Effective direct-to-desktop publishing requires a major shift in how you
look at the purpose of your newsletter
It is my contention that some publishers, and most especially email publishers,
are marketers first and publishers second. That means they see making sales as
the primary purpose of publishing an ezine or newsletter. We all hope that our
publications will achieve that goal, but it should not be the primary purpose of
your publication. Instead, your publication should focus on providing content of
the highest quality that establishes your credibility. You do that by showing
your readers that you know your stuff, that you are, dare I use the word, an
expert – a real expert – in your field.
This means you need to do as much writing of your own as possible. Yes, I
realize that writing articles is hard work and time-consuming. That is why we
publishers use third-party articles. but don’t just run any article that you
receive. Use some discrimination. Use only articles that complement your own
content, that are appropriate to the focus of your own newsletter. And, whatever
you do, do not just publish the article as is. Write a short introduction that
gives your readers your own thoughts on the article. Remember, you want to
establish your reputation, your credibility, not someone else’s.
The received wisdom is that newsletters should be used to promote your own
products and services. If you look at the vast majority of email newsletters,
that is exactly what the publishers seem to think is the purpose of their
newsletter. In most, including a lot of the most-well known, newsletters, you
can hardly find the content among all the advertising. these publishers seem to
feel the need to shove their advertising in your face. However, let’s look at
what should serve as a model for all online publishers: your local newspaper.
Most newspapers do not cram every page of their publications with so many ads
that you cannot find the articles. Most of the good ones tend to have a separate
section for advertising. And what ads do appear in the content sections are
presented in such a way that they do not interfere with the presentation of the
news. How long do you think your local paper would keep its subscribers if they
overloaded the news pages with ads? It’s time we online publishers changed the
way we think. We need to get away from the newsletter-as-vehicle-for-advertising
model and switch to a newsletter-as-vehicle-for-quality-content model. Effective
direct-to-desktop publishing requires a major shift in how you look at the
design of your newsletter.
Email publishers tend to publish discrete issues of their newsletters on a
regular schedule. The most common schedule is once a week. Each issue contains
all the information that publisher wants to communicate to his or her
subscribers for that week. There are a couple of drawbacks to that format,
beyond the basic problem that this publisher is using email as her delivery
The first drawback is the length. With a couple of articles and a half dozen or
so classified ads, along with the regular information like the welcome, the
disclaimers required with email, the unsubscribe information, etc., that makes
for a fairly long message. Most Internet users just don’t read messages of that
Yes, you could send out more frequent shorter messages, but that only compounds
the problems associated with email delivery exponentially. The more often you
email your subscribers, the more likely you are of getting shut down because of
a spam complaint.
By using a weblog type of format, you do not do discrete issues. Rather you post
an article or your advertising or an editorial on any given day. Let’s say on
Monday, you post an article about RSS publishing, then on Tuesday you publish an
editorial about the upcoming election, on Wednesday, you publish a couple of
classifieds, on Thursday you publish an article on holiday advertising and on
Friday you publish a few more ads. Let’s say this is the same content you would
have published in a discrete issue, except for the disclaimers and the mast head
– the stuff at the top that identifies your newsletter, You do not need to
publish the mast head because it is always there on your blog. You do not need
to include all the email disclaimers because you are not using email. Things
like advertising disclaimers and welcome messages can be integrated into the
overall design of your weblog as a sidebar, so they are always there. Anyone
going to your blog page will see them every time they visit.
Yes, even though you are using RSS as your delivery system for your
newsletter, your newsletter will have an HTML page as well that your readers
will visit whenever they read an entire item in your newsletter.
You see, the RSS feed will only carry the title as a link and the first
paragraph or two of your item, say the article about RSS publishing. Each item
will be listed separately in the same format. The RSS feed will hold up to
fifteen items, the last fifteen items you posted. Any good RSS publishing system
will set all this up for you and do all the necessary coding changes. Usually
you post your item in HTML and the publishing system converts it to XML for you.
Doing it all manually is not effective or efficient, so I suggest you not do
that! The idea is to use RSS to make your life easier not harder. More on these
systems later on.
With the better publishing systems you do not even have to know a lot of HTML
because they will allow you to post your item as text and it will format the
line breaks for you. As long as you put a double hard break at the end of each
paragraph of text, your article will look fine. You can add bold or italics or
underlines as needed. But, the better your HTML skills, the more creative you
can be in how your posts will look.
Also, if you have the necessary expertise and tools, you can add graphics,
Flash, audio, video, or anything else you want to jazz up your pages. Do NOT add
executables (EXE) files to your posts. That creates all kinds of problems for
your readers and is forbidden by most, if not all, publishing systems. Also, if
you add multimedia to your newsletter, I strongly recommend you do in a way so
that your reader can choose to view it or not. Not only is that the courteous
thing to do, but it also will prevent you from locking up your reader’s
computer. Although most people have fairly sophisticated computers these days,
there are still people who might not be able to or do not want to view these
kinds of files. Remember, your reader is in control here, not you.
Doing daily posts, which I consider the ideal schedule, may seem like a lot more
work, but, in reality and once you get the hang of it, it really is less time
consuming than doing one big issue a week. Also, a lot of email publishers have
gone back to doing text-based newsletters to avoid some of the filtering of
email that is going on. HTML email is often blocked or the HTML is disabled
unless you specifically ask to see it.
Text newsletters are dull and boring. The Internet is a visual medium first and
foremost. Yes, it is for the transmission of content, but that content has to be
visually appealing to your readers. There is nothing appealing about a long text
message that uses rows of unimaginative characters like #,@, * or others to try
to add some zest to all that text. If you want to keep your readers, yes,
provide them with lots of great content, but also present that content in a way
that captures their imaginations.
Finally, there is a very strong marketing reason for using a blog type of
format. I will only touch on it briefly here and explain it in detail in my next
blog on marketing with RSS.
You want new subscribers for your newsletter, right? That means you need to get
new people to see your newsletter, right? That means getting traffic to your
newsletter page, right? One of the best ways to do that is to get the search
engines like Google to spider your newsletter every time you add a new item to
your weblog. What would you say if I told you there was a marketing tool that
could do that? It’s called pinging weblogs.com… more about it in my next blog!
How does one become an Internet marketing guru? In the case of Doug Champigny, it took almost 30 years… Starting as a reporter/photographer in the early 70′s, he soon realized the real money was in advertising – and made the switch as quickly as possible! After stints as advertising manager of various print publications, Champigny jumped to the Advertising Agency arena, founding two retail agencies over the years… Fascinated by the mass-communication potential of the fledgeling Internet, Champigny took a 2 year sabbatical in the 80′s, returning to college to study computer programming full time, joining the online ‘geek’ community in 1982. How the ‘Net has changed since then!
Returning to the advertising industry, Champigny founded The Cyber Surfer in 1993 as a retail advertising ’boutique’, creating print, radio and TV campaigns for local and national accounts while monitoring the growth of the World Wide Web. By 1996 the decision was made to switch the agency’s focus from traditional media to the Web, and Champigny’s never looked back!