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The makings of a successful tech newsletter

The makings of a successful tech newsletter

Newsletters never went away, but it is a medium that has had a renaissance over the last two years.

As Kerel Cooper noted in Ad Monster back in 2020, brands are finally catching up to what publishers were already doing in the newsletter space. It was something that Twitter noticed and was embracing with their short-lived integrated newsletter platform Revue.

However, after Elon Musk bought Twitter in October 2022, people who have the majority of their audience on the social media site, like me, started looking at other ways to stay connected to their audiences without having to start over again on another social media platform. This is where newsletters come in.

Here, my learnings on starting a newsletter, Git Cute, including choosing the right platform and creating content that engages audiences.

Choosing the right newsletter platform

When my newsletter — and by extension, the building of my audience — were in their infancy, I went through several platforms before landing on my current one: Beehiiv. The product you seek is subjective to your needs and depends on various general factors, such as content type and audience size.

Here’s a few other areas of consideration to help you get started:

1. Consider your audience's current size and how the platform will scale with your growth

Platforms will commonly have a paid tier available for you once your audience hits a maximum threshold for their free product, which you can leverage while you’re still in audience growth mode. Also, look for platforms that offer scalability and flexibility to accommodate your growth and evolving needs.

Deliverability rates and analytics features are crucial to the growth of your newsletter too — opt for one that ensures the high deliverability of your newsletters and provides comprehensive analytics to track the performance of each issue or future newsletter marketing campaign.

2. Evaluate the user interface and ease of use

It’s also important to make sure this is a platform you feel comfortable (and enjoy) using every day. For example, when I was looking for a home for the Git Cute newsletter, I wanted one with an easy-to-navigate user interface and a simple way for you to create and manage your newsletters. Integration capabilities are also necessary.

3. Consider the available templates and design options

If design is something that you do not want to spend a lot of time customizing, having those capabilities out of the box is massive.

When searching for a platform, choose an option that offers a wide range of choices. Customizable templates that match your brand and help you create visually appealing newsletters are something to focus on.

4. Assess the cost and pricing structure of the platform

Compare the features with the pricing plans to determine the best value for your budget. I suggest always starting with the free plan and only upgrading when you begin making income or reach the audience threshold.

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Creating (compelling) newsletter content

If you want to create an effective newsletter, plan it out! Here’s a few places to start:

1. Set goals

Begin by researching your target audience and understanding their demographics, interests, and needs. This information will help you tailor your content to resonate with them. It's also essential to set clear goals for your newsletter. Start by asking a couple of questions:

  1. What point do I want to get across to my readers?
  2. What will make my readers forward this along to friends to share information?

For example, my goal for the Git Cute newsletter is to keep my audience up-to-date on the status of projects and my life as it pertains to my job once a week and also cute interactive sections such as programming trivia or coding examples. Plus, once you know your audience and goals, writing engaging content will become easier.

2. Get creative

As a writer, you should create catchy titles and headlines that encourage readers to open and read your newsletter. I decided to use song titles for my newsletter so it won't get lost among potential spam emails, and it then lets the reader make the connection that song lyrics mean a Git Cute newsletter. Organize your content logically, using subheadings, bullet points, and visuals to make it more scannable and appealing.

Remember that finding a template and aesthetic for your newsletter is iterative, and you should consider your audience's feedback.

With Beehiiv, the newsletter platform I use, I made a template that I go back to use for every newsletter to ensure that all issues are consistent. You can enhance the newsletter's appeal by incorporating visuals such as images, infographics, or videos you made on Canva. In the beginning issues, I used a banner that I made with the newsletter's title for the week, but as I kept writing, it wasn't bringing much to the style of the newsletter, so I removed it. Remember that finding a template and aesthetic for your newsletter is iterative, and you should consider your audience's feedback.

3. Focus on quality and consistency

Before sending the newsletter, proofread and edit thoroughly to ensure error-free, coherent content. I use a combination of sending it to a select group of friends to read through the newsletter and Grammarly.

Tracking the newsletter's performance through metrics such as open rates, click-through rates, and engagement can help you refine your content strategy and optimize future newsletters for better results.

Building a newsletter: What I've learned thus far

Through the process of writing a newsletter, I have gained so many valuable insights and am fortunate to have learned several important lessons. Here’s a few to highlight:

  1. I discovered the significance of consistency. Maintaining a regular publishing schedule builds trust with readers and helps establish a loyal audience.
  2. I understood the significance of producing engaging and valuable content. By understanding my audience and their preferences, I provided them with insightful information that resonated with them.
  3. I learned the power of storytelling. By weaving personal anecdotes or real-life examples into my newsletters, I created a connection with readers and made the content more relatable.
  4. I came to understand how important feedback can be. Actively seeking feedback from readers allowed me to improve my writing, understand their preferences, and address any concerns. There are even a few newsletters that I read that manage to give technical and entertaining advice very well.

Writing a newsletter has been a journey of growth and learning, teaching me valuable lessons that I can apply to future endeavors.

Jocelyn is a Java advocate and a senior software engineer. She's the author of Git Cute: A Software Engineer's Guide to Seniority and host of Git Cute Podcast.
She's passionate about Java, scalability, full scale testing, automating deployments, and diversity and inclusion within our tech community.