Formatting your new Newsletter.
Last week I started a series of articles on publishing a
newsletter. If you did not have a chance to read it, it is
available at http://www.imswebtips.com/issue27top2.htm.
This first article covers some of the benefits and pitfalls
associated with publishing an ezine (E-Zine, Electronic
If after reading the article you decide that publishing your own
newsletter is a potentially worthwhile endeavor, your next
consideration will be the mechanics of formatting, maintaining
and distributing it.
To a large extent, the format of your newsletter is a personal
decision. Its style and format will help to distinguish and
personalize it in the same way as your web site. The effects of
your style decisions however, can be quite significant and are
the topics for many other articles.
There are some newsletter formats that all ezines should
conform too. The first is identification. Ensure that the Subject
will identify your newsletter as soon as it is received. If many
of your subscribers are like me they will attack any formula
email with the delete key if they don't recognize it right away.
The second is consistency. Once your subscribers start to
receive your newsletters it is important to ensure that they
recognize it and understand its format. The third is enticement.
Encourage your subscribers to read your articles. Include a
brief description of the newsletter's subject matter and topic or
topics to be discussed.
If you look at the format of this and most other newsletters,
you will see that they conform to the same format as most
publications. The title, publisher, date, issue and ISSN number
if available. The subject and topics to be discussed are also
necessary. You must also include subscription information.
A newsletter can have two types of Subscribers. The first are
those that opt to join because they feel your newsletter will
offer something of interest to them. The second are those that
never asked to join. Their email addresses could have been
added because you purchased a list from someone, used a
program to harvest email addresses from Websites or because
you found some other method of getting their email addresses
without their permission. This is obviously Spam and I don't
need to tell any of you not to do it. Professional Spammers are
not going to take any notice anyway.
What is not so obvious is when an Opt In newsletter crosses or
appears to cross the boundary from Newsletter to Spam. There
are many reasons why this may happen. First, there is no clear
definition of Spam. Using your own products and services in
an article may be a very valid way of making a point. A reader
however may consider it self serving and label it as Spam.
Another quite common problem is when a subscriber forgets
that they Opted-in to a newsletter. This may be compounded
by a format change in the newsletter style or by an infrequent
or erratic publication schedule. There are many ways to help
minimize these problems but sooner or later a reader will
The best solution to minimize problems with unhappy
subscribers is to make the UNSUBSCRIBE process as simple
and painless as possible. I have seen newsletters that require
you to phone a number or fill out a form in order to
UNSUBSCRIBE. For the most part I suspect that these types
of ezines are mostly Spam. The fact is there is no reason why
the UNSUBSCRIBE process should be any more complicated
than the SUBSCRIBE process. For the vast majority of
legitimate newsletters this simply means replying to the
newsletter with UNSUBSCRIBE or REMOVE in the subject
or body of your newsletter.
You can use almost any word processor or email program to
write your newsletter including Notepad. I would however,
strongly recommend that you include a good spell checker.
Even the best spellers are not immune to typing errors. One
common problem associated with many emails is line
wrapping. This results from the fact that subscribers use many
different screen resolutions. A newsletter
That fits on one subscriber's email
May be too
Long to fit on another. The email
will then add a carriage return before
the end of
the line creating this undesired effect.
Solution is to force a hard return at approximately 65
Finally, you need to consider the number and length of the
articles or topics to be included. This will vary greatly from
ezine to ezine but you should try to ensure it is consistent for
your newsletter. Needless to say, you should try to make your
articles as entertaining and informative as possible. This last
point is easily said. I wish it were that easy to do. Maybe it
will be for you.
Next week I shall discuss ways for you to maintain and
distribute your newsletter along with online support aids and
newsletters. Yes there are newsletters out there devoted
specifically to publishing and promoting newsletters.
"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.