It’s a crowded, confusing Internet out there. Hours of your life can evaporate when you start scavenging for pertinent content. One solution to cutting down on the time-consuming search across websites has been the evolution of the email newsletter. It’s a trendy alternative to getting news, which has been embraced by the likes of Lena Dunham.
But email newsletters tend to focus on a particular subject. What do you do if you’re looking for fresh, relevant insights into the headlines? The amount of news information available to anyone with an Internet connection is overwhelming. Bobby Samuels and Eric Brewster have an answer. The two recent Harvard graduates, co-founders of the breezy The Daily Distiller, tweak the newsletter model. Rather than focusing on a particular area, The Daily Distiller presents the best articles in a number of subjects that include news, sports, culture, business and technology.
With 10 to 13 contributors covering diverse topics, Samuels and Brewster determine the day’s most important stories. Samuels, who was president of the Harvard Crimson, is based in Los Angeles, and Brewster, a former president of the Harvard Lampoon, works in New York City. Samuels notes the editorial strategy is to present articles “worth reading and worth having conversations about. Editorial decisions boil down to what people need to know. We see our job as determining what are the one or two stories you should read.”
This is where the distilling comes in.
The newsletter ends up as a distinct blend of Samuels and Brewster’s journalistic backgrounds. As Samuels points out, “We marry the best of journalism practices and infuse it with humor.” To that end, The Daily Distiller’s website notes that it presents: “thought-provoking and off-the-wall features that make for good ‘bathroom reads;’ a delicate balance of the frivolous and not-so-frivolous, written in a style that doesn’t make us want to hurl something at the Internet just so it can feel our #pain; and how to make a New Age old fashioned.”
Brewster’s Lampoon experience also shows up in the featured daily cartoon, as well as the newsletter’s boozy theme. Right out of the gate there’s a drink recipe that sets the tone for the day. For example, in honor of “Tell the Truth Day” last week, the drink recipe offered was “The Lie Detector.” Ingredients included bourbon, Amaro Nonino, pomegranate juice, lemon juice, simple syrup and orange marmalade.
Aside from these light touches, Samuels and Brewster are dedicated to scouring the 24-hour news cycle in an effort not to miss a story. “Our content is original, but we offer links to others’ content for readers who want to take a deeper dive than our summary,” Samuels says. The Daily Distiller’s website explains further that delving into a given story is like jumping down “rabbit holes” where readers will find “links and asides to explore the minutia of a topic when something genuinely piques our interest.”
There’s the “This Day in History” section to complement daily news stories. Editors also share pop culture tidbits by including the music people are listening to, the books they’re reading or the subjects they’re blogging about. The newsletter wraps up with what the editors call “parting shots.” These “shots” pair two articles that often balance each other. They can present two sides of a controversial issue or a relevant topic presented from a historical and contemporary point of view.
Additionally, Samuels and Brewster are on a mission to redeem the millennial image. Samuels says the term is generally not used in a flattering or strictly descriptive context. “If you search for [the subject] ‘millennial’ online, the results that come up are less than positive,” he says. “It’s a somewhat reductive term people use to bemoan our generation for one reason or another.”
Samuels and Brewster are currently aiming to expand The Daily Distiller’s reach by “getting it into the inboxes of more people.” The two co-founders say they’ll worry about the bottom line after they’ve spent time growing their readership. The plan is eventually to include revenue streams from advertisements and sponsored content. For the moment, though, Samuels and Brewster are concentrating on how to revolutionize the way people consume information. And they’re offering drink recommendations along the way.
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