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Choosing a newsletter format to suit

As a communications person, I do more for clients than just write. Recently, I reviewed the newsletter process for a client.

Initially, they were sending out a paper based newsletter but introduced an email version a few years ago. About a year ago, I helped them make the html (email) version shorter and more suited to emailing. The purpose of the recent review was to consider how to present their newsletter moving forward.

Here are some of the key points I considered before making a recommendation that suited the client’s needs:

  1. their subscriber list was about one third postal addresses so stopping the paper mailing wasn’t an option in the short term. The break down of the mailing list is a critical factor in such decisions
  2. the people my client sends newsletters to are literate and technology friendly so emails are acceptable, although an older sub-set still prefer paper-based communications for important news
  3. my client wanted to maintain a copy of the newsletters on the site for 2 or 3 years so we couldn’t purely do html emails in an email program (ie we had to make a version available on the website)
  4. sending an email costs a lot less – for my client, it is about $0.15 per email and $2.00 per letter, and that’s a typical price range
  5. emails and pdfs can contain hyperlinks to make the newsletter more interactive, but they are easier to insert and adjust in an email
  6. an html page can be emailed easily but doesn’t print so well, especially if you want to print to the edges of the page for a professional finish
  7. for branding, a paper/pdf newsletter must match the email version so having them designed at the same time will give the best results
  8. creating multiple pages on a site (ie one article per page) for email links is time consuming but it is difficult to direct readers directly to an article within a pdf
  9. there is software (and free to use websites) that can convert pdfs into html so creating a pdf for print and having it converted into html for emailing is an option. However, the I found the final product is not polished or professional enough for me to recommend it to a client
  10. a pdf attachment on a website is ok but sending a pdf attachment as an email newsletter is not – many spam filters will stop it, it looks messy and is larger than necessary so a pdf that can be printed, put on the site and emailed is not a solution

There is no one size fits all answer to the question of paper or html newsletter, but the above points may help you decide. What other factors do you think are important?

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