed by real people.

I’ve touched on how cohesiveness and consistency in branding, layout, and design can make an email newsletter a success, but Product Hunt also shows how creativity and personalisation can make a newsletter more entertaining and engaging for the core audience.

12. UX Design Weekly

There’s not really any doubt who UX Design Weekly is targeted at. User Experience Designers, coders, User Interface Architects, Digital Media Specialists and more broadly, people who build the front-end of the web.

Similar to Dave Pell’s Next Draft, UX Design Weekly is a regularly issued newsletter of links from around the web. In keeping with the design focus, UX Design Weekly makes use of white space, consistency, and brevity.

Broken up into sections using a simple colour scheme ‘Articles’, ‘Tools & Resources’, ‘Media’ etc, each curated link is coloured in the same electric green of the brand logo with a brief text description in a soft, easy to read grey.

While the taste might not suit everyone, UX Design Weekly knows it’s audience. It closes out with a quote from respected art director Dan Mall, and the footer offers options from sponsorship and job posting to following on Twitter. There’s also a heart emoji used to personalise a fairly impersonal newsletter.

As we close this one out, it’s also worth noting the subject line. Three tantalizing tidbits squeezed into a small space.

  1. Interaction Design is Dead: This seems like big news for anyone involved in UX.
  2. iOS 10 Lockscreen UX: iPhone’s iOS is incredibly influential in User Experience and Design. The lock screen represents a new space to build on.
  3. Obvious Always Wins: Like the newsletter itself, UX loves clarity and obviousness.

UX Design Weekly’s newsletter combines minimalist curation with a deep understanding of their audience to produce an excellent and eye-catching newsletter.

13. Buffer

Buffer is an app and web service that helps people and companies better coordinate and manage their social media platforms through a single, user-friendly interface.

The sender ‘Kevan from Buffer’ is Kevan Lee, Director of Marketing. Dropping the surname makes the email personal while retaining Buffer’s brand awareness.

The subject line also name checks another popular web service, Shopify. Both services are about delivering content on the web, so there’s definitely a cross section of interests for Buffer’s audience of about 3 million plus users.

Like some other newsletters, Buffer’s tone is super friendly and personal. There’s no header logo, but the team manages to keep Buffer front and center by colouring and highlighting the word in their initial ‘Happy weekend’ greeting.

Kevan loves exclamation points. While three in as many sentences might seem a bit extreme for some of us, he’s addressing social media managers, marketers and others involved in the world of Facebook, Instagram and other high energy focused mediums.

There’s even an invitation to hit reply and email Kevan back in the opening address. Like all great social media experts, the copy is brief, paragraphs short, and the message is warm, open and personal.

An image quote separates Kevan’s address from the curated links, that include a list of articles from relevant sites around the internet (including Buffer).

What’s your favorite?

Have I missed an email newsletter you love? Let me know in the comments below.

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