How Not to Do a Newsletter

I get most of my reading done via twitter. I follow a bunch of smart people who essentially filter all that’s out there to what is truly worthy of reading. My feed reader is getting less and less airtime nowadays. But there are some bloggers who don’t tweet their posts so one has to go visit Google Reader once in a while.

In spite of these new age consumption methods for news and opinion, I still get the odd email newsletter. One of them is from the Wall Street Journal Online. But I don’t click on the stories much. In fact on most days, I delete the emails unseen.

The WSJ email newsletter is put together for the sole purpose of inserting ads and generating revenue. The ad, as you can see in the image below, occupies pride of place. Most people I know don’t allow automatic download of images in emails. So basically you have a big blog of nothing right at the top of the email.

To the left of that big blob of nothing is, wait for it, another big blob of nothing. Whoever designed the email, decided that the first topic could be next to the ad, but the second topic must begin way below.

The email signup takes up most of the rest of the space above the fold. Its kind of funny that users are signing up for email newsletters in which the first and almost only thing they see in the email is an invitation to sign up for email.

I could go on you know. The use of all caps. The general ugliness of the email. But you get the drift. It sucks.

On the other hand, here’s an email newsletter from GigaOm. This is how its done.

At the top of the email is a list of the top headlines, that is well designed and pleasing to the eye.

If you click on a headline, it doesn’t take you directly to the website. Instead, it takes you to a short blurb about the post that you clicked on, within the email. You read the blurb and if you want to read more click and go to the website.

Isn’t that a little counterintuitive? If the user has clicked on the title, just take him to the website, no? Each click is X ad impressions. Each ad impression is worth $Y…

Actually, no. I like the fact that I get a little bit of a blurb within the email. This saves me from the costly (in time) visit to the website, if I was curious about the title but wasn’t sure what it was about. And this makes me click more.

The fundamental difference in the approach is that GigaOm wants the newsletter to be useful for readers before they start making money on it. WSJ sees it just as a source of revenue. In fact they probably handed it over to the ad sales department to design. It certainly looks like that.

1 Comment

  1. StatSpotting says:

    Agree, on the twitter filtering thing. its reflected in overall tweet statistics as well – without accounting for spam, ‘The World Tweets Once For Every 1778 E-Mails Sent’


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