How to Create an Engaging Newsletter for Your Membership Site

A 2012 survey indicated that the average click-through rate for email newsletters is about 20 percent. But that doesn’t mean 20 percent get read.

Newsletters can be snoozy, irrelevant, and, consequently, left untouched or unfinished.

But, if done right, a newsletter is an opportunity to continually build connections with users. It is a way to communicate with everyone and keep subscribers in the loop regarding your site. And it’s cheaper than other methods!

So, how do you as a site owner create newsletter emails subscribers want to read? What makes you stand out from the others?

Fantastically enough, many of the same principles we discussed in our recent blog on writing killer welcome emails applies to creating an engaging newsletter:

  1. Come up with a straightforward and interesting subject line.
  2. Also keep the body of your email straightforward and interesting.
  3. Offer incentives and benefits. (In a newsletter, the main benefit is needed knowledge, but you can also add a call-to-action, like a free download or an invitation to sign up for a social platform.)
  4. Use images.

And be sure to review our blog on welcome emails for specifics.

However, unlike with a welcome email, what to tell your subscribers is not so obvious. You aren’t welcoming them, so what do you say?  

When composing newsletters, include recent updates, promotions, relevant blog articles, and information that will interest your community of subscribers.

So what is interesting to subscribers? And what is important to just you? What makes news newsworthy? In the journalism world, there is a saying: “A dog biting a man isn’t news. A man biting a dog is news.”

These six principles of journalism can help you create newsletter content that engages your subscribers.


Keep subscribers up to date on things local to them. If it’s happening in China, it may not be as interesting as if it’s happening twenty miles from home. This includes updates or changes to your site, because that’s happening in their own home, or really, inside the screen they’re holding in their hands.


Be sure to send out regularly scheduled newsletters. Something that happened a year ago isn’t necessarily timely (though it may be in some cases). Consider doing weekly or monthly newsletters.

When something big happens, let subscribers know about it right away. Even if you have regularly scheduled newsletters, it is okay to send out news quickly for the sake of timeliness. Use caution, though—an update to the look of your site is not an urgent matter. A big PR issue definitely is.


How much does what you’re writing about impact your subscribers? A new update to the site or a change in the flow of things directly impacts them.

If it’s important to you, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s important to them. For instance, if you just hit a million subscribers, so what?  Why should they care? However, if you just hit a million subscribers and you are going to hand out free Disneyland tickets to five of your subscribers in celebration of the growth you’ve seen, it is impactful.


Are there any important or famous people involved with your site? Did Taylor Swift just join and say “Nobody’s going to love it like me-e-e.” That’s prominence and will make for an attention-getting newsletter.


Use caution with this one. You aren’t developing a news platform, so getting involved in political or social conflicts could do more harm than good unless your membership site is political.

If you do decide to use conflict, and you use it wisely, it can be a real draw for readers. For instance, you could include a call-to-action that requires differentiating opinions—for example, a voting poll to change the color of your site would create conflict. A survey that requires others to weigh in with varying opinions is also a common newsletter-email inclusion.

Human Interest

If it’s weird, sweet, tender, or sad, it fits within the human-interest category. If your membership site helped someone in need, that’s the type of thing that appeals to human interest.

If you have a blog, you might include a few recent stories in your newsletter. Say you host a weight-loss membership site. The story of one individual’s journey to be healthy may hold more human interest than a story about five thousand people improving their health (but include the statistic too). Human-interest news pulls at our heartstrings.

Those are the six principles of journalism. The New York Times uses them, and so can you. A newsletter isn’t too small to be engaging.

With only 20 percent opening newsletters and even fewer reading them, writing an engaging newsletter may seem a daunting task. But you can do it.

Remember these six principles and find greater success:

  • Proximity
  • Timeliness
  • Impact
  • Prominence
  • Conflict
  • Human Interest

And don’t forget to use images, to have a straightforward subject line, and to offer a call to action.

Have you found success in creating newsletters? Do you have any concerns about creating great newsletters? Please let us know in the comments below.

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Categories: Emails How To
About Michelle Carpenter

Amy Michelle Carpenter co-owns a 3D printing business called STEM Garage. She is a national blogger, YA editor, and professional marketer. She also teaches children in China at 4 in the morning because she thinks its fun.