I don’t know about you, but I feel like we’re in the middle of a newsletter renaissance. The newsletter format, which filled physical mailboxes back in the day and email inboxes at the turn of the millennium, feels delightfully old-fashioned. We live in a time packed with Instagram stories, Twitter thread updates and personal ideologies spread on Facebook. There’s a sense of immediate information and opinion output from the sources that we turn to on a regular basis.
But amidst all of these online updates, the newsletter is very noticeably making a comeback.
A lot of my favorite people on the internet are 240-character Twitter wordsmiths. I eat up their insights and pithy stories like delicious brain candy. Imagine my joy at the discovery that many of these same internet people (who I jokingly like to think of as “some of my best friends who don’t know I exist”) launched newsletters that could drop into my inbox on a regular basis. The brain candy of a quick tweet is now transformed into something more substantial for my mind and soul…something that feels much more like a light lunch spent laughing with a good friend.
Social media platforms provide a certain kind of immediacy, with rapid-fire responses to current events and daily goings-on. But a newsletter…that takes time, energy, thoughtfulness and planning that you can’t always get from your favorite internet personality’s social media feed.
Newsletters are lengthier, more personal, more curated. And, even though I know they’re often meticulously scheduled, I treat each one like a welcome surprise. They’re like little gifts of actual content scattered in between the endless Old Navy and Lush Cosmetics promotional emails that dominate my inbox.
There are plenty of great internet personalities with newsletters out there, but here are three of my personal favorites to get you started if you, too, wish to be part of the newsletter renaissance.
In the interest of transparency, I’ll admit that I’m a recent adopter of this particular newsletter. So I honestly don’t have the answer for the name…just trust me, it’s not exclusively a William Shatner vehicle.
This newsletter’s author, Daniel Ortberg is one of my favorite internet voices: at turns whimsical and introspective, Ortberg portrays a niche worldview on Twitter that I’ve appreciated for years. From random observations to personal stories about his trans identity to literary deep-cuts, there’s plenty to appreciate when Daniel Ortberg pops onto my timeline.
Then, I discovered The Shatner Chatner and realized that I could get much bigger doses of Ortberg’s distinct voice dropped into my inbox seemingly at random.
Some favorite installments are the recent and relatable The Real Problem With Making Two Trips To Carry All of My Groceries In The House and the hilariously odd Gaston send-up of No One Bites Like. Of course, the one to beat is Spirited Gay Aunts in Fiction, Ranked, which I can imagine speaking to all kinds of Frolic readers.
You can always check out the public content for The Shatner Chatner online, and once you’re hooked it could make a superb addition to your email inbox.
This was actually the first newsletter I subscribed to, mostly thanks to the numerous podcasts that I’ve listened to with Margaret Willison (one half of the newsletter’s writing team) as a host or guest.
Two Bossy Dames is written by Dame Margaret and Dame Sophie. Its online branding illustration portrays both dames looking stylish, literary, and cool as heck with the captions “impeccable taste!” and “insouciant charm!” next to them.
It’s hard to distill Two Bossy Dames into a single category of newsletter. It covers popular culture, book culture, internet happenings, fashion, and so much more. The Dames’ brand of impeccable taste and insouciant charm comes up whenever they dissect the work of Carly Rae Jepsen, promote articles you’re going to love from various publications, or crowdsource information about the best and most durable company from which to buy many colors of tights in the winter. For what it’s worth, this tights-based tidbit made my wardrobe infinitely better in the colder seasons of the last year.
Though their interests are wide-ranging, Dames Sophie and Margaret also have a very particular and smart brand that speaks to me on many levels. And if you’re here on Frolic, I have a hunch that their brand could very likely speak to you, too.
This newsletter, written by Nicole Cliffe (one of the coolest internet personalities out there, in my humble opinion), is the rare one that is actually delivered multiple times a week! Each installment of Nicole Knows has the potential to bring fascinating, helpful, artful things into your life.
Perhaps you’ll discover a new tune or an old standard in her music video roundups. This is how I personally became fascinated by a Mikhail Baryshnikov and Gregory Hines dance video from a movie called White Nights. Maybe you’ll read one of the many advice pieces that Cliffe responds to or links in the body of her newsletter. Or it could be that you’re spiritually inclined, and her Jesus Wednesday writings, which are designed to be engaged with/avoided based on your own inclinations, will give you spiritual food for thought. And it’s likely that your day will drastically improve with any of the pet pictures and write-ups from readers that Cliffe features.
Much like the Two Bossy Dames, Nicole Knows is a newsletter with a particular brand and a wide reach of topics. As a major fan of Cliffe’s work and Twitter presence, this is another newsletter that I’m more than happy to recommend, because it opens up my world in all kinds of fun ways!
Oh, and in case you haven’t heard, Frolic has a newsletter, too!!
If you sign up, you can get a once-weekly check-in to brighten up your inbox! Each installment includes a list of articles from around the internet that are relevant to Frolic readers’ interests, plus some of our own articles from the last week under an “in case you missed it” headline.
You’re also likely to get some wonderfully curated book recommendations from people who are in the know about good books, plus a featured product or two to make life more fun!
Whether you sign up for all of these or find newsletter writers for your own specific interests, I hope this article helps you see the appeal of the newly revived old-school medium of the newsletter!