Much like Twitter in 2010 or emo Tumblr posts in 2009, the email newsletter really excited me in its earlier incarnations. But then, as more and more brands, writers, collectives, stores I’d accidentally given my email to for “a receipt” started vying for my inbox space and increasingly fractured attention, this particular form of digital delivery lost its luster. Suddenly someone was always trying to sell something or promote a sweepstakes to Tulum (to date, I have yet to win an exotic vacation). That aside, the proliferation of the concept started to feel played out. With many writers and Internet personalities curating newsletters, deciding what to pay attention became overwhelming. I already spent too much time on Twitter, did I need to receive links people tweeted hours before, simply with more lines of accompanying witty copy?
And yet, there are newsletters whose appearance still makes grab my attention, always slipping past “select all, send to trash.” Perhaps because of the increasing amount of digital clutter, those newsletters that stand out have become precious to me, like an old friend whose wisdom you seek even though you live on opposite coasts. In spite of the various news feeds rolling out content and the anxiety that can induce, I feel an attachment to the epistolary role of the newsletter.
Our inboxes may oversaturated, but the following newsletters take up welcome space. Some have takes ~so hot~ that I can’t bear to miss them, and their guaranteed delivery ameliorates FOMO on those days where I’m too busy to spend time on Twitter. Others approach the newsletter conceptually, creating art out of the very medium. A few are simply nice to look at. All are worth our time and the potential sacrifice of that ever elusive goal: Inbox Zero.
Next Draft by Dave Pell
Dave Pell is like the John Oliver of newsletters. His aggregation of links and witty commentary never fail to elicit audible snorts. Though funny, Pell knows how and when to be serious, and unfortunately has had to be more often than one would hope in a year riddled with exceedingly high gun violence. Similar to John Oliver, I’m admittedly biased towards his opinions, for example: “Mississippi is one of the latest states to push through a bill that will limit gay rights. But at least a U.S. District judge just overturned the state’s ban on gay adoption. Yes, they still had such a law. And yes, it’s 2016.”
Everything about Pell’s newsletter keeps me reading daily, from sharp subject lines to the relatable persona that punctuates the news to the FOMO I feel if I don’t. His commitment to consistency—both in delivery and maintaining one of the funniest “bottom of the news” sections I’ve ever read—is admirable.
Grief Bacon by Helena Fitzgerald
Have you ever cried in public? Me too, almost regularly, and writer Helena Fitzgerald’s newsletter which purports to elicit just this has had such an effect on me. There’s a lot of feelings. Exploring the intersection of New York City, literature, and the Internet, the stories hone in on the characters you may have conjured up in the greater New York-themed lore in your head. To receive words directly to your inbox from the prolific writer adds an intimacy that complements her striking prose and storytelling abilities.
Justin Wolfe’s Thank You Notes
Any expression of gratitude is welcome in a space usually relegated to people selling or asking for things. But the notes are more of a vehicle for exploring the usage of “thank you” to tell stories and describe the minutiae of Wolfe’s daily interactions. Each is a work of art unto itself, exploring the repetitive exploration of an overused yet meaningful phrase as a linguistic tool. The stream of consciousness rabbitholes this leads to are trips worth following. It’s exploration for the sake of exploration, the very best kind.
Femsplainers newsletter is an eclectic mix of articles, resources and visuals. You’re as likely to find a job posting as you a GIF or screen shot of a funny tweet. The newsletter/outlet is geared towards women and gender nonconforming readers, which is more reason to share the news with friends of of ALL genders. The newsletter balances humor and more political, serious content well. The layout and nuances in design call to mind the power of the newsletter as piece of art. In this case the news comes from your highly creative friend with razor sharp wit and political inclinations.
David Byrne’s Mailing List
Though he’s one person I’d be more than ok with clogging my inbox, DB emails just infrequently enough that I almost forget I’m on his listserv. A prolific writer on everything from the arts to politics, any chance to be let into such a mind is a gift, it’s fun to briefly feel like David Byrne emailed you directly. Sometimes he lets subscribers in on new music and upcoming projects. A frequent world traveler with a dynamic perspective, he shares insightful write ups on some recent adventures he’s taken near and far. I fall for how quintessentially New York it all is; reading his musings on the spaces we inhabit and how he too adores the “face-to-face view of the diversity of humanity” is a privilege.
This beautiful newsletter is a visual gem. That’s something you can’t get on Twitter, and having this delivered to your your inbox is lovely when Instagram and Tumblr feel so visually overwhelming.
Thanks to Stella Spoils I’ve discovered many of my favorite Instagram accounts, and subsequently, favorite photographers. Stella Spoils dedicates itself to being a daily newsletter, you can’t get its content any other way.
The layout is simple: three Instagram accounts, a song (I also credit this listserv for off kilter music discoveries), and one article. Aside from my predilection for the curation, I find comfort in how it shows me beautiful things freed a newsfeed format. Much like the setup of a gallery powerfully alters one’s conception of artworks, the backdrop this newsletter provides for its content makes said content all the more striking and impactful.
Need Supply Co – Moments with Sunday
It’s rare that a retailer sends anything without any promotional materials, but each Sunday, Richmond based Need Supply Co does just that. Broken down into three features from their blog, I love everything about this newsletter, from the tone of the title to the minimal layout. On a day I normally eschew all things email related, I look forward to reading this, or at least flagging it for Monday afternoon
I credit their curation for some of the best discoveries I’ve made in design. The topics are wide ranging: Think inside looks into artist studios and a recent feature covering the women of Cinefamily, a group of filmmakers presenting a woman-focused program of films at LA’s historic silent movie theater. The travel photo diaries explore with an eye towards unconventional adventures: think the small, lesser heard of AntiParos island in Greece, or a tour of southern California concentrating on all those times of the year that aren’t Coachella.
Medium’s Daily Digest
Now that the platform is a behemoth it can fall victim to the echo chamber trappings of other platforms: You follow who you follow and wading through the rest can be overwhelming. Enter the Daily Digest. Medium has exceptional editorial talent, and the Staff Picks are always on point. This is a case where a newsletter serves an excellent purpose: elevating content that might otherwise get lost. It does a great job of leveraging the communal feel of Medium, showing me stories recommended by people I follow, as well as top reads in the various categories I care about. You can update your own newsletter preferences for a personalized experience.