The best news email knows mobile, adds voice

What do effective news headlines emails have in common? First of all, they’re mobile in design and content. Here’s a daily email received yesterday from the New York Times:

mobile NYT email

This email arrived at 4:43 a.m., when I’m still about four hours from a laptop encounter. How could this headlines email perform better for mobile? Start with the subject line — this version teases only one story, so it’s a single-shot opportunity to grab a reader who’s thumbing through all the early morning messages. Next, look at all that navigation taking up valuable screen space. The navigation narrates the static departmental structure of the institution rather than engaging the reader, and the links don’t work on mobile. And that big CUSTOMIZE? It goes to a page designed for the desktop. Finally, as the user scrolls through the ~12 screens of content, nearly every story has a thumbnail image, many of which are extraneous or tough to parse at that size.

[tweetable hashtags=”#news”]This email feels like a missed opportunity for what’s arguably the strongest brand in news.[/tweetable] Why not optimize for mobile readers who are likely stumbling to their first cup of coffee? There’s a second, larger opportunity to add editorial voice to this message. Don’t give me a laundry list of the entire Times — I’ll get that on a tablet or laptop, later. Instead, tell me what someone smart about today’s news thinks I should be reading.

mobile quartz emailCompare the Times message with the same day’s Quartz weekend brief. There are four teasers in the subject line so if I’m not interested in global rebalancing, then maybe women on Wall Street? And the brief is built for mobile, with a clean, readable font.

This email projects a strong editorial voice. The New York Times leads by telling you about itself as an institution — in case you were wondering, here are all our editorial departments. Quartz engages you up from with a greeting and narrative in the second person that your high school English teacher taught you never to use. As you scroll, the links appear more naturally in the text, underscoring the idea that this was written by a human rather than a cut-and-paste of headlines. And it follows its own reporting with “Five links elsewhere that made us smarter.”

[tweetable hashtags=”#mobile”]Email isn’t dead. If anything, millennials are more plugged into email than ever[/tweetable] via savvy services like the Skimm or PolicyMic or even Upworthy. What’s different is the content strategy — the best email newsletters engage you early, can be read easily on mobile in an elevator or a Starbucks line, and have a voice that keeps you opening them, day after day.

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