Categories
Productivity Project Writing

How I Curate my Newsletter

Behind the scenes of how I curate my newsletter. A look into the systems and processes behind publishing a weekly newsletter

Sometime in mid-2021, I came to know about the idea of the curator economy and I realised its immense potential in an era where we are struggling with our attention span. I wanted to create and contribute something to the curator economy space and started a newsletter called 10+1 Things, a curated newsletter sharing 11 interesting things catered for generalists. It started as a personal project to keep me on track and commit to a routine, but fast-forward to 2022, the newsletter has close to 2000 subscribers with excellent engagement. As the newsletter started to grow and gain some attention, I’ve been getting constant queries from people around the world inquiring about how I curate my newsletter. I thought of describing my process in this blog post so that it can beneficial to others who want to pursue something similar.

The Structure

Before I start explaining my process, it is important to discuss the structure of my newsletter. I’ve structured my newsletter in such a way that it explores some key areas/topics that I’m exploring in my life and during the week. Every edition of my newsletter follows this structure (it has evolved a bit over time) as described below:

  • ✍️An article on my blog: The first link is generally a blog post on this blog. This structure forces me to write at least once every week. This also acts as a funnel for building an audience on my personal blog. Some articles like this one have been picked by major publications like Hustle!
  • 🌍Climate/Sustainability: I care a lot about climate change and sustainability. Thus I read a lot of articles in this space and share one article surrounding this topic every week.
  • 📚Books: I try to read at least one book every week although this often results in having multiple books to read parallelly. But I love exploring new books every week and thus a new book is shared every week
  • 🧵Thread: Twitter is the only social media I’m active on and I’m a fan of amazing Twitter threads. Threads do an excellent job in distilling complex information into bite-sized tweets and I actively look for interesting tweets throughout the week. My long-term plan is to write at least one Twitter thread every week, but at the moment it is not sustainable for me and thus I share threads published by other people every week.
  • 👩‍🎨Artist: I love art and would love to be known as an artist in the future. This means I would need to actively explore other people’s artworks. I share one art project that I’ve been exploring every week.
  • 🎬Video: I consume a lot of video content on YouTube/Vimeo every week and try to share some interesting videos every week. This part keeps me mindful about consuming meaningful content and trust me it’s quite hard!
  • 🧪️Science: I try to share some new advancements in Science like a new invention by researchers or new technology.
  • 💡Original Thoughts: This is usually the last and the 11th section of the newsletter and explores an original thought I’m having or some experiment I did. I find a lot of joy in writing this part of the newsletter and some originals like the newsletter strike system were shared by Recomendo!
  • 🔗Other 3 Links: Other 3 links are usually quirky or interesting stories or information that I discovered during the week. These links usually have the most engagement in my newsletter.
  • 📣Shoutouts: I actively look for cross-promotions with other writers to grow my newsletter. This section includes such shoutouts with a one-liner written by me. Sometimes I include some classified links as well but this section is restricted to a maximum of 3 links a week.
  • 💬Quote: I also share an interesting quote I’ve read throughout the week.

This structure has been consistent for the last couple of months in my newsletter and I’ve tweaked this after studying data and feedback from users. This consistent structure allows me to define a process to curate this new letter every week.

The Sources

Sharing 11 new things every week is no joke and required a lot of passive effort from my end. This commits me to be aware and mindful of the content I’m consuming and seek out interesting things surrounding the structure of my newsletter. My main information sources for my newsletter are:

  • Newsletters: Newsletters are my major source of information. I subscribe to at least 50+ newsletters and try to keep my inbox clean by spending 30 minutes every day. I follow a process called the newsletter strike system such that my inbox is never full of any junk information. Some of my favourite newsletters are Farnam Street, Recomendo, Design Lobster, Uncharted Territories, David Perell, Sunday Snippets by Ali Abdaal and more!
  • Reddit: I like to explore the rabbit holes of information on Reddit and sometimes I find very interesting articles from there.
  • Hacker News: I really love the Hacker News community and find a lot of interesting content that I’ve never seen on the internet there.
  • Twitter: Twitter also sometimes help me to find interesting threads and sources of information. Whenever I read something interesting on Twitter, I research more and usually find interesting content while following the trail!
  • YouTube/Video: I trust YouTube’s recommendation engine to bring me interesting videos every week, even though it has failed multiple times. The only way is to tweak your feed by sending the ‘not interested’ feedback back to the system. I also closely follow Vimeo’s editors’ picks for interesting documentaries and short films.
  • Recommendation Engines: Sample and Refind are the two recommendation engines that help me find new content and newsletter writers. Sample sends a new newsletter every day for me to explore and Refind sends a list of interesting articles on the topics that I’ve subscribed to!
  • Art Websites: I subscribe to many art websites especially photography magazines, so I’m introduced to various contemporary and fine art projects.

Having an extensive list of information sources is easy, but being organized and disciplined about consuming content is the hardest part. Irrespective of the source of information, the ultimate beauty of curations lies within the curator.

If you’re interested, check out 10+1 Things: A weekly newsletter finely curated by me featuring 11 interesting things to feature your curiosity. Check out the Archive!

