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I hope you find my writing and business tips and observations useful. My business and blog are dedicated to helping businesses communicate clearly and reach their potential. Read, subscribe to my newsletter, enjoy! Tash

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Costs of a newsletter

News headline catches a client's eye

For many businesses, sending out a regular newsletter is an effective marketing strategy. So I sometimes get asked how much it costs to produce a newsletter.

There is no clear answer to that, but here are some of the factors that will impact on the expenses for a newsletter.

  1. how long is it? A longer newsletter takes more time and effort to layout plus requires more content so will cost more than a shorter newsletter. However, the cost of 4 pages vs 2 (for example) may be worth it if it means giving good information and/or being able to produce the newsletter less often
  2. are you doing a print version? If so, you need to allow for paper/ink/power costs to do it yourself or a printer’s bill to have it professionally done
  3. how are you distributing it? Allow $1 for stamps and envelopes if mailing it, plus time to put into envelopes; emailing it will generally be much less than that but outsourcing the sending or using specialised software will still cost money. Having a pile available in store or on your website is cheaper but doesn’t have the same impact and results as getting it to people
  4. do you have a template? Your newsletter will work much better if it looks professional so get a designer to make a nice template that works with your brand. I would suggest getting both print and html versions designed, even if you only expect to use one, so you have both options available with a matching look – it’s cheaper to get two designs at once than as two separate projects
  5. what sort of content will you use? Full articles, article excerpts with the full article online or just snippets of news? Making articles to suit can be time consuming, and specific word counts can make even shorter pieces take longer to write and edit.
  6. who will write your newsletter? Will it all be done in-house to suit, collected from outside sources (e.g. members or clients’ submissions, free or paid articles), outsourced to a professional writer, or some combination? Although paid content and editing may have a higher up front cost it will require less of your time.
    TIP: If outsourcing the content (in part or all of it) you can reduce costs by providing the topics and key points to be covered so the writer can concentrate on writing rather than thinking and research time.
  7.  who will layout the newsletter each time? An expert will place content into your template much quicker than most people – again, there is a cost in time or money. However, the best results often require additional content editing during layout (such as adjusting words to avoid orphans and strange page breaks) so it’s good if your writer and designer (whether in-house or outsource) can work together on the newsletter
  8. although a relatively small cost, uploading your newsletter to your website, and adjusting any supporting text to suit, also needs to be included – especially if someone else manages your site updates

No matter how the newsletter is produced and distributed, you also need to allow time to read the final version before it gets produced. Not only is this a safety measure against typos and layout errors, you can also check that everything is consistent with your brand and objectives. If you produce the newsletter yourself, ideally someone else should do a final review of it for you.

Have you priced your business newsletter? A full costing is important for an accurate analysis of costs versus returns, and many people forget about including their time as a cost.

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?