eNewsletter Winners and Losers: Threadless vs. The New Republic

February 12, 2008 at 5:58 am | Posted in Communication, Email, Marketing, Online marketing, Politics, User generated content, Web 2.0 | 4 Comments
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In the inaugural eNewsletter battle, I pitted Moosejaw vs. Cool Hunting. Today, I’m placing two more eNewsletters in a Mason jar, screwing on the cap, and shaking it until only one remains.

The winner: ThreadlessThreadless 1 small

Threadless is an online t-shirt manufacturer based in meat-space in my new home, sweet Chicago. They also possess an undeniable cool factor and loads of fun-ness. Here are some reasons why you should sign up for their newsletter:

  • Threadless’ business model is based on a Web 2.0 mindset. They have a constant open call for t-shirt designs which are then voted on by the community. The top vote-getters are made into shirts and sold online (and a recently opened retail store). Plus, they’ve thought through the process from the buyer’s POV: even if a shirt is sold out, you can vote for it to be re-made and notified when it is.
  • Because new design are always being voted on and shirts made, Threadless boasts a constantly changing inventory. That means the eNewsletter is always fresh and innovative.
  • They offer incentives tThreadless 2 smallo draw the best designers for their business. Winners make money if their design is chosen. This avoids a slew of “Don’t tase me, bro!” knock-offs.
  • Simply put, Threadless gives props. The eNewsletter starts (after a helpful index) with that week’s winner (image #1), followed quickly with the four new shirts being printed that week (image #2). This puts the best material above the fold, and creates buzz machines of the featured designers. Plus, it further stimulates the community. Everyone loves feeling like they voted for a winner.
  • Threadless uses what they’ve got. They turn designs into art and advertise it in the eNewsletter. They get corporations and bands to sponsor shirts (i.e. “Iron & Wine <3s Threadless”). They podcast about, you guessed it, t-shirts and cool stuff.
  • Recently, they have been adding local elements. Image #3 shows a recent art show they held in their retail store. This gets (possibly new) groups of buyers in their store, gives a boost to a local artist, and generates oodles of street cred.
  • While they don’t feature it in their Threadless 3 smalleNewsletter, they do offer space for regular folks. T-shirt buyers can post photos of themselves wearing the shirt on its order page. Forget models: these people are hot, creative, and the best possible influencers for the brand.
  • The eNewsletter is an accurate reflection of the brand and tells the same story. In the best of worlds, your outbound communication, website, retail store, brand, etc. all has a consistent tone, message, target audience, etc. Threadless lives in the best of worlds.

The loser: The New Republic

The New Republic (TNR) is a centrist-leftist twice-monthly journal of politics and culture. It’s not a bad magazine per se, but the eNewsletter is all types of awful. [Full disclosure: I used to work for a competitor/ally magazine.]

  • It doesn’t say anything. Most of the content in the eNewsletter is a list of recent blog posts. However, with the all-too-clever titles, it’s usually impossible to discern what a particular blog post is about. What other critical information do they provide? The time and date?! Who cares? Let’s assume that it would be a wise business practice to increase your writers’ fame. Maybe you should list the author’s name next to their post. Then, I could follow along day to day and learn who I especially like. Encourage fans; don’t make it more difficult for them.TNR small
  • The eNewsletter suffers from premature erudition. In other words, its info comes too soon. Barely have I finished reading yesterday’s edition and another is at my doorstep. Relax. If you publish twice per month, don’t feel pressured to bang down my door with your email every single day. I don’t want to start taking you for granted, baby. (Don’t worry, premature erudition happens to a lot of eNewsletters. Honest.)
  • Ads galore! I would love to see how much space is taken up with ads versus content in this email. I count one banner at the top, two banners along the side, and there was another ad at the bottom that I cut. Add in the masthead and there’s not much space left for actual content. Imagine a television show where more than half of the running time was taken up by ads. Would you be more or less enticed to watch it? Cripes.
  • This might verge on petty, but my last point is simply to stop trying to be all things to all people. Not many magazines do well with both politics and the arts and you’re not The Atlantic. Being center-left just makes everyone annoyed. I’m a big fan of picking one thing and being the number one resource about that thing. No offense TNR, but you just aren’t definitive enough for me. (Oh, and that ship logo is bizarre.)

Is there an eNewsletter that you think is due for some praise or derision? Send me an example at ireallylikerobots [at] gmail [dot] com and it might be featured in the next eNewsletter battle.



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  1. […] eNewsletter Winners and Losers: Threadless vs. The New Republic « OnlineMarketer blog Nice contrast from D.J., who used to market for The Prospect–a hipster Web 2.0 T-shirt shop vs. the stodgy TNR. Perhaps they should call it the Old Republic! (tags: buildtheecho impact) […]

  2. […] know my history with online communications from my About page, as well as recent posts about Threadless and Moosejaw. I know my stuff and I’m excited to put it to work for your company. Email me […]

  3. Hello my friends 🙂

  4. Thanks OM! I’ll be quoting this post in an essay I’m writing on Web 2.0 in marketing.

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