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When Should You Add a Newsletter to Your Blog?

Over on Plurk HCI Blogger asked me – “How do you decide when to start publishing a newsletter?”

I’m sure other bloggers with newsletters will have different opinions to me on this one but if I were starting a new blog today I’d start a newsletter to go with it on the very same day.

I won’t rehash all of the reasons why a newsletter can improve your blog but will give a couple of reasons why starting one at the launch date of your blog can be a good idea.

3 Reasons Why You Should Consider Starting a Newsletter in the Early Days of Your Blog

1. ‘Capture’ Early Readers – while some would argue that when you don’t have many readers it can be more effort than it’s worth to start a newsletter I have found that it’s not the case. When I started Digital Photography School I started a newsletter very quickly after launch and found that it was a great way of convincing those first time readers to come back to the blog for a second look.

Your blog might only have 10 readers a day – but if you can send those 10 readers an email once a week that reminds them to check out a new post on your blog then over a year you’ve effectively created 500 new visits to your blog from just 10 readers. Recruit 10 new readers a week to subscribe to your blog and by the end of the year you’ve got 500 subscribers.

In short – it’s never too early to start creating loyal readers on your blog.

2. Use Subscribers to Sneeze Your Blog to Others – in the early days of my DPS blog I would give my subscribers regular updates on how many people subscribed and how the blog was developing. My motivation was to show them that they were a part of something that was growing. What I found in doing this was that it was my newsletter subscribers who promoted my blog and newsletter to their friends.

A newsletter is great at drawing people back to your site but it’s also great at creating momentum and giving readers a sense of ownership of your blog. Get them involved in promoting you and you could find that these first subscribers really take your blog to the next level for you.

3. Develop Routine – creating a newsletter each week takes time and effort (I spend 1-2 hours each week on creating each of my newsletters). While you could put off this effort until your blog has a regular readership, doing it in the early days helps you to create a weekly rhythm for your blog that helps you keep things going. It also helps you get used to the newsletter tool that you’ve chosen so that when your audience is bigger you’ve already got a great template and handle on how to use it effectively.

A Last Tip – Start Small

OK – I’ve probably just freaked a few of you out with the information that it takes me 1-2 hours a week to make a newsletter. Most people don’t have that kind of time!

Don’t stress – I would highly recommend that you start smaller than that in two ways:

  • Less Regularity – there’s no need to start with a weekly email if your list is small. You might like to start with an email that goes out every 2nd week or even monthly in the early days.
  • Simple Emails – the emails that I send are html emails that do take a little extra work. I insert pictures and get emails looking as good as possible. However you can always start out with a simple html template or even just with a text based email. Both of these will take less time (I find that I can put together a good text email in half an hour).

Having said this – newsletters do take time and effort to produce. They have many benefits but they don’t just happen by themselves.

What do you think?

Do you have a newsletter attached to your blog? Why or Why not?

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. Brian says:

    I think for someone who is doing this full time then depending on the niche, a newsletter would be a good idea. It’s another medium for spreading the word of your site / brand.

    But as someone who is not a full time blogger, it’s hard enough to find the time to get posts on the site. I don’t see myself having the time to create a newsletter also. Plus not sure about a newsletter and my site topic.

  2. This is something I have been thinking about starting for quite some time. Who are you using for your newsletter management? I have heard great things about aweber.

  3. Great idea! I too very much would like to start a newsletter to go along with my blog.

    I just am not sure of how to go about choosing the right program myself.

    I’m sure it will require purchasing an auto responder service.

    Right now I’m trying to keep my cost to virtually zero until I can get some kind of income from my blog.

  4. Thank you for this post. It confirms a “hunch” of mine when it comes to having a newsletter as part of the blog’s promo system. I am doing a weekly newsletter myself and send it to mailing lists that I am part of (where the people know me well). I am using MS Word with simple html so they can click and open the individual post or just go to the website. My average user count is 18/day curently, the site has been up 3.5 weeks. Do you have any particular software in creating newsletters?

  5. I send out a monthly Constant Contact newsletter. (Monthly and special event e-mails are all that I can handle for now.) I share special “members-only” offers/events/etc. in the monthly newsletter

  6. Don Mak says:

    I agree that newsletters are important. On my songwriting blog (link above) I have a newsletter that I send out when a new issue comes out. I only add 4 flagship articles per month and just do weekly general songwriting news once a week in between.

