Pop-up newsletters: Smaller commitment, larger impact



Anna from Revue
Anna from Revue
Hi there, 
I hope you’re having a great week! Today, I want to talk to you about a really fun idea that can help drive engagement and subscriber growth, all for a limited time commitment. I’m talking about pop-up newsletters. 
A pop-up newsletter covers a very specific event, typically something that has the power to draw intense interest for a limited time. It runs as long as that topic is interesting, and then… it just stops.
The eagle-eyed among you may see that we’ve covered this topic before, but I wanted to show you some more recent examples of people using this format in exciting and inspiring ways — and to explain the long list of benefits this could bring to your newsletter routine. 
Without further ado, let’s get started.
There are a lot. Let’s make a list (I love a list):
  1. They’re a limited time commitment. If you’re strapped for time, or you don’t like the idea of tying yourself to a newsletter deadline for the long haul, pop-ups can be a great way to dip your toe into the newsletter waters. Their finite nature means you can calculate in advance how much of your time your pop-up will take, and weigh that against the rewards.
  2. Use them to reach a new audience. If you already have a newsletter and you’re looking to grow, creating a pop-up about a similar niche can bring a new group of readers to your work. If you don’t have a subscriber list yet, pop-ups can be a great way to get started.
  3. Cross-promote your existing newsletter, or other work. Following the point above, a pop-up newsletter is a great opportunity to show new readers other content you produce — whether that’s another newsletter, a YouTube channel, a blog, a book, or something entirely different.
  4. Test out new ideas. Thinking about switching gears in your main newsletter? Or trying out a different tone, format, or topic? A pop-up is a great way to test that with your audience.
  5. Choose who gets to see it and when. Keep your limited series online for all to see after you’ve finished writing to funnel subscribers to your other work, or create a sense of exclusivity by only making the issues accessible during a specific time period. Your choice.
  6. Cater to your readers. Pop-ups aren’t only a limited time commitment for the author — they’re a finish-able, manageable chunk of content for the reader to consume, too. Think about how you feel starting to watch a TV show with seven seasons (and counting), and 22 episodes per season. Now think about how you feel starting to watch a six-episode mini-series. Calming, isn’t it?
  7. Engage your readers, too. If you find a topic that has both an element of time urgency and a committed audience, you’re likely to see great engagement. I’ve collected some exciting examples of this concept below.
  8. Set it up quickly and easily. Once you’ve found your concept and are eager to get going, the last thing you want is to spend hours pulling together a template. The point is to limit time expenditure, after all! Good news is you can set up a newsletter in Revue for free in minutes.
Tips for success
That’s a lot of good reasons to start a pop-up newsletter. But there are a couple of things I’d encourage you to think about deeply before you dive in.
The first is to work out what happens to this audience once the pop-up newsletter is over. Sure, it’s great to build a new network, but it’s even better to really do something with it afterwards. Journalist Adriana Lacy tweeted recently about a pop-up from the Orange County Register dedicated to growing tomatoes:
Adriana Lacy
Pop-up newsletters will never get old. There are SO many topics you can make them for. The biggest test though? What you do with those subscribers to retain them after the newsletter runs it’s course.

