So you want to Publish a Newsletter.

Several issues back I discussed the use of Dynamic Content as a
way to encourage your visitors to return. This included adding
syndicated articles, setting up discussion boards, adding surveys and
maintaining the "Freshness" of your site with frequent updates.

One idea I did not suggest was to create a newsletter. Strictly
speaking, newsletters do not require a Web Site. When a Web Site
is used with a newsletter, it is often the Web Site that supports the
newsletter and not vise versa. A newsletter is not a passive means of
encouraging traffic to your web site. It will require a significant
effort equal to or greater than the effort required in maintaining a
web site.

If you have the time, commitment, expertise and aptitude, a
newsletter can be a great addition to your on-line business.

What are the benefits and pitfalls?

Have you ever been to a website only to discover that someplace it
says "Last Updated, January 1997"? With a little effort it is now
quite easy to set up a web page that will display today's date
following the "Last Updated" statement.

As a visitor, it is very difficult to know much about what is going on
behind a Web Page. Is the business committed to the Internet with a
concerted continuous effort to build, improve and promote their on-
line presence? Or did they hire a good Web Designer to create a
great looking website that they are pretty clueless to understand and
maintain effectively. The fact is a website could have a hundred
trained professionals working on it as you visit or one office clerk
that only occasionally looks to see if the web page is still there.

For those of you that are committed to your online presence, the
Opaque Glass screen of your Web Site between you and your
visitors can be a significant problem. It effectively prevents you
from distinguishing your business from the next. A Web Site is a
great way to introduce your business but it is also a mask that hides
your true personality, expertise and commitment.

A newsletter is a great way to remove the mask, for better or worse.

What can a newsletter do for you? It will put a face to your
business. Suddenly, your subscribers will start to recognize that
there are real people behind your Web Site and that they are
committed to their business. They will also be able to assess your
expertise and appreciate the fact that there is someone able to
support them if they do decide to purchase any products or services
you offer. Through a newsletter you will also be able to give your
readers a reason to visit your website by telling them about special
promotions or product updates. Finally, a newsletter with a large
subscriber base can be used to generate advertising revenue directly.
It is the primary reason many newsletters exist.

What can a newsletter do to you? It can expose your lack of
expertise. It can label you as a Spammer if you are overzealous in
adding subscribers or in self promotion. Most importantly, it can use
up your time and resources that you simply may not have to spare.
A newsletter will double or triple the demand on your Web effort
over that of just maintaining and promoting a Web Site.

What type of newsletter can you publish?

There are many different styles of newsletters. These include "self
help" such as this. Reference newsletters that basically link to other
sources of information on a given topic. Promotional newsletters
inform their subscribers about the latest product offerings and
specials. Question and Answer newsletters are similar to Moderated
User Groups but with greater control. Current Events and Hard
News require a special Reporter's expertise, fact gathering talent and
resources. Trivia and jokes may not require any special expertise at

It is best to select a topic on which you do have a special expertise
that is relevant to your online presence. If you have a Pokemon site,
talk about Pokemon, you probably know as much as anyone else. If
you sell wine, talk Special Vintages or hangover remedies at each
New Year. If you do publish a "How To" newsletter, be sure that
you are a reasonably good expert in you field. I'm a post-graduate
that has been developing and promoting computer graphic and
animation software for 18 years. (The last 7 on the Internet). Even
so, I was quite embarrassed when I mistyped "Anachronism"
instead of "Acronym" a few issues back. I still get a daily flood of
email correcting my mistake. (Which I lamely blame on Bill Gates'
spell checker).

Publishing a newsletter is definitely not for everyone. You must
know your topic, be able and willing to write about it effectively
and have the time and discipline to publish on a regular basis.

After the holidays, I shall continue this topic with some ideas on
how you can effectively promote and distribute a newsletter.

"IMS Web Tips" ISSN 1488-7088
© Copyright 1999 Virtual Mechanics

"IMS Web Tips" is a weekly news letter for all web site managers regardless of experience who are looking for detailed information on creating, maintaining and promoting their web sites.
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