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May 26, 2023

Let's deep dive into The GIST, a newsletter with over 650,000 subscribers.

👋 Hello newsletter enthusiasts,

Let’s dive deep into The GIST, a women-founded and operated sports media brand that's “leveling the playing field in sports.”

Their flagship newsletter, Sports News, reaches over 650,000 readers. It keeps you up to date on all things sports in less than 5 minutes, every Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday morning.

They also have two other newsletters: Sports Biz and College Sports.

We’ll walk through some high-level flows for their flagship newsletter below, but for more detail, feel free to go to the Figma board.

Take me to the Figma board!

🐾 Thank you for reading, stay pawsome.


🔑 Key observations

  • Branding that sticks: The GIST's strong and recognizable branding permeates every aspect, creating a cohesive and memorable experience for readers.
  • Newsletter-centric approach: Placing the email sign-up front and center on the homepage emphasizes the importance of building a strong subscriber base.
  • Tailored insights: Thoughtful follow-up questions in the sign-up flow provide valuable audience insights, enabling more personalized content delivery.
  • Expanding revenue horizons: By incorporating a job board, The GIST taps into new revenue streams while providing a valuable resource for readers and companies looking to hire.
  • Personalization through surveys: Utilizing surveys throughout the subscriber journey allows The GIST to gather insights and tailor content to reader preferences, enhancing the overall experience.

🎾 Home page

The GIST

One thing about The GIST that really stands out is their branding.

From the fonts to the colors, it’s… The GIST.

From the moment you land on the home page to their email newsletters, it’s evident throughout. If you removed the logo, you could probably guess it was The GIST.

That’s some brand recognition!

The GIST cranks out content and covers a lot of different topics and sports around the world.

Some readers may or may not be subscribed to the newsletter, and choose to go to thegistsports.com and check the homepage for sports news.

When you land on the homepage, you’ll notice that their email newsletter sign up is front and center.

Not a “top story”, or an advertisement, but a way to sign up for their email newsletter. It’s one of the first things you’ll notice on the homepage.

There are eight total mentions of the newsletter, or ways to sign up, on their homepage from top to bottom. Six above the fold, and two in the footer.


📧 Sign up flow

The GIST offers multiple ways to sign up for their newsletters on the homepage:

  • The sign-up form is prominently displayed, front and center.
  • The "Subscribe" CTA is located in the top-right corner.
  • The footer also includes a sign-up option.

To sign up from the homepage, simply enter your email address.

You will be asked to provide your country, which is pre-filled, and you can optionally select your city. Once completed, you're all set.

Clicking the "Subscribe" CTA on the homepage, in the footer, or through social media links redirects you to a comprehensive landing page where you can sign up for any or all of The GIST's three newsletters.

Each newsletter has its own follow-up questions tailored to the content:

  • The flagship newsletter asks for Country (pre-filled) and City.
  • Sports Biz requests job title and organization.
  • College Sports inquires about the conference of interest (e.g., SEC, PAC-12).

While this does add an extra step or two to the sign-up flow, it may deter some readers.

Finding the right balance is crucial. You don't want to overwhelm subscribers with an extensive questionnaire.

However, gathering specific information, such as Conference preferences, can enhance the reader's experience and provide more personalized content.

As a subscriber, if you can see the value in providing additional information, it may outweigh any slight inconvenience during the sign-up process.

This allows for better onboarding and insights from the outset.

It's worth experimenting with the sign-up flow to find the sweet spot between gathering valuable insights and not overwhelming potential subscribers.

Although some subscribers may be pruned out due to additional questions, if it leads to a better reader experience, such as delivering stories based on Conference preferences, the readers that do take the extra five seconds will have a better experience.

Consider tailoring your sign-up flow to gather insights from subscribers while maintaining a balance in the number of questions asked and enhancing the overall reader experience. Finding this balance enables you to provide more personalized content and gain a deeper understanding of your audience right from the start.


✔️ Confirmation method

When signing up for a newsletter, you often encounter various methods to confirm your subscription, such as selecting the correct image to prove you're not a robot or checking your email for further instructions.