    When I add the new articles every month I send out a newsletter a day or so after the articles are posted and the traffic has died down from the RSS subscribers.

    I always see a spike in traffic on newsletter days too. The other cool thing is that I usually forget about the newsletter subscribers until I go in to write the newsletter, and I’m pleasantly surprised to see 30 or 40 new subscribers.

    I would imagine a newsletter option would be even more important if you aren’t doing a tech-related blog (like mine). A lot of musicians are decidedly anti-technology and RSS is something they have no desire at all to learn about – unless your Christine Kane or something ;-)

    Thanks for the article Darren.

  7. Rachel says:

    I have a monthly newsletter as well. I try to offer subscribers discounts on products that they might like.

  8. Edward Lomax says:

    I agree… set up your newsletter immediately.

    I set up my “newsletter” with Feedblitz, which sends out email updates using the RSS feed to the schedule I set. So, in reality, it is not a “newsletter” I spend any time on. It is done automatically.

    I go as far as setting up a free report give away right in the beginning to encourage email update sign ups. (I then set up an autoresponder with Feedblitz that sends an instant email with the link)

    While this is not a “newsletter” that I write, the email updates do promote return visits to my blog. And if there was ever an important message I wanted to get to my list, I could send out an email message.

    If you get all this set up in the beginning, you don’t have to worry about it again. I’ve had sign ups to my list when my blog was only 2 days old… so it pays to get it done early.

  9. LiviuX says:

    RSS is better than newslatter.

  10. @Robb – One of the best applications out there is called Campaign Monitor (http://www.campaignmonitor.com)
    It provides some great tools like subscription forms, list management, tutorials, and even a great api. They also provide you with all the “legal requirements” like opt-out and permissions information.
    One of the key features I like about them is they only charge you per-mailing, but allow you to create and manage your lists for free. They only charge you for actually sending a newsletter out: $5 Per mailing + $0.01 per address… so if you have a newsletter with 200 subscribers, it would only cost $7…. 300 subscribers is $8, etc etc. They also have a great blog and user community for help, tips, and technical information.

    I actually have 2 newsletters for my site Addoursearch.com
    1. For overall site news that is managed by Campaign Monitor.
    2. For post updates to my blog at http://thelist.addoursearch.com which is powered by feedburner.

    I’m still trying to work out something to integrate the two of them… but that will be for later.

  11. M. Johnson says:

    I like your feedblitz Idea Edward!

  12. Todd says:

    Darren,

    Thanks for answering my (HCI Blogger) question. The whole newsletter thing seems so daunting! I only wish you would have linked to me so that folks could have stopped by and signed up for my feed…ha ha.

    Thanks again!

  13. Michael says:

    This is something my colleague and I were just talking about this morning… thanks for the perfect timing and the insight!

  14. Paula says:

    I like Edwards idea of using Feedblitz and using the RSS feed. I’m lazy when it comes to newsletters and it is the one thing I shouldn’t be lazy about.

  15. Great idea. It will especially be useful for the “un-organized” blog reader. It will help them get into a habit of visiting your site.

  16. Slevi says:

    I don’t have a newsletter set up atm, something I have given some though at times though but just never really gotten around to it.

  17. One great way to make your blog posts do “double duty” is to include snippets of your weekly blog posts with links tot he post to your newsletter subscribers.

    That way, if they missed a blog post, they can catch up and read it. PLUS that’s a great way to send content while using content you’ve already worked hard to create. Think of it as a “best of” type of feature for your newsletter.

  18. I don’t have a newsletter AND a blog, because I print any relevant news items ON my blog. That, and I allow subscriptions by email.

  19. As we were developing the blog for our business, we popped a newsletter subscription form (for an aWeber.com newsletter) on our template. We’re preparing to launch our first e-newsletter and we already have several dozen subscribers.

    I’ve used aWeber for other newsletters and I like this service because it’s inexpensive and it allows you to send out unlimited newsletters and autoresponder messages for multiple sites for one price. It’s a great advantage for our company, because we manage newsletters for multiple clients all one one account.

  20. Rick says:

    After reading your articles I’m still having trouble seeing why a newsletter is better than receiving RSS by email. Can you elaborate?

    Personally I find it annoying to have to subscribe to something else to get what is essentially blog content. And when it comes to searching for something I remember reading, do I go to the blog and search there or to my emails and search there (assuming I’ve kept the emails)?

  21. Don Mak says:

    @Rick

    In this case you are not the target demographic for a newsletter. Simple as that. Some won’t be switching to RSS anytime soon, it’s another line in the water to keep people informed.

    dm

  22. Rick says:

    @Don,

    I agree I’m probably not in the demographic. However, it seems easy enough to click on a big orange button that says “subscribe by email.” That seems easier than subscribing to a newsletter!

  23. FatFighter says:

    I send a newsletter out every week as well. Mine highlights a couple of new posts, contests (if there are any), and a weekly recipe. I totally agree that it’s a reminder to come on back and check out my site… especially because a lot of people still don’t use RSS. ;)

  24. At desinformado.com we started a pdf based newsletter with 20 pages, it is a small and downloadable file and our main idea is to attract more visitors to our blog, at the same time we are offering blank pages for other bloggers to write about internet and technology with a direct link to their respective blogs. It has been slow, but it is starting to grow, our magazine has been download about 35 download every day, so we are very pleased with this result. Now we are creating the second issue a 60 pages long pdf file about the iphone. 100% iphone information.

    Download it here: http://www.desinformado.com/?file_id=1/

    PS: It doesn’t have any advertising yet, because this is a personal project, but we are looking for sponsors for the next one. Interested? Let me know..

  25. I’m glad that this post suggested that a newsletter can be done less frequently, perhaps on a monthly or quarterly basis. Otherwise, it would be difficult for part-time bloggers like me to find time to do. I think that it could be a useful tool to keep your blog on readers’ minds.

    I do not prefer weekly newsletters, because right now I am subscribed to one, and it comes too frequently for me. But if the newsletter were a shorter length, I think it would be more tolerable.

  26. Juno Pablo says:

    Hey, this article was great! It really helped me to understand a lot. I’m really new to blogging anyhow. :P As you can see by my current blog pianoguy21.wordpress.com

    thanks for the article!

  27. Ryan McLean says:

    I have two newsletters running on my website (which is small and in it’s beginning stages). They are both very different
    I run a regular newsletter which updates readers of my latest posts and I also have a 1 year training program newsletter which runs on autopilot (using autoresponders). I have set this up and now I don’t have to do anything more each week, as people sign up they regularily receive my emails.

    A great tool for attracting newsletter subscribers is to offer something free for them when they sign up. Something of value (you can write a report yourself) and something that is on topic. Also make sure your links to your signup page are prominent so people can find them easily

  28. amirulcyber says:

    Darren thank for this article.It vey useful.

  29. Jumblespot says:

    Starting a newsletter at the beginning would be a great idea indeed… But i dont know more about how to provide these newsletters, who provide this services, which a blogger can choose, how much they charge etc.
    Darren i hope you will come with more topics about newsletters. Thanks for the tips…

  30. great post. i haven’t any newsletter for my blog, but because of this post, i’m planning to have one, ;-)

  31. A newsletter is a critical cog in my development plan. My niche is not particulalry tech friendly and I have far more email subscribers than RSS.

    Additionally, for growth a newsletter is a massive opportunity. I rebrand my newsletter for cricket coaches to send out to their email ist and grow the awareness of the brand widely.

  32. Ed O'Keeffe says:

    I am thinking of setting one up for the people who comment on my two blogs. Just to keep them up to date with the latest / best work of the month.

    A one page pdf would probably do it, maybe something to consider for a 2009 launch but we’ll see. Definitely needs to be designed with printing and web viewing in mind which could be the tricky part. Thanks for the tips Darren, I will reference back to it when I start mine.

    I would be interested to hear if you think it is a good idea automatically subscribing commenters to the newsletter.

  33. I have had a great response from my monthly newsletter. I promote it by adding special offers and give-aways for health and fitness products and only announce them on the newsletter. I also run competitions where people can win freebies if they refer 3 friends to the newsletter by usingthe built in referafriend.

    I use a profrssional email service which costs money but is will worth it. ( Campaign monitor but i wouldn’t mind taking aweber for a spin.)

    Newsletter is a must for any blog.

  34. ghanshyam says:

    I also want to know more about this concept.

  35. Great tips Darren,
    maybe i should add
    newsletter to my blog!

  36. Fadzuli says:

    Just a question.

    What do you mean by newsletter? E-Newsletter is it?

    If we are using aweber that’s alright as that collects subscribers but if we just use feedburner wouldn’t feedburner automatically push out the blog posts?

  37. Totally agree with this Darren. I waited way too long before starting my newsletter (despite Yaro telling me I should) because I didn’t want to take on the extra work.
    But my newsletter has heaps more subscribers than my blog has and I’m able to direct those readers back to my blog in the ‘best of’ for the week round up that I always include in each newsletter.
    I write a scrapbooking blog and I create three pieces of original word art that I include in my newsletter so that takes a bit of extra time. But I tend to write about different topics in the newsletter than on my blog so that lifts some of the pressure for ideas. My newsletter tends to be more about me than my blog topic.

  38. Don Mak says:

    @Rick

    Again your missing the point I think. A surprising number of users still have no idea what the big orange RSS button actually is. They don’t click on it.

    Additionally not everybody has their blog setup to give users a choice to receive RSS updates via email. So when some users get the courage to click the big orange RSS button and don’t see an email option, they cease clicking on it after that because it doesn’t do anything for them.

    Spelling out NEWSLETTER and offering a person a textfield to input their email address is the simplest way to reach the lowest common denominator (tech wise) of your readers, plain and simple.

    Don Mak

  39. Rick says:

    @Don

    Yes I agree that lots of people don’t know what RSS or the orange button is. But you can fix that. The closest example I see is at http://www.dailyblogtips.com/. He has the word ‘email’ next to one of the orange icons. Click on it and you can enter your email address. Perhaps if he said ‘subscribe by email’ it would be even clearer. If everyone did it that way I don’t see why you’d need a separate email form for newsletters.

  40. gilda says:

    i have a blog with a growing readership and you’re right, i really should start a newsletter!!! i had one a while ago but the service that i used was just…. terrible. i’m thinking of migrating all that to aweber… since you use it. :D

  41. Offering to send updates of your blog content to interested subscribers by email is good. Period. It amazes me the number of bloggers who don’t bother to do this.

    Not everyone uses RSS and adding email distribution widens your reach and increases your content’s “forwardability”, too.

    Using your blog’s RSS feed to automatically generate and send an email of your recent posts via Feedblitz, Feedburner, or Aweber is a great way to do this.

    If you have the time/energy and enough more to say to create an additional noozle, too, then try that and see if readers (or advertisers) appreciate the extra effort or not.

  42. I published an ezine that has been discontinued, but not because I started a blog. The archives are still on the site & still read, plus it draws keyword traffic from searches.

    Most of my audience isn’t tech savvy. I don’t display the big orange button, only Subscribe in reader & Subscribe by email. Guess which one is most popular?

    I can see the benefit of a newsletter attached to my blog, but I need more convincing as to how much more different it is to the email feed.

    The feed is going to have blog posts as they are. The newsletter can be jazzed up with other content. But isn’t that just more information for busy eyes to consume?

    Can someone address the benefits of a blog newsletter over email subscriptions, not rss, but email. And what are the services for this that are zero cost?

  43. My understanding is that a newsletter is different from people getting your blog posts via RSS.

    It’s a separate option – for example, I’m subscribed to Problogger on my reader, but recently I signed up for the newsletter too.

    I have a separate corporate site with a list, so I am sending a newsletter to them (as of this week – timely post, Darren!) to let them know about blog posts and other news.

    At the moment, email subscribers to the blog are getting the posts via RSS – so I figure that you’d have to offer more in the newsletter to them than just ‘these are the blog posts on the site this week’.

    Maybe include these are some interesting comments, this are the hot posts, this is some extra news, this is a special offer/heads-up?

    Is that the idea?

  44. Darin Blue says:

    Hmmm this is a very important topic for me because I am trying to establish a online network marketing business and recently just created a blog that gives away free Internet Marketing Techniques

    However, I am faced with the decision to either:
    a. Induce visitors to subscribe to my feedburner e-mail feed and just capture their e-mail address but have them receive blog updates every time I post
    OR

    b. Possibly create a newsletter that captures name and e-mail but is hooked up to an auto-responder where I would have to create content that is different from the blog since they wont receive the automatic updates via feedburner

    …not sure where to go with it…I wish feedburner e-mail subscription could capture a subscribers name too, or is there an option?

  45. My PDF based Newsletter Tools: WordPress as the main internet publishing tool and Apple Pages, with Pages I design completely the Newsletter without wasting time with Adobe Illustrator or Adobe Indesign. Pages is easier to use and faster when it comes to pdf publications, it comes with dozens of templates ready to use and take advantages.

    I am using Download, a wordpress plugin that counts how many times the pdf was downloaded and for email distribution, I created a form to catch email addresses and deliver the pdf newsletter via Direct Mail for mac. Easy, I am a full time graphic designer and blogger but I can’t spend too much time with the Newsletter.

  46. We send a newsletter to the readers of our blog. It has been very helpful to build our traffic. We added the newsletter about four months ago, and it has been very beneficial. I would recommend it. The time it takes to put it together is worth it.

  47. I have a newsletter for my website and about 700 people have already signed up it, but I don’t think I’m making much use of the newsletter. I’m not sure what to include in the newsletter that I already give away on my website. And I don’t want to be too pushy as far as sales go, so I don’t know exactly what to put in my newsletters that won’t take a TON of work, but also makes my subscribers want to come back for more and tell their friends while they are in the process. I’ve tried a number of things, but don’t think I’ve quite got the whole newsletter thing down yet. Any ideas there?

  48. Brian Blum says:

    I think it’s a great idea to send out a PDF newsletter like desinformado is doing.

    Question: can a newsletter be simply a collection of blog posts (by the week or by the month), or does it have to be unique, original content that was not on the blog already?

    My idea is to capture interest by first sending out a “best of” newsletter (for new subscribers) and then sending out a regular summary of recent blogs. Will that work? WDUT?

  49. Hello Brian, the main reason for me at desinformado.com is to attract more visitors and to create some kind of community, our PDF magazine is open for everybody to write and our next issue is a combination of 5 different blogs talking about the iphone from their own perspective. Our newsletter will guarantee them more traffic and I am thinking about changing the name, I don’t want people to think that the newsletter’s articles are only from Desinformado.com. Our main goal is to provide fresh and interesting articles that convert readers in visitors.

    If you have any interesting article that want to share with thousand of new reader out there please send it to me and will be featured in the September issue. I am paying PR services to promote our magazine and think this could be a new source of profit that we can share letter.

    Feel free to colaborate with The Desinformado Newsletter, it is deliver by more than 20 blogs, direct email marketing and paid and free PR services.

    Send your articles here: [email protected]

    Attatch a short bio+credits and your links.

  50. I’d been mulling this over for a few weeks, but after having read this article I think I’m going to go for it. Thanks for the great tips! Fortunately I have about 90 subscribers to my blog, plus many others who visit it directly, and my niche is very specific and conducive to all kinds of topics appropriate for a newsletter.

    I think I’ll wait until I move the actual blog to its own domain name, however. I’ve been planning this for a few weeks now, so the newsletter idea just gives me the kick-in-the-pants I need to get it implemented.

    I do think that some original content should be in the newsletter, although it certainly doesn’t have to be. I like the idea of including more of “yourself” in the newsletter without making it too personal. Perhaps less news-y stuff and more about your own personal experiences related to your blog topic.

    I’m especially keen on the idea of capturing people’s attention via exclusive contests and giveaways through the newsletter. One thing that frustrates me is when people go and comment on my site just for the occasional giveaway I do without ever looking at anything else on the site; then they disappear once the contest is over. I hate that my regular, loyal readers have less of a chance to win because of this sudden influx of drive-bys. By offering most of my contests exclusively on my newsletter, only those who already have an established relationship with my blog will be eligible.

    Thanks for the timely post!

    Salut,
    Marjorie