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Dirty secret of publishing a blog vs. an HTML e-newsletter

If you're debating whether to launch a spiffy-looking HTML e-newsletter or start a blog... seriously consider the latter.

Here's why: once you have a blog template set up (quite simple to do if you use a hosted service like TypePad) it's the work of 15 minutes to write a short, pithy paragraph and publish it to your snazzy blog site.

In contrast, I maintain that you cannot produce and send a properly formatted HTML newsletter, no matter how short and pithy, in less than two hours.

You MUST check your links, send test copies and otherwise correctly configure your HTML template in whatever email service you are using. And once you publish, cross your figures and pray that your new issue will make its way through spam filters to your readers.

Yes, I am simplifying a complicated issue. An e-newsletter is pushed to your readers via the universally understood channel of email. A blog can also be pushed to your readers... but via the much less well understood - and adopted - channel of RSS.

And RSS, still new, has its problems: Will RSS simplify your life?

But if you add up writing, editing and production time, a blog wins hands down.  What's your take on publishing a blog vs. an e-newsletter? Click that Comments click and let 'er rip.

Useful resource
How HTML Code Affects E-mail Deliverability

 

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Posted by Debbie Weil on March 17, 2005 in E-newsletters vs blogs | Permalink

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Comments

Duane

I run the newsletter for my company. It goes out to 2 million people. We are about to embark on a whole new design that brings a whole bunch of new content feeds into the mix. I'd love to do it blog/rss style. I have just one question - how do you do an RSS feed so that you can track back who clicked on what? Right now my newsletter enables me to follow a person from their first click all the way through to determining whether or not they bought something, and build up a profile of habits. If I send the same RSS out to all my users, then I'm going to lose that, am I not?

I *want* to be wrong. Somebody just tell me how I am wrong.

Debbie

I don't have the complete answer. Partial answer: you can track the "what" but not the "who."

Like this... if you publish your e-newsletter as a blog (which will generate an RSS feed, of course) you can embed an encoded text link within your blog post. But it won't be a unique tracking link for each reader. So you'll know if a given link got clicked on (the "what") and generated x-number of sales. But you won't know who clicked on it.

Anyone else out there have a better answer than this??

Brent

You could always require site registration and track that way, but you will be putting up an additional barrier to your information.

On another note, according to Pew Internet & American Life Project only about 5% of Internet user say they use a RSS reader. So abandoning email for RSS feeds is not the answer right now. You should compliment your newsletter with a RSS feed so your customers can choose the channel that meets their needs.

Heather

Debbie

I love our blogs! They allow me to interact and share ideas with customers. And when comments are posted, ideas can be shared by all!

Patsi Krakoff

I say do both! Don't abandonned a hard earned ezine list in favor of sending readers over to your blog. On the other hand, I tell new clients that if they don't already have a list built up, starting a blog may be a way around the email newsletter list building problems. But you can't "build it and they will come." You still have to drive traffic over to the blog and acquire readers. Quality content still rules. I have tripled my web visits since having a blog, and ezine subscriptions are up as well. It's like having more fishing poles out there in the Internet fishing pond. Patsi over at www.coachezines.com & www.bizbooknuggets.com

Duane

I had an interesting conversation with one of our marketing people today, after a typical battle over RSS and blogs. I said, "As an engineer I love RSS because it's literally about a 5 minute job for me to turn my current content into an RSS feed, leave it on a server someplace, and if people want it, they come and get it. Minimal cost, therefore all gain is good gain. But if you're asking me what project we should tackle that will generate us the most revenue in the shortest amount of time, even if we have to build something completely unique to do it, then RSS is definitely not the answer."

Debbie

Duane,

Tell us more about what you do. What kind of company, how do you generate revenue??

Debbie

Roger C. Parker

Dear Debbie:
You are right on.

