Emerson alum creates daily newsletter

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Photo: Courtesy of Anum Hussain

Anum Hussain, one of the founders of Below the Fold.

By Karissa Schaefer, Deputy Living Arts Editor

In 2020, Anum Hussain ‘13 launched Below the Fold, a free daily newsletter determined to catch stories that fall in between the cracks of mainstream media outlets. Below the Fold aims to do just as the name suggests — making news that gets stashed below the fold of a newspaper easily accessible.

Hussain, the newsletter’s chief executive and co-founder, transitioned from journalism to digital marketing during her time at Emerson, beginning a five-year marketing career after graduating. Using her knowledge and previous love for working in media, she decided to combine the two careers with Below the Fold.

“I really missed media,” Hussain said. “But I wanted to think about it now through this lens of marketing, about how you deliver the right content to the right customer at the right time.”

After her time at Emerson, Hussain attended MIT to get her Masters of Business Administration, where she got the idea for Below the Fold. At the start, Below the Fold was a company that sought to help users find information in news quickly with the help of artificial intelligence. The newsletter was a weekly product at the time, and consumers kept asking for more, Hussain said. 

“That’s what made us decide that we should send a newsletter to help people discover these stories,” Hussain said. “It started as a weekly thing on Fridays. We saw that people really wanted more so we started to shift twice a week and people were asking for more, so we switched it to three times a week. We’re now a daily, fully operated content business.” 

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The newsletter completely transformed and became the daily product that subscribers know and love after users told the company their favorite aspect of the product was finding news stories they hadn’t seen elsewhere. 

“It really came from the voice of our users who were using our tech product and were struggling to keep up with news, and now we have a number of readers who tell us they subscribe to a number of major newsletters, newspapers, and the stories that we send them are ones they’re not seeing at any of these sources,” Hussain said. 

As stories on publications like The New York Times usually dominate news headlines on any given week or day, Below the Fold sweeps up missing stories that are just as important—whether that’s regarding world news, the environment, technology, and more, Hussain said. 

“We studied the landscape of news today and found it’s really hard to know what’s happening in your world beyond the trending headlines,” Hussain said. “Now that we are in this fully digital atmosphere, Below the Fold does the job of digging up those hidden stories and helping you see stuff past what that front page is.”

The Below the Fold team goes through a multitude of news sites and mobile apps, scanning for stories that don’t make the front page on mainstream news outlets. All of Below the Fold’s revenue comes from dedicated sponsors, Hussain said. 

“We look at everything across the board, similar to other news companies. Our main differentiator is finding ‘below the fold’ stories,” Hussain said. 

Hussain and her co-founder, Vivian Diep, met at MIT. The pair runs the newsletter full time as a two-person team, with help from interns and contractors. The newsletter is built during pitch meetings on Mondays, where members of the team explain how the stories fit in Below the Fold.

“At the pitch meeting, we bring stories that we think are worthy for Below the Fold that haven’t been talked about, and have everyone on our team voice why they think that story is a great one for our audience,” Hussain said.

Hussain said their selection process takes “news wellness” into consideration, a term they coined for mental health and news consumption. Each newsletter has a temperature gauge at the top, informing the reader of the edition’s news wellness. Interns help research the positive, neutral and negative balance of stories, then Hussain and Diep write and edit drafts for each edition. 

“News wellness is all about how you stay informed while balancing your mental wellbeing,” Hussain said. “That’s something we really care about as more people are stressed from the news, as more and more people are tuning out the news because of its impact on your health. Every pitch meeting, we look at what is our balance of negative, neutral, and positive stories so throughout the week we’re giving you a mix.”