The System

It is quite important to have a proper system to collect and store the articles and information that I’ve explored using the data sources mentioned in the previous section. Some articles I find are mostly long-form and I collect them such that I can read them later. I’ve seen others selling, sharing and using complex systems built on Notion, Spreadsheets or custom software to track the link. But for me personally, lists work perfect me and I like to have everything in one space available locally at my disposal. I use Obsidian as my only personal knowledge management system and everything I read, consume and study is on it available locally and synced to my iCloud.

How I curate my newsletter
A snapshot of my Link Repository

I’ve various notes in the newsletter section of my Second Brain (aka personal knowledge management system!) where I store links as and when I find them. The notes I use in my system are:

  • Link Repository: This is where all interesting stories that I find go. All links are added at the top such that the latest ones are available at the top. I add a small text to identify the article followed by a link to it. This serves as the main source for curating content for my newsletter.
  • Art Projects: Every art project I’ve come across goes into this section.
  • Twitter Threads: Whenever I see an interesting Twitter thread, it goes in this note.
  • Videos: When I watch an interesting video and I feel like it resonates with my audience, it is added here.
  • Originals: Any original thought or an idea goes here so that I can refer it back at a later point in time for writing in my newsletter.
  • Quotes: All interesting quotes that I read are added here. These are usually picked up from ReadWise.
  • Misc: I also use some other notes for maintaining my newsletter. I also have a working document for the latest edition. a list of newsletter upgrades that I want to do in the future, a note track cross-promotion commitments and more.

As explained earlier, the process is simple. Every time I read something interesting, I copy the link and collect it on the corresponding note. Since Obsidian is synced to my iCloud I can use it on my laptop or on my phone.

The Process

The whole process of curation to publishing is mentioned in the following sections:

Curation

The skeleton I use for drafting.

I use Obsidian itself to draft my newsletter in markup language as I’m quite comfortable with it and is not distractive. I’ve got a skeleton template that I use to draft new editions every week. This follows the structure of my newsletter and allows me to add various content that is relevant for the upcoming edition from the link repository and other sources. By the weekend I would’ve finalized all the titles and content that I’m planning to send in the upcoming week. Once the sections are finalized and frozen, I start to write summaries on every section by researching more and verifying the credibility of the article or information, over the weekend or by Monday. I finish writing a draft of the newsletter in Obsidian.

Once I finish the draft, I finalise a title for the newsletter. Usually, I try to add some numbers in the title eg: 40 Concepts or 13 Maps as this results in the most engagement and the link opens. All links are added with a UTM tag suffix with my newsletter link. I finalize the title and add necessary tags such that related notes are linked in Obsidian.

Formatting

Editing on Hemingway editor. I try to achieve a readability score of 9 or less!

Once the draft is ready, it is copied to Hemingway Editor for readability and grammar check using the Grammarly Plugin. Hemingway editor ensures that sentences are not complicated and readability is okayish. I tweak some changes as per the recommendation by the service and make necessary changes to the grammar as per the recommendations by Grammarly. I also use WordTune for finding synonyms or tweaking any particular sentence to make it simple.

Publishing

After all formatting, the content is copied and pasted to the Substack editor for final formatting. I add buttons with corresponding links, spacers between titles and headings with H2 size. I use an emoji plugin to add an emoji related to each title to make the newsletter more appealing to the eyes. I add the current edition number as a subheading with the place of publishing with the temperature and also an indication of weather with an emoji.

Once all formatting is done, I send a test edition to my own mailbox and cross-read it on my iPhone and laptop to cross-check for any errors or spelling mistakes. Once everything is aligned, the newsletter is scheduled to go out on 5.30 AM IST on Wednesdays! I’ve tweaked the timings and I found this best in terms of engagement considering the time zones of readers spanning across different continents.

Once the newsletter is published, usually after 7-8 hours I share the link on Reddit and Twitter for additional visibility.

The Grind

The system explained in this blog post is one that I’ve tweaked and finalized over a year. What works for me might not work for you and it is important to find an ideal system that is frictionless. The system evolves over time as I study the engagement and analyze more data. Irrespective of the system in place, my life has changed after curating this newsletter. Even though drafting this takes close 4-5 hours every week, the newsletter is in making throughout the week. I try to publish the best version every week and there is no doubt that this newsletter has made 1% better every week if not every day!

Do you have a newsletter? What system do you use? I’m curious to know more.

Enjoyed this article? If so, check out my 10+1 Things Newsletter that I send out every Saturday. It contains 11 interesting Things I thought were worth sharing including books,articles, projects, and other things I'm curious about. Click here if you would like to check out the previous issues and may be subscribe! 

3 replies on “How I Curate my Newsletter”

This was really insightful. I have been trying to work out how to make my 2nd blog/newsletter separate from my main blog. I already use Obsidian and capture blog posts I’ve read, what I have watched etc. You have inspired me to use my second platform as more of a weekly round-up, thank you.

Thanks a lot Susan for the feedback! Please ping me if you need any help in optimizing your newsletter! 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.