Big fan of this from OC Register
One smart thing the OC Register does is direct readers to its multi-newsletter signup page. If you’re a keen reader of the tomato newsletter in California’s tomato-growing season, maybe you’ll also be interested in their food newsletter or local events newsletter.
How does that translate to the type of newsletter/s you create? If you can find a common thread between your pop-up and your other work, lean on that. For instance, maybe I run an ongoing newsletter about great food spots in my local area. My pop-up newsletter could focus on recipes, nearby events, or local issues. All three of those share some DNA with my original newsletter idea, and might bring in a new, interested audience to my main subscriber list.
The second tip I have for you is to think about promotion. If your pop-up is tied to a particular event, and therefore time-sensitive, you might not have time to build a faithful following over the course of several newsletters. Promote it everywhere you can think of before you launch, emphasizing the time-sensitivity and the particular value you’ll bring to readers.
Examples to inspire you
Publishers have been using this format for years to engage subscribers and reach new groups of readers. They often do this for topics that will dominate search for a period of time, to encourage readers who land on their site through searching for that topic to hand over their email address.
A classic example of this is the New York Times’ Game of Thrones newsletter, which guided Thrones fans through a rewatch before the final season aired, then produced recaps for every episode as the final season went out:
Now Game of Thrones is over, the Times guides readers who land on this archive towards another newsletter for people looking for TV recommendations, called Watching. According to this Digiday article, Open Rates for the Game of Thrones newsletter sometimes exceeded 100% (which sounds wild, but it can happen when enough readers forward the newsletter to friends).
Harvard Business Review has also pulled together some successful pop-ups over the years, in the form of courses that can be taken at any time. The content is evergreen and re-useable, and focused on highly-searched topics. Managing Data Science and Beating Team Burnout both have limited runs, and promise clear, actionable insights:
Then, of course, there’s the coronavirus. My colleague mark put together an excellent comparison piece on various pop-up coronavirus newsletters in March last year, when the pandemic was new (remember that?). Check out that issue for some interesting insights on how different organizations approached the task.
More recently, The New Arab released a pop-up all about Ramadan 2021, celebrating the holy month and providing journalism that tackles issues Muslims all around the world are facing while fasting during the pandemic. The newsletter builds awareness for the brand, and focuses on a global event to reach a giant target audience:
The New Arab
Sign up to our pop-up #Ramadan weekly newsletter for #Iftar and #Suhoor recipes, facts, and features. Link below. #Ramadan2021 #RamadanMubarak
https://t.co/JyzvbN9AnD https://t.co/VHZheBJyRs
But it’s not only news organizations making use of this format. In 2019, the Pew Research Center set up a two-week newsletter course on immigration in the U.S., which averaged a 60% open rate — and 70% of subscribers were new to Pew’s email list. The course is still running now.
And what about independent newsletter writers? We’re seeing more pop-ups from indie creators, too. Writer, photographer and walker Craig Mod just started his pop-up newsletter Where Are All the Nightingales, which he will release daily during a 30-day trek in Japan, starting May 11th:
Craig Mod
My 30-day Kumano walk starts tomorrow. I set off from where the old Tōkaidō (walked last year) and Ise-ji meet. Here's the full walk — starts on the top right, ends with a loop to Hongu.

I'll be writing daily on a pop-up ***newsletter***.
Sign up here:

https://t.co/PSirMeKgzd https://t.co/e35SslVZlV
Another example I loved comes from Beena Raghavendran, a playwright, actor and producer currently releasing a pop-up newsletter to accompany her one-woman show. Meera’s Kitchen will run virtually at the Cincinnati Fringe Festival in June:
Beena Raghavendran
We don't often see Indian-American women onstage. So I wrote the play I wanted to see: a story that felt familiar to me, a story I could star in. And my pop-up newsletter processing my playwriting journey launches TOMORROW https://t.co/IFkrQX46Z9
The possibilities are endless
Whether you use it to promote a short-run event or conference, like STAT News is doing this week, or to create an evergreen bank of information, like the Revue Email Academy, there are so many uses for a pop-up newsletter.
I’d love to hear if any of you have started, or are thinking of starting, similar projects, and what topic you’ve picked — let me know here and I’ll feature some exciting examples in next week’s issue!
Moving on to even more inspiration…
Newsletter inspiration
Treat yourself to a break from the big, bad world by opening the first issue of Miles High Club, by writer Miles Klee:
☁️ Miles High Club ☁️
Everything about this — down to the puppy in the profile picture —  promises to lighten the mood, and boy does it deliver.
Also, here’s a fun thing that Miles is doing, and that we’re seeing more often: subscriptions to support a writer. Not necessarily just paying for exclusive content, but paying to support a writer you love. Check out his Members page here.
The week in newsletters
Here’s what’s going on in the world.
Overstory Media Group wants to provide cover (and salaries) for local journalists
The Lenfest Institute introduced a new self-guided membership course
Slate’s new money advice column is aimed at growing subscriptions and engagement — via newsletter
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Anna from Revue
Anna from Revue @revue

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