There is something decidedly old school about the intention and execution of podcasts—all timbre and narrative and toe-tapping theme songs—but their delivery is far from quaint. I wrote recently about what it feels like to live in a golden age of podcasts. It’s kind of this weird marriage of old and new, right? Podcasts aren’t quite analog and they aren’t quite digital; they instead live somewhere in that murky, fecund grey area of the middle of the Venn diagram between the two.
Email newsletters feel the same to me. Their conceit is straight up medieval, when you think about it: the idea of someone I have never met emailing me a raft of links to newsworthy stories, headlines, and relevant longreads is some real town crier circa 16th century shit. But, again, it’s their delivery that modernizes them: straight to my email inbox on a weekly/biweekly basis for $free.99, like an ICYMI round-up extravaganza overflowing with diverse links, gifs, jpegs, tweets, and screenshots.
Email newsletters are having a moment, and there’s one for almost every wheelhouse. They’ve become so popular, in fact, that Lena Dunham announced just a couple of weeks ago that she is starting one called Lenny, which I promptly subscribed to. Along with this and TheSkimm (which reads like an overenthusiastic Mom trying too hard to impress her millennial daughter wrote it), I’m subscribed to four other personal newsletters, all of which happen to be written by females (I know there’s newsletters out there written by guys, but they just haven’t found their way to me yet) but none of which you would regret subscribing to yourself, regardless of your gender.
Widely considered the email newsletter that other email newsletters want to be when they grow up, The Ann Friedman Weekly is curated and sent out by, surprise, Ann Friedman (AKA 50% of the podcast Call Your Girlfriend) on Fridays. Though, I recommend saving them for Saturday mornings when the Internet is a barren wasteland and you need something to do while eating your breakfast/persevering through your hangover. Ann consistently includes pro-equality, dynamic, enlightening, and completely unproblematic content, not to mention some pretty killer gifs.
Emma Roller’s Friday newsletter Some Bullshit is like the teenage version of The Ann Friedman Weekly: less links and content, but you can tell it’s really gonna be something someday. I’d say it’s a solid primer for TAFW, which has been known to cause internet browsers everywhere to just throw their hands up in defeat over the sheer number of tabs open. So What, Who Cares? by Lisa Schmeiser comes Mondays, Wednesdays, AND Fridays because obviously Lisa Schmeiser cares a lot. As opposed to the “I’m going to bombard you with links on every possible important topic under the sun” approach, Lisa instead focuses on one specific issue and goes with the “if there’s a horse somewhere, I’m going to beat it to death” approach. That’s not to say that the newsletters are overwrought and tiresome, quite the opposite: never have I ever felt so thoroughly informed on gender contamination than after Volume 2, Issue 97 of her newsletter. And lastly, there’s Liz Galvao’s WEIRD PERSONAL EMAILS, which is everything you never knew you wanted to know about “weird things [Liz] saw on the street in New York, unsettling social interactions, feminist rages, pop culture [she’s] consuming, stuff [she] made, rants, confessions, and/or pictures of [her] cat.” Here is a screenshot to show you just how eponymously WEIRD and PERSONAL these emails are:
Sometimes I think it’s a little strange that I apparently trust these people I have never met to be my quantent (quality content) guides through the increasingly overgrown swamp of information that is the internet in 2015. Sometimes I get pangs of jealousy, because I wish I could be cool and entitled and discerning enough to have my own email newsletter. But then I have to remind myself that this is what these women actually do: they are journalists, internet personalities, bloggers, and writers. I imagine they spend probably at least 80% of their days in front of a computer, feverishly bookmarking links for their next newsletter. They have finessed their careers into this offshoot as modern-day town criers because they can. I rely on my email newsletters to keep me in the loop, like a peasant relied on those weird little men wearing pantaloons shouting about the most recent beheadings and tithes in the town square. Email newsletters feel old-fashioned because, at their core, they are old-fashioned, and I think that’s why they work.