Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Newsletter . . . or Blog?

I have created newsletters for a number of volunteer organizations over the years – as well as a few larger organizations. And all of them faced two significant barriers: compiling the stories for a specific deadline and motivating people to actually read the newsletter.

Organizations with a computer-savvy membership can save a lot of money by distributing their newsletter electronically. So they have two options: to distribute a PDF of the newsletter or – and I am beginning to think this is the superior option – maintain a blog.

The PDF is an electronic version of a print newsletter. You will have big challenges soliciting and compiling the material and persuading people to read it. And you’ll have to fret about layout and design in a static format that was not designed for the web.

A blog, on the other hand, offers immediacy. You can post one story today and another tomorrow. You can do away with boring, never-read features like the President’s Message. You don’t have to write long articles or struggle to fit different articles on the page. You can send out a full-length story one day and a photo the next.

As a reader, I’m far more likely to read a short blog posting than a four-page newsletter. And I won’t have to go searching for back issues as all the material will be stored on the blog. In addition, your blog is available online to anyone who is interested in your organization. So you may attract new followers.

You can still have an attractive blog design. You can label articles so that they are grouped and easy to find. You can link the blog to your organization’s website or to related websites or online articles. You can include photographs or video or reading lists.

Interestingly enough, you can even turn your blog into a print newsletter. You select the content from your favourite blogs, RSS feeds and websites, and Zinepal will create an online newsletter and a printable PDF. As Darren Barefoot points out, this works well for a local neighbourhood that wants to select the best of all the local blogs and websites for that month and distribute them as a print newsletter to local businesses and coffee shops.


Stephanie V said...

What? No one reads the President's message?
Seriously, this is food for thought? Like I need more...

Penny said...

People want to read concrete stories with interesting facts and information that will be useful to them. President's message tends to be abstract and full of generalities. If the President has specific things to say - great! But package it as a story with a headline. Other people will just pass right over the President's Message and move on to what they see as the important stuff.

andrew said...

One danger in this is that when you lose the deadline motivation, people never get around to writing the stories.

And there's a tendency to think that a blog doesn't need an editor like a newsletter, so there's no one soliciting people to write stories, or editing them if they do.

The end result I've seen in our Alpine Club is that we went from a great newsletter to an empty blog.

Stephanie V said...

Some very important points, Andrew. It would be a shame to lose the function altogether or to have it morph into something less useful or relevant due to lack of editorial oversight.
Speaking of which, a misplaced question mark can make all the difference. Erase the second in my former comment.
BTW, the President's message means different things to different newsletters. I'm pretty sure mine gets read.