Adventures in Mobile Marketing

Comparison of Two Newsletters: GoodReads & Moo

I’m comparing two newsletters from companies that I admire- Moo, based in England, that makes tiny Flickr-based business cards, and GoodReads, a social-networking bookshelf comparison tool. Both companies have upbeat, fun, jaunty styles and a slimmed-down, spare aesthetic.

1. Above the fold
2. The subject line
3. The guts
4. The fine print

1: Above the Fold
Here are both newsletters as I first saw them, above the preview pane. Moo came into Yahoo Mail on the Mac-Leopard and Firefox2, and GoodReads on Gmail same platform. Images suppressed, then images shown.


… and with images on.

Good: They do a great job adding that teaser headine, “In Bed wih James Patterson,” and personalizing the newsletter by inserting my latest activity- saying I was reading Stealing Athena, and giving me an action to review the book and further participate in the community. The simple style and lack of spacer-GIFs means that with images off it’s still a good-looking, provocative email in my inbox.

Bad: They don’t do a lot to drag me into the lengthy newsletter. The table of contents isn’t labeled, and since it’s all in one line it’s a little hard to scan. Also, the alt-text “books” is somewhat confusing. I’d almost just leave it empty, as it’s an unimportant and irrelevant graphic.

There’s also a separation of action: click on the book to review it/ become more engaged with the site, as well as “read on…” I’m not sure what the solution is, and this is somewhat endemic to newsletters- so many launch points, that you don’t keep the reader entrenched in the reading process. One way to break it up is to add a columnar table so that there is more going on above the fold. One client of mine found that people re-read and re-access the newsletter multiple times, so having two calls to action isn’t necessarily an issue, from a user-interface perspective.


… and with images on..

Good: Wow, I love that photo! I also like how the “inside this newsletter” is off to the right and above the welcome message. This is a really dynamic letter and really communicates the fun aspect of their company (who would have known making business cards is fun?) I can’t say enough about the “inside” series- it’s short and easy to scan, and does a great job of bringing me into the newsletter. Also all of these links are internal, which keeps me in the letter and not off into the Internet somewhere. Great focus and design.

Bad: There are a lot of tactical & technical issues, though, with this email. The alt-text flows oddly, which could have been solved with better alt-text and HTML formatting. The “Yipee” doesn’t make sense to me and is misspelled, and graphically creates a balance with the logo, but also overshadows the logo droplet. I’d just take it out. Also, the images-off version is a lot duller than the images-on, and the alt-tet doesn’t entice me to load images. I’d make a funny caption for the two guys and that would have worked, making me load the image. I’d also shorten up the intro paragraph quite a bit- rambling about a party I didn’t go to is kind of off-putting, and takes up valuable space.

2. The subject line

Business Card holders, new MiniCard feature and more! (from: MOO )

Good: it’s short, Bad: it’s boring as hell! I also would suggest that they use their branding in their subject line to further substantiate it, and help the open rate.


July newsletter – James Patterson’s picks, Listopia, chat with David Maraniss, Christina Schwarz and Rob Walker (From:

Good: it’s obvious, bad, it’s a July Newsletter, but from who? The branding is hidden in the domain, so I’d push the GoodReads word somewhere in the subject line, and it’s way too long. Short it up, take newsletter out, and make it funny.

Also- I’m not a fan of no-replies, as I think it doesn’t really fill the consumer with warm squigglies, and generally you should have a reply loop and feedback loop setup. It’s almost just polite, I mean, I write to you, you can write back to me.

3. The guts

I stopped taking screenshots at #5. I’m serious! Here are the first few, then I’ll spare you.

And another screenshot…

The Good: There’s lots of engaging content and you can really sink your teeth into it. Book covers lightens the text-heavy load, and they’re showcasing their insider author knowledge. Also nice design- by using graphics as breaks in content, it nicely divides up the areas of interest.

The Bad: I know email is cheap, and online publishing means you can write and write, but there is something about abusing the poor reader’s attention span- espcially onine in the frenetic world of web2.0 and inboxes. Yes, they have a readerly audience, but a lot of the good content later on is not being read because it’s too in-depth in each area. I’d suggest linking off to the site for more information, and more use of summaries and teasers. Also, the HTML formatting is too roomy, tighten it up more.


And the second screen of Moo guts…

Yep, just 2 screens. Short & sweet, almost too sweet, as Moo tends to take cutesy too far sometimes. One issue I have with this newsletter is actually with its content- Fray doesn’t seem related to Moo at all. That’s one problem with partnerships, if it’s not a relevant connection, it can really detract. “We like nice people…” ??? Part of the over-cuteness, perhaps.

A huge issue with both of these newsletters is that their businesses revolve around social networking and user-generated content, but I am pushed to find any evidence of user-submitted conent in their newsletters. Except for the poem, in the GoodReads, and otherwise they passed up a lot of opportunities to use user-submitted photos, reviews, and writing. As I’ve seen before, these can be powerful messages to the audience: “Learning From Success.”

4. The Fine Print
Moo has a cute little letter at the bottom:

* Yes, we know. Terrible pun, but sometimes they just slip out

PS. We hope you’ve received this newsletter because you signed up for it on If you didn’t sign up or you need to unsubscribe, you can unsubscribe here. We’re sorry to see you go, though.

Cute, fun, and … not CAN-SPAM compliant, as there’s no physical address. Sad, as they’re doing a lot of great things. I also worry about over-twee writing, and Moo seems to verge on on the cusp of that.

First, a long poem that they reprint (because they are artsy!).

With love,

Jessica, Elizabeth and the Goodreads Team

ps. Goodreads is hiring developers!

To unsubscribe from the Goodreads Newsletter, please click here.

This email was sent by request to

They too suffer from lack of CAN-SPAM compliance, which is a pity. Well, what can you say? As we all know it’s a long road to making getting these emails up to snuff!

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Written on Thursday, 31. July 2008 at 14:34 In the category design, images off, newsletters. Follow the comments via RSS here: RSS-Feed. Share on FriendFeed

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  1. [...] Her Adventures in Email Marketing is a great honorable mention (it’s on my “shortlist” with Mark’s blog) and contains plenty of great posts like this one. [...]

    Pingback: What Email Marketing Blogs Do We Read? - Inbox Ideas: Email Marketing Tips by AWeber – 08. September 2008 @ 12:52 pm

  2. Just wanted to mention that I have read some bad reviews about MOO and can testify myself as to the bad experience I had with MOO.
    Not what you would expect from a company with that amount of marketing $$. Go elsewhere.

    Comment: triina – 31. January 2010 @ 7:00 am

  3. I really want to unsubscribe to goodreads, since I never use it any more, and all of the updates keep clogging my inbox… I can’t seem to find a way to unsubscribe though, not even at the bottoms of the emails where the usual unsubscribe info link is located. Any suggestions?

    Comment: claire – 06. February 2010 @ 10:37 pm

  4. Hi, I log on to your new stuff regularly.

    Your humoristic style is witty, keep it up!

    Comment: wizard in oz – 23. April 2013 @ 3:52 am

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