Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Emails just got exciting again (no really!)

Lena Dunham has just jumped aboard the newsletter bandwagon

Last month, Lena Dunham announced her latest project. But it wasn't an indie film, hit TV show or bestselling book that she'd set her sights on this time. Nope, instead, she announced that she and her production partner Jenni Konner will be launching their own weekly email newsletter.

This might seem like a bit of a curveball from Dunham, but in actual fact, it's a timely choice for a medium that's become increasingly popular among women writers over the last few years. Even Gwyneth Paltrow's at it - albeit with the hippy dippy claptrap that is Goop.

My own inbox is mainly clogged up with e-newsletters from brands and shops that I've been too weak-willed to politely decline, but now, nestling among the news of discounts and Groupon offers are messages that regularly escape the mass delete button – ones that I treasure on the commute or whenever I've got a bit of time to spare.

As much as I love the internet, it's a big ol' place and it can be difficult to wade through the hordes of clickbait and downright rubbish that gets churned out every day, or to keep up with your Twitter feed as it updates every other second. But the beauty of the e-newsletter is that the writers have done all the hard work for you; often, those behind newsletters curate work from brilliant writers or condense the stuff worth reading from around the web into one convenient list, pinged straight into your inbox – no incessant scrolling required.

Here are some of the ones I've signed up to:

Lenny Letter 

As you may already guessed, Lenny is a nifty little portmanteau for Lena and Jenni (Girls' showrunner and Dunham's production partner). Billed as 'an email newsletter where there's no such thing as too much information', Lenny will deliver contemporary feminism straight to your inbox, made up with all kinds of content produced by all kinds of women. Dunham describes Lenny as catering to “People who want to talk about radical politics but also want to talk about fashion and also want to talk about Rihanna, and also understand that all of those things can be happening at the same time.” Sounds pretty good to me.

Dunham has been no stranger to the dark side of the digital world, with criticism being thrown at her for pretty much every choice she's made since Girls took off. She has said that she hopes Lenny will help us “to remember that the internet has the power to take you into quiet places — something we don’t usually use it for." It doesn't officially launch til later this month, but from the teasers I've received so far (which includes Dunham's first published short story) it looks like Lenny will make good on that promise.

Anna Friedman

Journalist, editor, writer and blogger Anna Friedman sends out a weekly newsletter that means you never need experience cultural FOMO again. She includes what she's been writing herself, as well as a 'What I'm reading' section with a roundup of all the great articles, features and interviews she's spotted around the internet that week.

Throw in the week's 'Gifspiration' plus what she's endorsing that week – basically whatever's been floating her boat, which is invariably brilliant – and you've got a recipe for e-newsletter success. I love it - but it does mean my 'no more than five tabs at a time' rule is severely abused every Friday.

The Pool

The Pool is a relatively new digital site for women, set up by DJ and broadcaster Lauren Laverne and Sam Baker, journalist and the ex editor of Red and Cosmopolitan. There are plenty of online-only publications these days, but The Pool sets itself apart from the crowd with an original model; the website runs to a schedule – sort of like the broadcast style of a traditional radio or TV channel – with 'drops' of new material throughout the day.

When it was first launched, Baker told the Guardian: “Whenever we talk to people, big internet users, people who are on their phones all the time, they felt completely overwhelmed with content, and if you look at how most people are delivering content, they are just producing huge amounts and hoping things will stick, and the quality of that is not always great."

The Pool's daily newsletter complements its unique publishing style nicely - every morning it drops in highlights for you to read on your way to work, with everything from op-eds by Sali Hughes to 'Armchair edits' with shopping links to clothes, shoes and homewear that will have you itching for your credit card. It also gives you access to the 'scrapbook' function, where you can favourite and save articles for later - perfect for busybees or saddos like me who like to store up their reading for the weekend. It's quickly become one of my go-to websites.

The Coven

I read a recommendation for this newsletter a while back, but I have to admit that what really sold it to me was the title. As you may well have gathered, The Coven is another newsletter aimed at women. It brings you the best of thecoven.me, a website featuring essays by women on all sorts of issues – cultural, topical, anatomical, you name it.

Curated by Sarah Waldren, the newsletter content is varied, and from short stories to travel columns it brightens your inbox and opens your mind a little, every single week.

Sarah Evonne 

Thanks to tinyletter, setting up a newsletter today is pretty simple. Which probably explains why lots of bloggers are getting in on the action and starting up their own. One of my favourites comes from Sarah Evonne, the social editor at Femsplain (formerly of Buzzfeed Books and Guardian US).

She sums up her newsletter as 'what I've written / what I've read / what I've thought', and I love finding out exactly what that is each week. Evonne details everything from film recommendations, books she's currently reading and books she's planning on reading to what she's currently feeling or doing in her personal life that week.

I love getting a little snapshot of someone else's cultural life brought straight to my inbox (this post is making it abundantly clear how lazy I am – I just LOVE people doing the legwork for me!).

Jean Hannah

This e-newsletter differs from the ones I've mentioned so far in that rather than curating lots of different reads into one, it presents you with just one read by one author. Essentially, it's a blog post in email form. I love reading the work of fellow bloggers, but with a job to do and friends to see and all the other elements that make up my attempt at 'adult life', it can be hard to keep on top of the never-ending blogs that populate this here Internet sphere.

Jean Hannah Edelstein makes things easy, and sends it straight to me (and plenty of others no doubt). I love opening my inbox to find another post to read - her writing is brilliant.

There are plenty more I could mention - but I'm always on the lookout for more. Let me know any recommendations!