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Aug. 14, 2023, 11:14 a.m.

In The Verge’s new newsletter, there are links and there are links

“I’ve been trying to think of the Bold Links as action items, and the other links as supporting materials.”

As a fan of both The Verge and downloading things, I was interested to see the first edition of its new newsletter, Installer. It is, in the site’s words, “your guide to all the best, newest, coolest, and Verge-iest stuff in the world. The apps you need to try. The movies, shows, and TikToks you can’t miss. The tips, tricks, and hacks you could only ever get from the creators and inventors themselves.”

But my inner news-design nerd was especially excited once I noticed that Installer is using two distinct ways of showing links in the newsletter. (Longtime readers know my inner news-design nerd can be excited by some very odd, small things.) Here’s an example: The “My80sTV (link)” gets the link pulled out into a separate parenthetical, while the “on Reddit,” “two-hour video,” and “a whole genre” get the more traditional format.

The newsletter explains that the “(link)” format indicates “something you can try, read, download, whatever” — something to, um, install.

To figure out the thinking behind this minor visual tweak, I emailed David Pierce, The Verge’s editor-at-large and Installer’s writer.

I wish I could tell you it came from some grand scheme of A/B testing and smart thoughts about the future of the internet, but the thought process was basically two things.

First, email software is awful and unpredictable, and link designs get screwed up all the time, so it felt useful to have a way to tell people “tap or click on this, no matter what it looks like or how it renders, and something good will hopefully happen.”

Also, I think a lot of newsletters (and articles on the web, frankly) link so much that it’s hard to know what’s The Thing I Should Go Check Out and what’s, like, a tag page on your website or a semi-related article you linked for some unknowable reason.

Doing it this way felt like it created a good hierarchy — I try to make all the links useful, but if you’re just trying to download the new app I’m telling you about, it should be as obvious as possible where you should go. I’ve been trying to think of the Bold Links as action items, and the other links as supporting materials. I don’t know if that’s the right strategy, or if it makes any sense to readers, but it made the whole system make more sense to me.

Joshua Benton is the senior writer and former director of Nieman Lab. You can reach him via email (joshua_benton@harvard.edu) or Twitter DM (@jbenton).
POSTED     Aug. 14, 2023, 11:14 a.m.
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