Ideas for Your Business from Idea Cafe

Nuts & Bolts of Online Newsletter Publishing

OK, let's say your biz has a website, and you've decided to promote it by publishing an online newsletter. You've contemplated the basics, such as how often you want to publish, who'll receive it, etc. Now what? Where do you go from there? Welcome to decision-making time! Ponder these possibilities:

Choose from two different types of Internet newsletters: public and private. In the typical public newsletter, anyone can subscribe to it freely (from your website, for example), though only the moderator or list owner (you!) can send mailings to people on the list. In a private newsletter, the moderator controls both subscriptions and mailings. You can decide which is better for you, then proceed accordingly. OK, I understand! So now what?!

Know the difference between newsletters and listservs. Mailing list management programs (also called listservs) automatically process subscriptions and unsubscriptions (God forbid!), as well as the process of mailing to each of the subscribers. The downside of these programs is that they send each posted message to every subscriber on the list, which can result in hundreds of emails a day. Your biz information could easily get lost in the pile of endless, second-hand email! A newsletter is a document you email to people on request (usually free of charge), and only the information you send ends up in their email in-box.

This is the point where you really need to ask yourself whether you can (or want to!) handle this project from a technical standpoint. But if all this technical mumbo jumbo sounds like ancient Aramaic, you may want to turn to experts for help. Many companies will help your biz write and distribute your newsletter online. Search the Internet for online marketing companies. Before you hire one, ask to see past copies of other newsletters they've published. Make sure they have the right attitude to match your visions of what the newsletter should accomplish.

On the other hand, if you're familiar with ISPs (Internet Service Providers) and mailing list management software programs, by all means, forge ahead! To the technically savvy, online newsletters can be a relatively simple task.

Ideas for Getting Started:

1. Talk with your business partner, staff, friends, family, and whoever else will listen about what should go into the newsletter. Brainstorming can be a great way to come up with ideas that you'd never have thought of alone.

2. Research competing online newsletters to see what they're all about. If you find there are several newsletters out there pertaining to your biz, try to find a unique niche for yours.

3. Contact your Internet Service Provider for help. Find out how much they charge to do mailing lists. (If the cost seems high, shop around. Prices for these services are currently extremely competitive.)

4. Devise a way for visitors to your website to subscribe to your newsletter. (And make sure you tell people how to subscribe and unsubscribe in each issue you send out.)

5. Create and maintain an archive of past and current issues of your newsletter. This enriches your website content and allows potential subscribers to get an idea of what you have to offer before they subscribe.

Give Them a Reason to Subscribe

Online newsletters aren't "spam," or electronic junk mail. Customers and other subscribers want the newsletter because they want to read it. Why? Because you have something useful and cool to say. Lots of Idea Cafe regulars send us absolutely fascinating online newsletters! Like the veterinarian whose issue on fleas kept our dogs itch-free throughout the summer.

Keep in mind that since online newsletters are text-only documents (for now, anyhow), you can't rely on extras like color, graphics, or fancy fonts. Your words have to paint the pictures. For ideas on writing well for the web, check out these articles about how to say it in cyberspace:

Keep It Short & Simple

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