How Long is Too Long?

The 9AM deluge.

It hits me every Monday-Friday. The post-coffee/caffeine hangover? Nope. The post-lunch blues? Nope, not that either. It's the onslaught of the newsletters I get between 9AM and 10AM every day. In fact, a few months ago, I tweeted such:

What gets me to open those newsletters?

That's the eternal question for email marketers, and it's not what this story is about. What this story is about is my love for one newsletter in particular and a random thought about its (seemingly) abnormal length.

MailChimp UX Newsletter

love getting the MailChimp UX newsletter in my inbox. When I see it pop up, I read it immediately. The times that I don't read it immediately, well, let's just say that I haven't had my coffee yet that day and am not making smart decisions.

And the MailChimp UX Newsletter is all about making smart decisions. The newsletter covers various aspects of the UX world, sharing stories and expertise from those people who bring you MailChimp. The most recent email – Issue 21 – covers the topic of "Teams", including anything from how to hire staff to the workflow and idea generation that works for the MailChimp UX team.

Does Size Matter?

So let's get to the point of this already! Does the length of a newsletter matter?

The newsletter presents a conundrum for us email marketers: What length is too long? At roughly 2800 words, Issue 21 of the MailChimp UX Newsletter is about 118 times longer than the average Tweet. I recently watched a MarketingProfs class on writing for the web in which the presenter talked about the ideal word count for a landing page be 200-250 words. So is 2800 for an email newsletter too long?

Here are some thoughts on why the 2800-word newsletter works:

Relevance.

Everything about this newsletter is about UX; from the name of the newsletter, to the audience it attracts, and to the topics covered within. The most recent newsletter focused on "Teams" with the main topics being

  • "Building a UX Team"
  • "Easy to Hire, Hard to Fire"
  • "Respect"
  • "Autonomy"
  • "Parallel Cycles"
  • "Create a Culture of Empathy"
  • "Tell Stories"

All of these topics are not just relevant to the UX field, but to many other creative/technical fields. Much of the writing and topic focus hit home for me as a jack-of-all-trades in the corporate world, generally outside the UX field.

Attention-getting.

If this was a standard newsletter, the content would probably have a short introduction paragraph followed by the headline items of the newsletter. In the case of the MailChimp UX Newsletter, the content of each section could even have been separate blogs posts on a UX blog.

I believe, however, that the current long-form iteration of the newsletter keeps the reader focused on the content at hand instead of distracting the reader by taking them to another page with potentially distracting content.

Single Thought.

Following up the last point, the newsletter presents a single, coherent message. Contrary to having several separate blog posts on similar topics, the newsletter presents a unified message created from several distinct ideas. In the example issue above, the overall focus is on your team at work with the deeper dives coming through the individual focus on topics like autonomy and Easy to Hire, Hard to Fire.

Conclusion

In my humble opinion, I believe the long-form newsletter works for the MailChimp UX Team. It keeps my attention, it has a singular focus, and it doesn't offer any distraction from its main message.

Would it work for you or your clients? Hard for me to say.

What I would tell you is this: If you want to hit home on a single idea and keep the attention of your reader, this is a pretty darn good format to steal. 

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