Nieman Foundation at Harvard
HOME
          
LATEST STORY
The “backfire effect” is mostly a myth, a broad look at the research suggests
ABOUT                    SUBSCRIBE
Feb. 13, 2015, 11:57 a.m.
Audience & Social
LINK: www.vox.com  ➚   |   Posted by: Joshua Benton   |   February 13, 2015

Vox Sentences is Vox’s evening email newsletter, designed to be a wrapup of the day’s top news — we wrote about it back in October when it entered the ever-crowding arena of news-roundup emails. Vox Sentences’ major differentiators are its timing (evening rather than morning) and its format — a series of scannable one-sentence bullet points with links. For example, here’s a screenshot of Tuesday’s email. (I’ve shrunk down the type size so you can see more of it; it arrives at a much more readable size, I can assure you.)

vox-sentences-screenshot-1

On Wednesday, Vox tried out a different style in its email and asked for feedback. The change: The bullet points were turned into meaty paragraphs, rich with context, links, and something closer to traditional narrative prose. Another screenshot (also with the type shrunk down):

vox-sentences-screenshot-2

Who doesn’t like context and narrative prose? Well, the readers of Vox Sentences. Last night, Vox ended the experiment when the response was fierce.

Format update: The votes are in, and man, you guys really did not care for yesterday’s Sentences format! It wasn’t even close. 177 people wrote in, and 169 expressed a clear preference one way or the other (many thanks to the very sweet people who said they’d read it in any format). 32 preferred the new version, while 137 liked the old one better.

That’s an 81 percent to 19 percent margin. Dictators win elections by smaller margins than that. We’ll keep experimenting with how we do Sentences — today’s the first day we’ll have pictures in the email version, for example — but for now, it’s back to bullets all the way through.

I’d side with the majority here. If you asked me what morning email newsletter about journalism has the most and best content, I’d probably go with the American Press Institute’s Need To Know. But at the same time, some of its formatting and style is so dense that it can be offputting. It’s hard to scan a paragraph like this one from this morning’s edition:

api-need-to-know-screenshot

More broadly, it’s a reminder that, for all the buzz around The Email Newsletter Renaissance, we’re still figuring out the formats — length, structure, content — that work. There’s still a lot of space for evolution and experimentation.

Show tags Show comments / Leave a comment
 
Join the 50,000 who get the freshest future-of-journalism news in our daily email.
The “backfire effect” is mostly a myth, a broad look at the research suggests
Plus: Instagram is fertile ground for conspiracy theories, Apple gives to media literacy, and a terror attack comes with its own media strategy.
After New Zealand, is it time for Facebook Live to be shut down?
“It’s past time for the company to step up and fulfill the promise founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg made two years ago: ‘We will keep doing all we can to prevent tragedies like this from happening.'”
Why are digital newsrooms unionizing now? “This generation is tired of hearing that this industry requires martyrdom”
“These are professional-class jobs paying working-class wages, and these people have working-class worries about being downsized, laid off, cast aside in a market that is really stripped down.”