After signing up for The GIST, you are presented with a confirmation message on the landing page:

“BTW! We just sent you an email. If you don’t see it, it might be hiding in your spam, junk or promotions folder. Feel free to add us to your address book to ensure our newsletter finds you every single time.”

Within a few minutes, a plain-text confirmation email arrives:

The email is plain-text, no branding, etc.

Once you click the provided link, you'll receive a confirmation message, indicating that you're successfully subscribed.

There are various ways to implement a confirmation process or verify opt-ins.

It can involve reCAPTCHA, clicking a link in a post-sign-up email, or even having a Sunset Policy to remove unengaged subscribers. The approach you choose depends on your preferences and goals.

The simplicity of a plain-text email with a clickable link is one effective method to consider.


👋 Welcome email

~20 minutes later, you receive a Welcome email.

The email highlights:

  • What you can expect to receive as a GISTer
  • Why The GIST?
  • Tips to ensure the newsletter lands in your inbox
  • A prompt to share more about yourself through a short survey

The Welcome email serves is a great opportunity to establish expectations for subscribers and offer additional avenues for engagement.

Regardless of the specific content you choose to include in your Welcome email, one crucial aspect is the timing. Sending the Welcome email shortly after sign-up is key to making a positive first impression.


📅 Depends on the day of the week

The flagship newsletter from The GIST is sent out every Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday.

Each send maintains The GIST's theme and branding while incorporating unique elements.

For example, on Sunday’s it’s the “Sunday Scroll,” where they “dive deep into one timely sports topic.”

On Friday’s, they might include a “Weekend Watching” section to highlight what to watch over the weekend.

Here are some general sections we’ve noticed:

Monday

  • Introduction
  • Quote of the Day
  • The Latest (1-2 topics)
  • ~Odd and Ends (Quick links across various sports, etc.).
  • Advertisement (Internal or External sponsorship)
  • Quick Hits (Similar to Odds and Ends, featuring quick links across various sports, etc.)
  • Advertisement slot (could be text-only highlighting a giveaway or an external sponsorship).
  • The GIST’s picks
  • Share The GIST (Referral program)

Wednesday

  • Introduction
  • Quote of the Day
  • The Latest (1-3 topics)
  • ~Odd and Ends (Quick links across various sports, etc.).
  • Mid-Week Watching
  • Advertisement slot (could be text-only highlighting a giveaway or an external sponsorship).
  • The GIST’s picks
  • Share The GIST (Referral program)

Friday

  • Introduction
  • Quote of the Day
  • The Latest (1-2 topics)
  • ~Odd and Ends (Quick links across various sports, etc.).
  • Advertisement (Internal or External sponsorship)
  • Weekend Watching (Friday specific)
  • Text-only “advertisement”. This was a giveaway.
  • The GIST’s picks
  • Share The GIST (Referral program)

Sunday Scroll

  • Introduction
  • Quote of the Day
  • The Scroll (Deep dive on the one timely topic). This might have subsections.
  • Advertisement (Internal or External sponsorship)
  • Subsections from The Scroll continue.
  • The GIST’s picks
  • Share The GIST (Referral program)

While there is a template or structure to the newsletters, The GIST adds variety to each send.

One consistent and notable section is "The GIST's picks."

The one consistent section that stands out is The GIST’s picks.

These picks cover various topics such as:

  • What to eat
  • What to read
  • What to enter
  • What to listen to
  • What to subscribe to

Occasionally, this section includes a sponsored link, indicated by "*" and accompanied by a disclaimer.

When you start a newsletter, or as you send newsletters, you think about cadence.

Is it a daily newsletter?

What about a weekly newsletter?

Or how about an every other day newsletter?

As you explore this, think about how each send can bring value to the reader.

The GIST's decision to deep dive into a topic on Sundays may be based on the assumption that readers have more time on Sundays to engage with a timely subject, versus on a Monday.

If you’re sending newsletters times a week, will each send be the exact same, or can you add something unique to the send?

For example, The GIST is consistent throughout the week with layout and tone, but they’ll do something unique within a section. Like The GIST’s picks.

