After 10 years and more than 100 “tips”, April 2007 marks the last issue of the CDI “Tip o’ the Month” newsletter. Starting in May, all current subscribers will instead receive monthly e-mail notifications of new content on our blog, Direct Connections.
Why are we terminating a successful newsletter with a healthy subscriber base? The reasons are simple. If your company has an e-mail newsletter (and who doesn’t), you may find that many of these arguments are compelling reasons for you to dump your newsletter also and go the blog route.
Reason #1: Content
What’s the single factor that makes publishing a newsletter such a hassle? Content. Our newsletter may only be 300 words or so, but even coming up with that amount of original content every 30 days can be a challenge. Most newsletters require much more, and the demands of sourcing, editing, and publishing original, compelling, topical content even every 2 months is the primary cause for why many newsletters simply fade away after only a few issues.
A blog is much easier to maintain, for a number of reasons:
1. No publication schedule
With a blog, you’re freed from the demands of having to publish on a regular schedule. You can post new information 10 times in a month, or not at all. Moreover, you can post information in response to market events as they happen, rather than wait a few weeks at which point the content may not be as newsworthy.
2. No constraints on length or format or topic.
The format of our newsletter has meant every new “tip” had to be of a certain length and address a specific direct marketing strategy or technique. After 10 years, this started to become more of a challenge. But with the blog, I can post tips of any length, or comments on campaigns, or relevant industry news – anything that I think our readers would find interesting or useful.
Oh, and you can correct, update, and change your content at any time. With a newsletter, once a typo is out the door, there’s no getting it back.
Reason #2: Interactivity
Newsletters are essentially one-way communication. You can add interactive features, as we’ve done, including surveys, refer-a-friend, etc. but an e-mail newsletter is fundamentally a broadcast medium. Blogs are much more conducive to 2-way communication and interaction with your audience.
Reason #3: Broader Reach
A blog can easily replace a newsletter as a subscription vehicle simply by adding RSS feed and e-mail subscription features, as we’ve done. (To maintain consistency, we’ve set up our e-mail subscriptions to be once-per-month notifications of new content. You could choose to give your readers the opportunity to receive notifications more frequently, even instantly.)
But blogs don’t need to rely on subscriptions for readership the way newsletters do. As a link from your Website, a blog is a compelling, live, interactive forum that is as current as your last post (or the last reader comment). In contrast, newsletters are more static, and they quickly become more dated the longer they reside on the site.
Furthermore, blogs can be bookmarked, so even readers who prefer not to subscribe can still access, view, and respond to the content at any time.
Reason #4: Currency
Let’s face it, Web 2.0 is the way of the future, and blogs are a big part of the trend. If you’re like us, you need to stay current, and can’t afford to appear old-fashioned. It’s not a reason alone to dump your newsletter, but it can’t hurt.
In sum, we’re confident that not only will our blog enable us to post better content more frequently, but that it will generate a more effective dialogue with our readers. Are we right? Let us know your thoughts by adding your comments below.
All of the points you mention are valid, and definitely right on….but what about those users that dont subscribe to your RSS feed, havent bookmarked your site, and use email newsletters as a good way of “staying in touch” with your site.
Here’s an example: lets say i find one of your articles (or blog entries) through a google search. I find the article very useful and want to stay up to date with your content; so i subscribe to your newsletter.
Once I’m subscribed, I may be under the assumption that I will receive new article alerts, so there might not be a need for me to go back to the site. I personally do this with a number of sites that i read 1 rock solid article on. I’ll sign up for the newsletter and after a few newsletter issues are sent to me, I’ll make the decision of whether to unsubscribe or stay on the list.
Many people haven’t jumped on the RSS bandwagon and/or value newsletters as time savers for them, so they dont have to go out and seek the new content.
With newsletters, you are pushing your content out to your subscribers without them doing anything.
By not having any newsletter, you are requiring your readers to actively revisit your site to see if there is new content.
If an organization doesnt have enough resources to maintain the newsletter, then thats one thing; but why kill it off entirely if some of your audience uses your newsletter as their way of staying up to date with your organization?
Great comments, Vince. Response as follows:
>>Many people haven’t jumped on the RSS bandwagon …
I agree, and that’s why we made a point of including an e-mail subscription option.
>>By not having any newsletter, you are requiring your readers to actively revisit your site to see if there is new content.
Actually the monthly e-mail alerts that we’ve set up (first will go out mid-May) will serve precisely the same role as the newsletter (alerting readers to new content/tips on the blog), without them having to do anything.
The precise questions you raise were critical to us – can we maintain our readership, and keep in touch with our subscriber base – without mandating that they use a new technology (RSS) or requiring that they check back with us of their own initiative? I think the e-mail alert subscription has solved both problems. Tell me if you disagree.
It sounds like the email alerts will be very similar to the newsletter. What are the main differences? Lack of content quantity? Instant alert when new articles are published? (or is this being bundled into a monthly batch).
Why not offer visitors all the options instead of limiting them? For example, have an option for 1)article alerts – whenever new content is published (maybe even let them choose by topic) you’ll receive an instant alert.
2)Monthly newsletter – a good wrap up of the new articles/blog entries posted onto the site each week/month.
Or, maybe, within this email alert you can let users define their preferences in terms of topics, frquency, and quantity (content that is…full articles, short briefs, etc).
I think one of the main goals for publishers (once they have users on their site) is to drive home the value of the site enough so that the user takes an action to stay ‘connected’ to that site, whether thats through RSS, newsletters, or instant alerts. Giving the user the power to choose which option suits them best might be more beneficial than limiting their choices.
Just my $.02
I don’t disagree, and we may add these options in the future. But our priority in the short term was creating a seamless transition from the newsletter to the blog without requiring anything of the current subscribers. Yes, the email alerts will be very similar to the current newsletter, and they’ll provide a summary (and excerpts) of recent posts in monthly batch form. In the meantime, if someone is determined to get instant updates, they could choose the RSS option.