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Communications Design Industry Discussion, Inspiration, & Tutorials

May 11, 2017

The Evolution of ENews

By On 10:01

I designed and sent out my first corporate e-newsletter back in 2010. The technology and the MagnetMail CMS were both fairly new to me. I was professionally familiar with the concept, but had never before had my designs virtually blasted into the inbox of over 10,000 professionals in one stroke of a keyboard! Years earlier, I was charged with layout of the quarterly (print) newsletter of the American Institute of Architects, a wholly different animal.

Today, I’ve just completed the layout of a new experiment in e-newsletters. My organization tasked me with turning a Google Site into the host and archive for our monthly news. I’m marrying website and newsletter here., now having the opportunity to hide expanded content in the eNews domain.  This is a far cry from the beginning of our marketing efforts…take a peek at the timeline:
From a multi-page PDF, to an online document, to today's site...
First, a print PDF that at times spanned 7 pages, Next 2-page Printable PDF, Now the Google Site

Enewsletters, while distinct in their layout and content are still built on the foundations of effective writing and basic HTML—things many design professions should be grounded in. What’s the difference between the e-newsletter, print newsletter, and a regular website?

Compare: Newsletter, E-News, & Websites

These three are all content marketing tools, simultaneously informational and promotional. However, they employ slightly different delivery methods.

The newsletter is largely a print publication, with multiple pages, multiple articles, and (usually) multiple advertisements, to financially sustain such a expensive routine undertaking. Printing costs money folks.

  • Benefits of a newsletter include, very importantly, the user experience. Newsletters are delivered to members, there’s a exclusivity in membership (… this is not something that just anybody receives)! Recipients of this newsletter can read and reread articles, dog-ear the pages, make notes in margins, use them to augment scholarly work, and save them for later…or even just place them strategically around an office or living room to look smart.
  • Cons of a newsletter: a major con is that while everything above it possible, you will rarely know if people do one or more of those activities. Paper and ink do not yield analytics.

Websites are fantastic for sharing your company, organization, and ideas with your target audiences and anyone else interested in your topic—who stumbles across your site. It’s a fact that many of us who should be updating our website content on a regular basis, rarely do. Instead websites are repositories for much important, if static, information. We more often rely on social media for up-to-the-minute updates for our clients, audience, and followers.

  • Benefits of websites: your voice, your design, your rules! This is a huge benefit over having an online presence comprised only of social media. As for others, your website is a unique URL that can the address for seekers of knowledge, truth, or your expertise. The more it gets known, the more it is shared, and saved, and distributed by search engines. It can grow in popularity without any additional monetary output on the part of your audiences ...hopefully that makes sense.
  • Cons of a website: remember to update your website! Larger sites can become unwieldy and difficulty to keep up-to-date on a regular basis. Sad but true.

This medium relies upon two things we’ve already discussed, effective writing and websites. The enews letter is not a fully developed website with sub-pages, main and secondary navigation. Instead, it’s snippets of useful, interesting content that leads the reader AWAY from the newsletter TO your websites, or contact forms, or articles, or informational pages…things that invariably live on your website, related websites, or your social media platforms. They also rely upon pithy, interesting writing.

Effective writing is a science: Enews designers go through rigorous testing—of seemingly simplistic aspects of the content—to find a formula that works. In my career, I’ve worked with different communications teams to test various aspects of organizations’ newsletters for the winning combinations that yield a  greater rates of  opens, click-throughs, reads, subscribes (as opposed to unsubscribe), and shares… much of the important testing starts at the subject line. Poorly written subjects mean your email might never get opened. Effective e-News testing goes beyond that, of course, from the placement of images in relation to text, to different ways to present seemingly indistinct information.

  • Benefits of ENews: If you want to know how many of your audience is reading your newsletter, it’s all right there in your analytics. Enews publications also dive traffic to other places here you can track your audience, your website, and social media streams.
  • Cons of ENews: Brevity is the key here. Your enews article MUST be a textual sound bite—the appetizer that entices your reader to click to read more, learn more, or sign up! It’s possible to host a feature article in your enewsletter, but it’s a terrible risk that your readers will stop there and not interact with the rest of the analytics driven document. Needless to say, you want good writers working on the e-news, people who can turn a phrase….not the most verbose member of your team.

Learn more about testing Enews and mailing lists from Media Shift
Learn more about testing campaigns from MailChimp