Newsletter writers are cursed.
All writers are, really.
We face the daunting burden of knowing what we know.
Don’t get me wrong.
It’s a gift and a curse.
The gift is in the drive and ability to effectively communicate a thought your readers will value. We have the power to educate and empower—to change lives—with carefully crafted words and phrases.
The curse is our inability to experience our content the way our reader might, without knowing what we know.
Even the best writers are challenged when it comes to adopting the mindset of a reader: to imagine former, less informed versions of themselves encountering the words the present tense version has used to express an idea.
If you recall your grammar lessons, there was a word that meant “a thing or event that existed before or logically precedes another.” I associate it with figuring out who or what a pronoun is referring to in a complex sentence or paragraph. That word is “antecedent.”
Today, though, I urge you to think about it in terms of what you might be projecting unintentionally on your reader. What assumptions are you making that you really shouldn’t?
It’s fair to assume that if you serve a niche audience, they may have some basic understanding of a particular industry. And that you can safely use their vernacular or colloquialisms (aka “write in their language”).
But beyond writing for someone who is not you and therefore could get lost in your words because you’ve assumed too much of them, newsletter writers face an additional challenge: we have thoughtfully created and sent every issue of our newsletters to date and can too easily imagine our subscribers have read them all—and closely.
Reality check: 99% of your readers haven’t.
This could be their first issue.
Or they might have subscribed months ago, but they tend to skim.
Or they started to read one issue really closely, but then they got a text from their mom so they dropped off.
Your job is to write in a way that serves each of these people and their potentially limited attention spans.
Your job is also to not make them feel guilty that they have no clue what brilliant point you made in issue 5 that you’re now building on in issue 23.
Help them navigate back to that point if you want to reference it.
Give them the antecedents they need.
Read your copy and imagine this is the first issue of your newsletter you’ve ever seen.
Then ask someone else to give it fresh eyes.
Don’t trust that you can actually unknow what you know.
Revise until there is no unanswered question your words should have addressed to make the point as clear as possible.
And then, give yourself grace when someone responds and asks the question you thought you answered.
Now, onto this week’s issue. I’ve rounded up some content for both the advanced newsletter creators and those just starting the journey. My prologue was inspired by How and why writers should avoid ‘the curse of knowledge’ included in this week’s Writing section.
New Contently Report Says Buyers Trust Brands More Than News; 69% Surveyed Subscribe To Brand Newsletters
At the start of January, Contently surveyed 1,072 Americans to find out their content marketing preferences. Their 2021 Contently Report: What Buyers Want From Content Marketing is now available.
“According to our research, 69 percent of respondents are subscribed to multiple brand newsletters. About 21 percent aren’t subscribed to any.”
“A clear majority of U.S. adults (63 percent) now trust brands more than traditional media outlets. In isolation, this is good news for marketers. But it also may be bad news for the civic health of the country.”
The main takeaway?
“The companies that stand out find unique ways to add value to people’s lives. They connect with a distinct voice and emphasize helpful guidance over promotional tactics.”
Discovered via UpContent.
Related: Check out this opinion piece that calls influencer marketing a $10 billion placebo (because people also don’t trust influencers as much as real people).
24 CMOs On How They Spend On Demand Gen
Check out what these CMOs prioritize when it comes to their demand gen budgets. This is both an article and a podcast.
Spoiler: The top 3 are
Avoid “The Curse Of Knowledge”
Roy Peter Clark’s writing about writing really has my wheels spinning. Aside from formal training, I think many of the best writers have a bit of a 6th sense about what they want to do and how to do it. It’s a blessing, then, when someone comes along who can explain how to make those decisions in your writing.
“When I think about the experience of reading good writing, I return again and again to the parable of the gold coins, introduced to me by my friend and mentor Don Fry. Imagine you are walking down a forest path and come upon a gold coin. You pick it up and put it in your pocket. You walk a mile and find another. Most walkers would keep walking until they are sure the gold coins have run out.
So it is with reading a story. It may open with a gold coin, but can you be assured of more? Or have you experienced a kind of bait and switch, where a sparkling anecdote drew you in only to lead you down a path of boredom, with no more rewards in sight?”
He provides some great insights into overcoming your curse of knowledge and creating a path of gold coins for your readers. The detectorist in me loves this analogy.
Editorial SEO Tips
Elizabeth Lefelstein explains the benefits of SEO pros teaching editorial writers some SEO basics and provides 7 lessons in this article. Why do this?
“It transitions the responsibilities of SEO professionals from a reactive clean-up after the post goes live into proactive work on advanced SEO strategies (since the editorial teams have got your back on the foundational elements).”
“It puts more power into the hands of the journalist to help market their content to new audiences who wouldn’t otherwise discover it.”
Adopting A Newsletter-first Approach, Building Paywalls, And Addressing Big Tech Woes
- How a Polish newsroom developed a loyal audience by going “newsletter first”
- Lawmakers want to empower publishers to collectively negotiate with Facebook
- What the pandemic means for paywalls
- Paying for news: Newspaper revenue really started to collapse well over a decade ago, and we've been discussing what to do about it for almost as long
- UK media 'in denial' about racism, say Black journalists
- Retailers drive revenue with email. So can publishers
Don’t Dismiss Sponsorships. They’re “Not Boring”
Jake Singer of Swapstack explains why Packy McCormick’s goal of hitting $1M for his newsletter Not Boring isn’t so far-fetched.
“Not Boring has bucked the trend of subscription everything and instead is designed to be supported by ads. In an ironic twist, Substack—ostensibly Not Boring’s publisher—will receive exactly $0 from Packy’s work so long as he resists the temptation to turn on the paywall.”
Scroll down to the Business Model heading to get into the nitty gritty.
Lessons From Attempting To Buy A Newsletter
The team at Grow Getters share their tale of trying to buy a newsletter. If this is something you’re looking to do, you might be able to bypass a few hurdles by reading their story.
The Newsletter Fest Speaker List Is Heating Up
Seth really outdid himself with the speaker promo video for Newsletter Fest. Check out who’s joining us and register for sessions at this FREE ONLINE EVENT.
We’d love to have you attend April 12 -16. Be sure to check out the event site and subscribe to the Newsletter Fest Newsletter to receive updates as this event draws near.
Psst! We’d be extra thankful if you’d share this event on social media for us. Here’s a link to some promo videos you can use.
ICYMI: We now have a Curated Public Product Roadmap! Check out our recent releases and what’s up next.
Opt In Challenge
Master Dark Mode
Alice Li’s Guide to Dark Mode for Email Marketers sheds light on going dark. Your challenge this week is to make sure your emails look good in dark mode.
Like this newsletter?
Let me know. Reply, email me at Ashley[at]optinweekly.com, or find me on LinkedIn to hit me with some feedback. I’d love to know what you think.
Also, I’d appreciate it if you shared it with fellow email newsletter creators. All archived issues will be available on OptInWeekly.com, so you can send them the link to check it out.
Have a great week sending, y’all.
Thanks for reading,