Blogs are indeed design-free, content management systems that not only permit easy archiving and access to previously-written content, but take design out of the equation when communicating.

www.typepad.com really makes it easy to communicate more effectively and project a professional image after an easy 45-minute set-up. Best of all, at any time, you can revise and improve without incurring hefty design fees.

Whee!

Steve

Debbie,

Great article. As the owner of a web design and internet marketing firm, I can attest that blogs are in fact taking over some of the email newsletter jobs. However, email newsletters still have their place because not all internet users even hop on the web, instead choosing to just read email. Also, until rss readers are in standard use on cell phones, pda's, and other tools, people will still love their email.

Now, I have recognized the business blog culture and am offering services geared towards it. Blogs are simple for anybody to set up, but they still could use further optimization, and I thinkn that's where web dev firms looking to make a niche need to focus. Agree?

Steve

Debbie

Steve,

Yes I agree that it's too soon to give up on e-newsletters. Interesting to see how blogs and e-letters work together, BTW. By publishing this little article in yesterday's issue of WordBiz Report, I drove a bunch of traffic to this particular post. And more readers left comments than usual. Fun to see how it actually works.

:)

Khalid Osman

Thanks for great information through the newsletter and this Web site.

I really found the newsletter invaluale.

I´ve learned that there´s a one in place tools that fit your "Really Simple Syndication". Those tools are perfect to track clicks to links if you store them in your links library from within.

Your question is very deep Debbie and although I am not a RSS expert but
I think there´s an answer to your question here
http://tinyurl.com/45bpq

I thought I´ve commented on the issue of tracking through the "Subscribe" page to your newsletter somewhere.

Rok Hrastnik

Hello everyone,

Since there has been quite some discussion here, I'll try replying to most of the general conversation directions below:

1. I don't think we should discuss whether a blog should replace an e-zine, but rather how to use both to increase your exposure, increase sales and develop better relationships.

One approach is to use blogs to deliver daily news, opinions and insights (all of these short enough for people to actually read) and then do a monthly or weekly e-zine with more in-depth content + the best of the blog posts in that time frame.

In truth, blogs cannot replace "standard" e-zines, and e-zines cannot replace blogs. It's not the question of "which", but of how to integrate both.

2. The same then applies to RSS and e-mail. The best approach is to provide both. One of the easiest things to do is:

a) Deliver your e-zine via e-mail, but also provide a dedicated RSS feed as a notification channel for new e-zine issues, as many internet users are starting to preferr RSS.

b) Deliver your blog content via RSS, in the form of individual content items, as they are published on your web site.

This should get you started, although it's of course only the beginning.

3. If you're worried about RSS readership, please read this article (sorry, it's too long to post in full here):
http://www.marketingstudies.net/blogs/rss/archive/000289.html

4. RSS metrics are certainly a challenge. How you tackle it depends on what you use to publish via RSS and what your budget is.

For instance, one of the service providers offering RSS metrics is SyndicateIQ: http://www.syndicateiq.com

Duane, your problem is somewhat more complex, but still nothing impossible.

If you wanted to use the same metrics functionality with RSS as you do with e-mail, your best choice is to integrate an RSS publishing solution with your existing e-mail/user management solution. Depending on your budget, you could either work with an existing RSS publishing solution provider towards that end, or develop this in-house.

What you basically need is:
- a system to generate an individual RSS feed for each of your users (unique URL, so that you can track subscribers)
- a system to embedd tracking URLs for CTRs from the feed

This is actually a very simple process, but it does of course require some basic programming.

If you can integrate with an existing provider, that's a much easier approach.

Shawn Lea

I just (this week!) converted our weekly electronic newsletter to a blog. (Visit http://mhanewsnow.typepad.com if you want to see.) I think it's going to take a lot of education of our members (we're an association) and the belt-and-suspenders method for a while (weekly e-mails with links to blog posts to remind members to visit the site). But in the end, it will be more efficient for our members and it will make my job easier!

sa

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