Here are successful ways to summarize stories for a publisher’s newsletter

By: David Arkin
May 2, 2024
Featured image for “Here are successful ways to summarize stories for a publisher’s newsletter”

Newsletters have become a critical audience and revenue tool that news organizations simply can’t live without today. But, many default to a newsletter format that automatically pulls the latest or top headlines from the last day or so.

Yes, it’s much easier to do, but we’ve found that—when done well—narrative-style newsletters engage readers more because they do a nice job of telling the news of the day.

But, how do you go about creating a successful narrative-style newsletter? The key is to avoid copy and pasting the opening graphs of your stories. Instead, you want to provide a quick, high-level snapshot of the story for your reader.

Here’s how we do it.

🔎 Identify the most important details: For each story in your newsletter, identify a few of the main points that you want to highlight. For most newsletters, we like to focus on 2-4 points so we can keep it short. Summarize those points into 1-2 sentences.

🤔 Play around with formatting: By using formatting like subheads, lists, bullet points, pull quotes and more, you can make your narrative newsletter look less, well, narrative-y. This helps get information across quicker for the reader and makes for a more pleasing newsletter to the eye.

🗣️ Use a call to action: If your goal is to drive newsletter readers to your website, you don’t want to give all of the story’s valuable info away. Keep your summary high level, using a call-to-action to direct readers where to find additional details.

🤖 Try using AI: AI like ChatGPT can be a great tool to help summarize content. You can even prompt it to give you the information in specific formats, in a certain number of words, and even using emojis. We’ve even used AI to help come up with new formats we hadn’t previously thought of (see events example below).

Axios does a great job with narrative newsletters, giving readers a quick snapshot of why they should care about a story and what they need to know. They frequently use subheads like the following to move a reader quickly through a story:

  • Why it matters – Tell your readers why they should care about this story
  • The big picture – Provide a high-level overview or summary of the story or why it’s relevant
  • What to watch –Tell your readers what is important to look out for from here
  • Between the lines – Provide background/additional info or insight on something, especially through related content from your site

This kind of breakdown works great for your big news story, but it can work for really any type of content.

Here’s how we did that for the client.

Additional examples

Here are a few of our favorite formats to use and stories that lend themselves well to these formats.

Using a “3 things to know” approach can be a great way to summarize a story or round up some of the top headlines within the same topic, as we did here.

New business stories or business profiles can be some of the most engaging content we’ve seen created for local news outlets. But that can be challenging to summarize sometimes. Try using a format like the following to share why it’s unique and what’s recommended to draw in the reader’s attention.

Here is an opening and closing roundup story using the same idea.

Here is the example we referenced above. We prompted AI to format an event listing using emojis, and it led us to a much more engaging look with the calendar, clock and pin emojis.

Now that we’ve found a format we like, I was able to save the prompt in ChatGPT where I can now just enter in the text for each event and it spits it out in this format.

For this schools story, the story itself on the website had a detailed breakdown of grades for each school. Instead of including every school and every detail, we captured the most important elements of the story and gave the readers a chance to see the rest for themselves.

Need help revamping your newsletter?

David Arkin Consulting specializes in newsletter strategy and creation. Contact us at today.

Recent Posts

Case Studies

We'd love to help your organization! Fill out the form below to get started.

I'm interested in: