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Should You Build a Blog or an EMail Newsletter List?

You have heard them

“Build a list”
“The profit is in the list”
“It’s all about the list”
blah blah.

Most people who have read up on internet marketing will have come across this idea.

But then blogs, or rather RSS, came on the scene and confused the issue. Several people have asked me if they should close their email newsletters now they are blogging. Should you build an email list or a blog?

Let’s first compare the two:

Email Blog
Push Pull
Personalised Anonymous
Delivery problems No delivery problems
HTML/Plain HTML
Membership is portable Hard to move membership
Mature tracking/ROI Minimal stats ability
Fear of spam No fear
Easy & Well Understood Still quite niche
Everyone has email Minority
In your face Passive

I could go on but you get the picture. You notice I didn’t put these as “pro and con” – most could be seen both ways. For example, the last one “in your face”. This could be a good or bad thing, it’s good that blogs are passive but if you really really want your message read you might hanker for some in your face once in a while!

So which should you choose? Both.

Provide at least the option for people to subscribe to your blog via email or RSS. FeedBurner provides the facility to do both so it’s a no-brainer. Therefore your standard blog posts are read by whatever method your audience prefers. They know best, don’t force people down one route.

Now the question is, in addition ought you have an email newsletter that is not just replicating your blog posts? This is something I have tried and been thinking about a lot recently.

A while ago I had a weekly newsletter that contained unique information not found on my blog. While it started working well after a few issues the additional workload meant I had to close it. My feeling is had I persisted it would have worked very well.

When people see a value in what you are offering over email and know what to expect then they will trust you with their email addresses. Emails are still a very valuable piece of permission. The commitment to an email subscription is still greater than the permission granted by an RSS subscription, after all you don’t know who you have subscribing via RSS but you know a piece of personal information when you acquire a subscribers email address. They are trusting you not to spam them so you had better reward that trust. RSS readers on the other hand are at the bottom of the loyalty ladder just above those who read your blog in their web browser.

If you are interested in building an email list today I received an email from a newsletter I am on offering free video tutorials for how to build a successful opt-in email newsletter. You can sign up to view the free videos here.

The strategy I would take is for the blog to be mainstream stuff and choose a well-defined purpose for any additional email lists. Perhaps have a defined end-point or life-span also. At the end of this duration you could always offer the option to sign up to your standard FeedBurner subscription email digest.

I would very much like to hear from anyone who has confronted this decision, anyone who has chosen to do one or the other, or both, and how it is working out for you? Let me know in the comments …

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Comments

  1. We haven’t yet confronted this yet, but we will be doing so soon.

    We already have an email list with around 5,000+ subscribers which we’ve built up over the last 3-4 years.

    We also have a blog, as you know, you were kind enough to review it :)

    We’ve been having some internal discussions how to proceed with both of them. At the moment they are two seperate islands.

    I’d like to use the monthly newsletter to hi light content on the blog and hopefully drive subscriptions.

    We do a monthly post to the regular newsletter and another to our customer list. I will let you know how it goes. We need to make over the blog first, and move over to feedburner so that we can track our subscriber numbers better.

  2. We haven’t yet confronted this yet, but we will be doing so soon.

    We already have an email list with around 5,000+ subscribers which we’ve built up over the last 3-4 years.

    We also have a blog, as you know, you were kind enough to review it :)

    We’ve been having some internal discussions how to proceed with both of them. At the moment they are two seperate islands.

    I’d like to use the monthly newsletter to hi light content on the blog and hopefully drive subscriptions.

    We do a monthly post to the regular newsletter and another to our customer list. I will let you know how it goes. We need to make over the blog first, and move over to feedburner so that we can track our subscriber numbers better.

  3. Agree very much with what you have written and offering both options is definitely best.

    Couple of other points I’d raise is to consider your audience, my readership is older than most techie blogs so people are not up to date with RSS, but email is different.

    So I offer a simple guide covering my subject in return for their email address and then each week I just produce a round-up of what’s been on the site in the past seven days.

    I also wrote unique content for the newsletter at first but not only did it become time consuming, it was one less article for search engines to get their claws into.

    And despite running both the newsletter and RSS feed ever since I started the site, the email newsletter has about 3x as many subscribers.

  4. Agree very much with what you have written and offering both options is definitely best.

    Couple of other points I’d raise is to consider your audience, my readership is older than most techie blogs so people are not up to date with RSS, but email is different.

    So I offer a simple guide covering my subject in return for their email address and then each week I just produce a round-up of what’s been on the site in the past seven days.

    I also wrote unique content for the newsletter at first but not only did it become time consuming, it was one less article for search engines to get their claws into.

    And despite running both the newsletter and RSS feed ever since I started the site, the email newsletter has about 3x as many subscribers.

  5. Hi Chris,
    I have come across this dilemma. Today, people have got a lot of choices – email newsletter, blogs, RSS, groups, forums … Email inbox is flooded unbelievably full. I myself rarely open the emails unless I have opted that for. If you are entering into new target readers, then email newsletter works well. But for regular readers, they know where to go and what to read.

    Cheers,
    Rajesh Shakya
    http://www.rajeshshakya.com

  6. Hi Chris,
    I have come across this dilemma. Today, people have got a lot of choices – email newsletter, blogs, RSS, groups, forums … Email inbox is flooded unbelievably full. I myself rarely open the emails unless I have opted that for. If you are entering into new target readers, then email newsletter works well. But for regular readers, they know where to go and what to read.

    Cheers,
    Rajesh Shakya
    http://www.rajeshshakya.com

  7. Thanks guys.

    @Jack – I think your blog has huge potential, I would definitely prioritise that

    @Craig – A lot of people archive their emails online after they have gone out to give the SEs something to chew on :) Summarising several posts in one email is a good idea for how to mix the two

    @Rajesh – yup full email box is something I can sympathise with. I am subscribed to hundreds of RSS feeds, I could never cope with that many newsletters

  8. Thanks guys.

    @Jack – I think your blog has huge potential, I would definitely prioritise that

    @Craig – A lot of people archive their emails online after they have gone out to give the SEs something to chew on :) Summarising several posts in one email is a good idea for how to mix the two

    @Rajesh – yup full email box is something I can sympathise with. I am subscribed to hundreds of RSS feeds, I could never cope with that many newsletters

  9. @Chris – thanks…we do too. We are slowly trying to figure out how its gonna work. The last few posts I think (hope) are closer to its intended voice.

  10. @Chris – thanks…we do too. We are slowly trying to figure out how its gonna work. The last few posts I think (hope) are closer to its intended voice.

  11. i have some comments regarding the comparation of the 2:
    1. control:
    – high with blog
    – none with emails

    2. i don’t really think that after the implementation of rss, blogs that passive. bloggers are quite active nowadays about their subscriptions.

    3. moneytizing: we have more moneytizing tools and methods for blogs and rss.

    you can see that i’m a blogging fan…
    but! i still think that for, let’s say an online sales store… direct marketing (through emails) is the suitable communication method.

    webee
    [is a design blog]

  12. i have some comments regarding the comparation of the 2:
    1. control:
    – high with blog
    – none with emails

    2. i don’t really think that after the implementation of rss, blogs that passive. bloggers are quite active nowadays about their subscriptions.

    3. moneytizing: we have more moneytizing tools and methods for blogs and rss.

    you can see that i’m a blogging fan…
    but! i still think that for, let’s say an online sales store… direct marketing (through emails) is the suitable communication method.

    webee
    [is a design blog]

  13. Hey there, Chris-

    I’m glad you said “both.” And I really like that you didn’t say “pros/cons.”

    I’ve heard emailers poo-poo blogging (I used to be one of them). And I’ve heard bloggers declare: “Email is dead, long live RSS!”

    Both are somewhat short-sighted. There are things that an email list can do (like segmenting lists) that RSS just can’t do. But, a newsletter just can’t connect the way a blog can to an entire network of folks.

    I’m thinking of making my email newsletter unique and different from the blog content… but it is an added effort- I appreciate your thinking on it, and will be musing about how to step forward.

  14. Hey there, Chris-

    I’m glad you said “both.” And I really like that you didn’t say “pros/cons.”

    I’ve heard emailers poo-poo blogging (I used to be one of them). And I’ve heard bloggers declare: “Email is dead, long live RSS!”

    Both are somewhat short-sighted. There are things that an email list can do (like segmenting lists) that RSS just can’t do. But, a newsletter just can’t connect the way a blog can to an entire network of folks.

    I’m thinking of making my email newsletter unique and different from the blog content… but it is an added effort- I appreciate your thinking on it, and will be musing about how to step forward.

  15. Chris,

    Add me to the dilemma list. Have monthly email newsletter and weekly blog.

    Thinking about moving monthly newsletter subscribers (via Constant Contact) over to weekly email from blog via FeedBlitz. And then would discontinue the monthly newsletter.

    For my benefit, this change would be less time consuming. Have one – not two writing commitments, plus drop the monthly email prep work. But it also means changes to current subscribers.

    Here are some of my issues:

    1) Want to reach subscribers more frequently than monthly, but they originally subscribed for monthly. Don’t know how many may unsubscribe on the increased frequency. Would send notice email via Constant Contact list regarding change to FeedBlitz. Thoughts?

    2) Length of newsletter runs about 1,000 words. Blog around 500 words per weekly post. If sending weekly email from blog, will send full copy so user can unplug and read later. I think more subscribers read shorter content, rather than longer. Your experience?

    3) Subscribers have told me they print hard copies of monthly newsletter and distribute within their company-yeah. But I’m not sure if they’ve printed the email, or the pdf on my site. If moving to weekly email via FeedBlitz, is there a way to provide a better formatted printed version? From email, blog or web?

    4) Currently archive monthly newsletters (articles) on web in full HTML versions and pdfs. If moving to weekly email of blog, what suggestions do you have for making “great blog” content archivable & more prominent on web site?

    Appreciate input.

  16. Chris,

    Add me to the dilemma list. Have monthly email newsletter and weekly blog.

    Thinking about moving monthly newsletter subscribers (via Constant Contact) over to weekly email from blog via FeedBlitz. And then would discontinue the monthly newsletter.

    For my benefit, this change would be less time consuming. Have one – not two writing commitments, plus drop the monthly email prep work. But it also means changes to current subscribers.

    Here are some of my issues:

    1) Want to reach subscribers more frequently than monthly, but they originally subscribed for monthly. Don’t know how many may unsubscribe on the increased frequency. Would send notice email via Constant Contact list regarding change to FeedBlitz. Thoughts?

    2) Length of newsletter runs about 1,000 words. Blog around 500 words per weekly post. If sending weekly email from blog, will send full copy so user can unplug and read later. I think more subscribers read shorter content, rather than longer. Your experience?

    3) Subscribers have told me they print hard copies of monthly newsletter and distribute within their company-yeah. But I’m not sure if they’ve printed the email, or the pdf on my site. If moving to weekly email via FeedBlitz, is there a way to provide a better formatted printed version? From email, blog or web?

    4) Currently archive monthly newsletters (articles) on web in full HTML versions and pdfs. If moving to weekly email of blog, what suggestions do you have for making “great blog” content archivable & more prominent on web site?

    Appreciate input.

  17. Hi, Chris. I’m a long-time lurker and first-time commenter. I’ve recently started a permission-based newsletter because I serve a market that is not always tech-savvy (though many are), and everyone understands email. Plus, everyone on the list actually requested the newsletter, so it is a good audience.

    Some of my blog posts are referenced as well as blogs/books that I think will be interesting to my audience, and I always promote my blog. Again, my blog is what I spend the most time on, but the newsletter is what gets forwarded to potential clients by my existing clients. It also contains client-specific information, which I steer clear of on the blog in order to not sound too “sales-y.”

    I have set up the newsletter template so I can easily pop information into it throughout the month as I think of it or find it and then just spend an hour or so cleaning it up at the end of the month before sending, so it has not been a big burden so far. Plus the reporting metrics are great for improving the content each month.

    Thanks for recognizing that both have a place for many of us.

  18. Hi, Chris. I’m a long-time lurker and first-time commenter. I’ve recently started a permission-based newsletter because I serve a market that is not always tech-savvy (though many are), and everyone understands email. Plus, everyone on the list actually requested the newsletter, so it is a good audience.

    Some of my blog posts are referenced as well as blogs/books that I think will be interesting to my audience, and I always promote my blog. Again, my blog is what I spend the most time on, but the newsletter is what gets forwarded to potential clients by my existing clients. It also contains client-specific information, which I steer clear of on the blog in order to not sound too “sales-y.”

    I have set up the newsletter template so I can easily pop information into it throughout the month as I think of it or find it and then just spend an hour or so cleaning it up at the end of the month before sending, so it has not been a big burden so far. Plus the reporting metrics are great for improving the content each month.

    Thanks for recognizing that both have a place for many of us.

  19. I am personally having trouble keeping up with my newsletter and blogging. However, I often purchase products because of the emails I get.

    I have to agree with you – “both” is the correct answer (for now).

  20. I am personally having trouble keeping up with my newsletter and blogging. However, I often purchase products because of the emails I get.

    I have to agree with you – “both” is the correct answer (for now).

  21. Great article… I would add HTML/RSS to the blog. RSS is becoming more and more important. Almost half of my visitors are via RSS on a daily basis! As well RSS is a little more of a ‘push’ technology. It’s not as intrusive as email… however, just as I check and receive email, I can check and read my RSS.

    Regards,
    Doug

  22. Great article… I would add HTML/RSS to the blog. RSS is becoming more and more important. Almost half of my visitors are via RSS on a daily basis! As well RSS is a little more of a ‘push’ technology. It’s not as intrusive as email… however, just as I check and receive email, I can check and read my RSS.

    Regards,
    Doug

  23. @webee – good points, esp about control, you do have more control with blogs, particularly in terms of layout and how it will be rendered.

    @Mark – exactly, I wrote before about how little flexibility we have with RSS, segmentation is one of the features we have yet to see outside bespoke solutions

    @Chris –
    1. You could send a message explaining and give them an incentive to take up the other subscription?
    2. I have written some wacking great long posts and tiny ones, in my experience people read until they are no longer interested :)
    3. You can offer a PDF but really people just want the info and for it to be legible. I have courier plain text email prints laying around here myself
    4. Have a category/list page listing the email archive? If the content is a summary/overview it should not be liable to get caught in a dupe content trap?

    @Betsy – you have a great setup there! So organised! :)

    @George – my wife commented only the other day about how much my random purchases had amounted to, believe me I understand how well emails can sell ;)

    @Douglas – I have noticed just this last year RSS seems to have “tipped” somewhat and is growing. Still, Email makes up 30-40% or so of my subscribers on this blog, and this is a blog about blogging and new media! :)

  24. @webee – good points, esp about control, you do have more control with blogs, particularly in terms of layout and how it will be rendered.

    @Mark – exactly, I wrote before about how little flexibility we have with RSS, segmentation is one of the features we have yet to see outside bespoke solutions

    @Chris –
    1. You could send a message explaining and give them an incentive to take up the other subscription?
    2. I have written some wacking great long posts and tiny ones, in my experience people read until they are no longer interested :)
    3. You can offer a PDF but really people just want the info and for it to be legible. I have courier plain text email prints laying around here myself
    4. Have a category/list page listing the email archive? If the content is a summary/overview it should not be liable to get caught in a dupe content trap?

    @Betsy – you have a great setup there! So organised! :)

    @George – my wife commented only the other day about how much my random purchases had amounted to, believe me I understand how well emails can sell ;)

    @Douglas – I have noticed just this last year RSS seems to have “tipped” somewhat and is growing. Still, Email makes up 30-40% or so of my subscribers on this blog, and this is a blog about blogging and new media! :)

  25. Hi Chris.. I’m very new to your blog, but I’m really enjoying your posts!

    I run a very popular fashion/shopping blog called The Budget Fashionista and we’re grappling with this very same issue (it is like the blog gods told you to write this post just for us).

    We’ve had a double opt in newsletter that has around 18,000 subscribers that we’ve been producing unique content for the past 3-4 years with a loyal following. However the newsletter is not as nearly financially viable as the blog and takes quite a bit of effort to produce. We’re struggling with whether we should
    a- discontinue the newsletters and have everyone go over b- continue them but on a monthly basis,
    c- continue the newsletter as usual, but charge a yearly subscription fee

    Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

  26. Hi Chris.. I’m very new to your blog, but I’m really enjoying your posts!

    I run a very popular fashion/shopping blog called The Budget Fashionista and we’re grappling with this very same issue (it is like the blog gods told you to write this post just for us).

    We’ve had a double opt in newsletter that has around 18,000 subscribers that we’ve been producing unique content for the past 3-4 years with a loyal following. However the newsletter is not as nearly financially viable as the blog and takes quite a bit of effort to produce. We’re struggling with whether we should
    a- discontinue the newsletters and have everyone go over b- continue them but on a monthly basis,
    c- continue the newsletter as usual, but charge a yearly subscription fee

    Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

  27. Vince Kuraitis says:

    I also have thought long and hard about this question. BOTH is in the right direction…

    1) I decided to put creative energy into my new blog, and
    2) use email to update routinely former e-newsletter subscribers about blog postings.

    3) I’d like to AUTOMATE the email process as much as possible by sending summary feeds to the email list.

    Feedburner works fine for daily updates.

    I also offer subscribers a weekly update option, figuring daily updates would be too frequent for a substantial portion of my audience. So far I have tried Feedblitz http://www.feedblitz.com premium services ($15 per month)and ZOOKODA http://www.zookoda.com (free). Both have the right concepts and there are plusses and minuses to each. Both services also are buggy and tech support is very weak.

    Are there other services/options out there to consider?

    4)Long term, I believe RSS will win out as it is far more flexible and customer friendly; short-term, email wins as many people can’t even spell RSS. Meanwhile, hedging is a way to get the best of both worlds.

    Vince

  28. I also have thought long and hard about this question. BOTH is in the right direction…

    1) I decided to put creative energy into my new blog, and
    2) use email to update routinely former e-newsletter subscribers about blog postings.

    3) I’d like to AUTOMATE the email process as much as possible by sending summary feeds to the email list.

    Feedburner works fine for daily updates.

    I also offer subscribers a weekly update option, figuring daily updates would be too frequent for a substantial portion of my audience. So far I have tried Feedblitz http://www.feedblitz.com premium services ($15 per month)and ZOOKODA http://www.zookoda.com (free). Both have the right concepts and there are plusses and minuses to each. Both services also are buggy and tech support is very weak.

    Are there other services/options out there to consider?

    4)Long term, I believe RSS will win out as it is far more flexible and customer friendly; short-term, email wins as many people can’t even spell RSS. Meanwhile, hedging is a way to get the best of both worlds.

    Vince

  29. Hi Chris! Since all these other people (hi Kathryn!) have been bold enough to ask, I’ll ask my question too:

    Is there a free option that will just take all of a week’s blog content and make it into an email newsletter?

    RSS is great, but I’m convinced that alot of my potential readers are more comfortable with email. However, since I post every day, daily feedblitz or whatever could quickly become annoying. (Once upon a time, I almost signed up for Zookoda, but I couldn’t figure out a way around having to put my address on it.)

    Anyway, perhaps your answers to Kathryn and Vince will answer my question. Thank you for any help you are able to offer. (And thanks for having subscribe to comments.)

  30. Hi Chris! Since all these other people (hi Kathryn!) have been bold enough to ask, I’ll ask my question too:

    Is there a free option that will just take all of a week’s blog content and make it into an email newsletter?

    RSS is great, but I’m convinced that alot of my potential readers are more comfortable with email. However, since I post every day, daily feedblitz or whatever could quickly become annoying. (Once upon a time, I almost signed up for Zookoda, but I couldn’t figure out a way around having to put my address on it.)

    Anyway, perhaps your answers to Kathryn and Vince will answer my question. Thank you for any help you are able to offer. (And thanks for having subscribe to comments.)

  31. I think having both is the way to go. I have a handful of blogs as well as website and the combination has been working well for me.

  32. I think having both is the way to go. I have a handful of blogs as well as website and the combination has been working well for me.