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The New York Times politics editor is building trust by tweeting context around political stories
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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.

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