On Feb. 14, 2020, we sent New Orleans a valentine: a clean, friendly and useful newsletter unlike any other in the city.
Previously, New Orleans Public Radio audience was receiving a busy, graphics-heavy and often repetitive programming newsletter. We believed a NEWSletter, emphasis on news, would better serve and engage the more than 11,000 people subscribed.
We decided our newsletter should offer everything you need to know to live in and around the city — the news, things to do and the weather report. We included space for a literal snapshot of New Orleans life and, for good measure, an ask for support with a big, bright donation button. Crucially, we decided each newsletter would open with a note from the editor, giving it a voice and giving us a place to talk directly to the audience.
We redesigned with these things in mind, promoted the sign-up page on our homepage and social media, and with a note of explanation, we sent the first one out.
The “why” of a newsletter seems simple on its face. It delivers the news. But when it’s done right, it does much more than that.
Our newsletter tells you everything you need to know, drawing from other news organizations as well as our own. It presents news in order of importance and in a voice we like to think of as your cool, smart friend. And while some of the clicks will go to other newsrooms, we establish our newsletter as the product that will not only round it all up for you but do some of the work of processing it. It establishes us as a primary news source.
It also acts as a direct line between us and our audience. We solicit their questions, which we later answer, and we ask our own questions, sometimes for fun and sometimes to guide our reporting. Readers can reach an editor simply by replying to the newsletter and, to date, the editor has personally responded to each of them.
It’s also a crucial piece of the membership funnel. Newsletter readers tend to be in the middle of that funnel — where the top is infrequent readers and listeners and the bottom is members. When people sign up for a newsletter, it’s generally because they like that organization enough to invite it into their space. That’s our opportunity to turn like into love, and love turns into membership.