Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Can Blogs Replace Newsletters

For several months I've been thinking about whether hard copy newsletters should be (and could be) replaced or augmented with blogs. Many send out periodic (monthly or quarterly) newsletters with information for their clients. I used to write a monthly newsletter and have abandoned that for a couple of blogs - this one for non-EIT supported topics and I contribute to Tech Talk for EIT supported stuff. Is this the right thing to do for newsletters whose target audience is the general public or a more narrow group such as dairy producers?

Can a blog replace the newsletter? Today, I would say yes and no. There is a part of most audiences that can't or won't read the blog, so you have to continue sending the hard copy newsletter. But, you can start weaning those who receive the hard copy version over to the blog version.

Make your blog better than the hard copy issue - put more in your blog articles than your hard copy articles - because you aren't limited by the size of the piece of paper. Use photographs and links to related information - because you can. In the hard copy newsletter, be sure to mention that there is more in the blog and where to find it. This will encourage your clients to opt for the method that is better, faster, easier and cheaper for you to deliver.

In your blog, post 'Right Now' articles along with the same articles you put in your hard copy newsletter (get all the mileage you can). If they read the same article weeks sooner and more, and better articles, eventually they'll drop the hard copy preference.

I think more of your audience is using these technologies than you think. Technorati is currently tracking 81.2 million blogs. That means that a significant portion of the general public is reading blogs and technologically competent enough to be using tools like RSS readers to get their information. If they aren't, perhaps this is a training opportunity for you to really help your clients learn how to get information.

If they aren't doing so today, they will be soon! Do you want to be 'established' before a critical mass of your audience is ready? Do you want to be seen as 'out of date' with the percentage of your audience that is already using RSS readers and wonders why they can't get your information that way?

If your clients are running a business and aren't capable of using these tools, they won't be in business much longer. Do them a favor and help them learn.

I often hear "My clients prefer hard copy newsletters". I wonder if they were asked 'would they prefer receiving it via email for free or paying $1.00 per issue for hard copy' - (it costs near that or more if you figure postage, copying and staff time printing, labeling, preparing for mail and mailing) how many would still opt for the hard copy?

I also wonder how they would answer if they were informed that the online articles would be delivered as they were written rather than waiting weeks for them to be collected, formatted and mailed?

Another bonus of blogging is that it is easy for multiple people to contribute like Tim and Diane are doing with Master Your Garden.

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