CN#1. Impactful local news coverage at BOSToday

Featured Newsletter: BOSToday

Status: Daily, consumer, free

Newsletter Type: Engagement + Sales

Purpose: Engagement “through daily newsletters that aggregate the most positive, impactful local news + events” according to the publisher.

BOSToday is the Boston, Massachusetts version of 24 daily newsletters owned by 6AM City, which has a total of 1m free subscribers.

Launched: 2021

Subscribers: 67,000

Word count: 1,630

Sent from: BOStoday

Subject Line: Dollar oyster deals, brewery news + Somerville tree sculpture

The BOSToday subject line formula usually has three elements, giving multiple possibilities to connect with readers and prompt opening.

BOSToday newsletter header
BOSToday free newsletter was launched in early 2021 and has 67,000 subscribers

Design: Big colour pictures. Short sentences and paragraphs (none more than five lines). Few headlines, mainly just headings.

This is for rapid-fire scanning and consumption. There's not a single item that could make you think, ugh, too long.

Editorial: Editorial in the 6AM City newsletters focuses on "soft" rather than "hard" news. This mean leisure rather than crime. entertainment rather than politics. This follows a mantra to be “impactful and positive”.

Expect ideas for things to do, watch, eat and follow, with restaurant, concert, sport and exhibition listings.

It’s a planning tool for the nice stuff in life, “date nights, family outings and time with friends.”

Great coverage for Boston's oyster restaurants
  1. 8 oyster restaurants all around the city get equal billing for their promotions and some nicely turned editorial pzazz about atmosphere, whacky drinks and unusual recipes. There’s a link to 10 more similar deals on the website.

2. There’s a Twitter Post of the Day about a tree in a city park being turned into a scuplture.

3. News Notes covers the weather and business, property, arts, entertainment and charity in a tightly-written paragraph for each sector.

The information is bare minimum "all you need to know". For example, the weather is just temperature, state of the sky, whether it's going to rain, done.

4. The Wrap is a kind of editor's P.S. with a further item of interest, this time about the history of palm trees in another public park. Just a chatty, in passing kind of thing for the reader, topped off with an emoji.

Advertising: The top spot is reserved for a sponsor that dominates the email. Today it’s a concert location.

If you open and glance at nothing else, the ad will make an impression and there’s a prominent call to action to order tickets from the venue’s website.

There won’t be a problem knowing exactly how many clicks this email is sending to the advertiser.

Events listings are the main content draws, solving the "what shall we do today" question.

Standard event listings are free but no space is guaranteed, so it’s a risk if you want attention for your event. Rather neatly, $250 guarantees an event listing on the day of the advertiser’s choice. My sense is that serious event organisers will pay.

Other than the top spot, there’s a single banner advert, a restrained approach from the advertising department.

News is single paragraph features with no headlines or wasted words

Two items in the News Notes section are actually paid listings, what's known as native advertising, closely imitating editorial in look and feel. There’s an offer for a meal kit service and a digestive health product that both appear with an asterisk at the end of the copy. Both have outbound links from text in the copy.

Copy from advertising partners is marked with an asterisk and the publisher is upfront about this, explaining it helps make the newsletter free.

Calls to action: The newsletter is all about the reader but the business side is not forgotten.

There are 9 opportunities to either subscribe, share content, post on social media, read yesterday’s edition or find out more about advertising, in unobtrusive links dotted throughout.

Incentives: A rewards scheme to encourage sharing the newsletter with friends and family offers free gear like mugs and hats and cash vouchers to redeem in stores.

My current balance of 300 points is helpfully shown. More than one newsletter has learned the lessons of a successful rewards programme from the likes of Morning Brew.

Personalisation: There’s a section showing who put together today’s edition, with a picture of the editor, and you can link to more articles by the team on the BOSToday website.

There’s a link for readers: to give feedback, ask questions or to send a scoop.

Even better if: Personal introductions work well to connect the reader with editorial staff and this can be a really engaging experience. BOSToday prefers to put the advertiser at the top of the newsletter and make the human connection at the end.

Conclusion: BOSToday's model shuns the usual local news approach, betting on growing a larger audience of folk wanting to get out and do things than those interested in car crashes, political fights and shootings.

They are probably right. I'm not sure local newspaper editors ever considered this approach in the past. The fast-moving stuff is on everyone's social media straight away these days anyway.

Editorially, it's a slickly produced newsletter delivering reader value for free, with prominent advertiser exposure. Any advertiser disappointed with the performance of that top slot will have to look at their creative treatment for answers.

There are actually four paid adverts but only two obvious ones, the others in the native advertising category section and appearing in the news section.

It's an open question whether readers will care. They are probably mainly interested in which oyster bar to visit and with a comprehensive listings feature on the website as a bonus it’s a hard to beat offering for Boston’s leisure and pleasure seekers.

You can read the full newsletter here.

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