Tuesday, July 15, 2008

What Makes a Useful e-Newsletter?

Newsletter Content, Part II: Electronic
by Alan Eggleston, writer and editor

A LinkedIn question recently asked, “
What makes a useful newsletter?

Electronic newsletters are much different than their print cousins.

For one thing, they have much different space requirements – more freedom – but readers are less willing to read on a screen, resulting in additional restrictions. So while you don’t need to worry about run-over of an article, you do need to worry about losing your reader to eyestrain. So, to make your electronic newsletter useful, create a shortened “mail-able” version with shorter articles that link to extended versions.

Another important difference, you need to worry about download time, which means you can afford to use fewer and smaller visuals. Most electronic newsletters are e-mailed, so you don’t want to send a newsletter to someone that will make them wait a long time to open (they will wait for it to open while it downloads the visuals). To make your newsletter useful, minimize the number and size of graphics, including artworks and images.

In addition, most electronic newsletters feature short several short blurbs. The copy may be news copy or it may be promotional copy, either way it’s meant to attract you to going to the full-length article. To make your newsletter useful, provide enough detail and news to make it worth opening and reading your blurbs. Too much tease and they won’t bother to open it the next time! Keep the copy short and to the point, the headlines short and snappy – all of it easy to scan.

Finally, it’s an electronic medium, so provide links. Links to articles. Links to more information. Links to background information. Links to contact information. And don’t forget giving the reader a way to opt out of receiving your newsletter in the future, a requirement in the electronic world.

Some things in common
There are things print and electronic newsletters share in common:

  • Newsletters need to contain news
  • News needs to be timely and in electronic newsletters, it had better be hot off the press
  • Some if not most of your news should be unique to you or presented in a unique way
  • “News” can include biographies, interviews, features, and spotlights as long as they are first-runs

Some things to avoid
Things to avoid in an electronic newsletter:

  • Filler – space isn’t a problem so you don’t have to fill it
  • Games and puzzles – unless there’s a compelling reason to include one to impart information
  • Long copy – don’t overwhelm your reader; give him something quick to digest then move on
  • Long sentences – don’t get your reader bogged down in lengthy content of any kind
  • Scrolling pages – Keep It Short and Sweet (KISS)

Alan Eggleston is a writer and editor with e-Messenger Consulting Corp.

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