It’s not the same category of picks each send, it’s always unique.


🤝 Sponsorships

The GIST demonstrates a thoughtful approach in aligning sponsored content with their readers. Just like they put a lot of thought into their regular content, they extend that approach to sponsorships.

For example, take this text-only ad featuring Wayfair:

Despite being an ad, it blends in with The GIST's voice and tone, making it feel less like a traditional advertisement.

Incorporating sponsored content into your newsletter is a significant decision.

If you choose to do so, you may need to consider whether you want to edit the copy provided by the brands. This decision can sometimes feel like treading the line between editorial integrity and advertising.

Different news organizations have varying perspectives on this matter. Some draw a clear line between sponsored content and news, ensuring they don't blur the lines.

For instance, the TNT crew emphasizes the “unsullied” nature of EJ's Neato Stat of The Night, which has remained free from sponsorship since 1989.


💻 Job board

Job boards in newsletters are becoming more common. And it makes sense.

Newsletters that have a deep understanding of their readers' provide an excellent platform for companies to reach out to potential hires.

At The GIST, the Job Board is featured next to the Newsletter and Referral sections on their homepage:

They also mention the Job Board in the newsletter.

Introducing a Job Board can expand the revenue streams beyond sponsorships, and also serve as a valuable resource for readers.

When you have a strong understanding of your audience, it allows you to curate a job board that resonates with them. Just like a newsletter focuses on specific topics or areas of interest, a job board from a newsletter should be tailored accordingly.

Receiving a stream of random job listings from various businesses may not be as impactful. However, when thoughtful consideration is given to the selection of job postings, it can add significant value to the readers' experience.


🔍 Surveys

Surveys play a significant role in understanding subscribers and tailoring content to their preferences.

The GIST incorporates surveys throughout the subscriber's journey.

Even the questions during the sign-up process can be seen as a mini-survey, aiming to gain a deeper understanding of the readers.

~Day or so after signing up, The GIST sends out a new subscriber survey with seven questions:

  • What gender do you identify with?
  • How old are you?
  • Zip/postal code.
  • How would you rate your confidence in your sports knowledge?
  • What’s your favourite sport to watch?
  • Where did you hear about us?
  • Why did you subscribe to The GIST?

On their Advertise page: “GISTers are the next decision makers”.

While not all specifics from the new subscriber survey are mentioned, you can see how the information gathered might impact their approach to sponsorships.

The GIST also includes a survey for those who unsubscribe:

Unsubscribe survey:

  • Why did you unsubscribe?
  • Feel free to expand or leave additional feedback.
  • How would you rank your sports fandom?

It's worth noting that the new subscriber survey varies between newsletters: Sports Biz, College Sports or Sports News.

For example, in the new subscriber survey for College Sports, they ask: “What college or university do/did/will you attend?”

When asking readers to spend time answering questions, it's important to be thoughtful with the information sought. Surveys should serve a purpose, not merely for the sake of collecting data.

It's refreshing to see that the new subscriber survey is unique to each newsletter, making it feel relevant and showing that extra attention is given to the process.

Surveys provide valuable insights and enable personalization of content based on the audience's preferences. They also play a role in shaping sponsorships and ensuring alignment with readers' interests.


➕ Additional newsletters

While our deep dive focused on The GIST's Sports News newsletter, we also mentioned their two other newsletters: Sports Biz and College Sports.

They also have a podcast!

It's awesome how they’ve grown while maintaining the distinct branding and vibe of The GIST.

The GIST's approach to launching new newsletters has been thoughtful and strategic. They have effectively tapped into specific niches within the sports world, like Sports Biz and College Sports, all while maintaining the overall vibe of The GIST.


🎾 Fetchworthy Finds


🐶 Pawsitive vibes

💌 Thanks for joining the pack of newsletter enthusiasts! Keep on reading, writing and sharing your newsletters with the world.

Special shoutout to those that signed up to receive a personalized deep dive into their newsletter. We’ll be emailing you soon!


🎉 Have a great weekend!

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