Newsletter or Blog?

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Here’s our first Question of the Day:

“If you _had_ to choose between having an email newsletter or a blog, which would you pick and why?”

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20 thoughts on “Newsletter or Blog?

  1. June Macdonald

    The answer is… it depends. It depends on your audience, your communication objectives and internal resources.
    But if I could only pick one I would still pick a newsletter that people sign up for and gets pushed out and measured. The number one reason because you can serve your time-starved customers with information in bites and then dig in deeper for those who want more (including a link to your blog). The format is extremely flexible, in general they’re easier to navigate to specific information (something that bugs me about blogs today) and users can store them in their own mailbox and/or print them out.
    The strength of a blog is the writer(s) and focusing on (usually) one piece of content. They’re excellent for creating thought leadership and publicizing the latest information.
    And that’s perhaps where you should start, is how are you going to measure it? Newsletters are measured on direct marketing standards. They often need to serve multiple objectives; they get started as a ‘loyalty’ or ‘retention’ program, then very quickly need to prove they are delivering leads or sales, or will get axed. Whereas blogs are more likely to fall under PR, a little more forgiving in having to quantify results, but then they can be a lot less resource-intensive.
    Newsletters have been around for over 300 years and have their genesis in needing to impart concise pieces of information to a subscriber base = structure and fixed community. The blog’s genesis is in the online diary = free-flowing and loose community. I wonder what that says about me and my approach to work, cause in my free time… blog away!

  2. Sebastien Provencher

    If you’re trying to reach busy people, I would say a Blog, with a solid RSS feed.
    RSS feeds are much easier to quickly read than individual newsletters.
    Seb.

  3. Michael

    I agree with June’s post, definitely a newsletter. For me, it comes down to distribution. People love their email and the address book feature in email. When we send out a newsletter to our target community, we know that many them forward the newsletter from their address book lists to upwards of 20-30 other people in their company. Reducing the email push down to a hyperlink referencing a site they may never have heard of just puts clicks and other variables between the message and the receiver.
    Also, many of our newletters get accessed on handheld devices which still are notoriously slow to pull up embedded links.
    For the time being, we would stick with the email newsletter with links back to a hosted message.

  4. Barry Welford

    The answer is both. You should always get the maximum mileage out of every piece of publicity or communication item that you produce. So by all means have an e-mail newsletter but have it link to a corresponding web page on your website. Those archived newsletters will continue to be powerful in maintaining your search engine visibility.
    Now here is where you get maximum bang for your buck. Create a RSS news feed of all your website newsletters. Those prospects who are into news feeds may well pick up your new newsletter via a Google Blogsearch when doing a keyword search. What in effect you have done is to turn your archive of newsletters into a blog. After all a blog is only a particular type of website where items are added from time to time and usually there’s a newsfeed.
    So voila. Turn your newsletter into a blog and you don’t have to choose.

  5. Kate

    Good question.
    From a technology point of view, I don’t think that you have to choose. If a newsletter is defined as being sent via email, then all you need to do is set up an email feed for your blog posts and, voila, newsletter.
    However, I don’t think it’s quite *that* simple. My answer falls something along the lines of June’s thinking: it depends. And to me, it depends on who you’re trying to reach and to what level you want to engage them. A blog (when delivered via the web) has the benefit of inviting dialogue – and often the more interesting content occurs in the comments. A newsletter (or blog via email) is more passive and offers fewer opportunities to engage your audience.

  6. Sulemaan

    My answer would be that it depends on my audience.
    If our customers fit the ‘early-adopter’ demographic section then RSS would be the way to go.
    If our customers were more traditional, then I’d lean towards e-newsletters. If they are both then go with both.
    And if I wasn’t sure – I’d ask them.
    One thing to keep in mind is that customer preferences change. It wasn’t long ago that email was considered an early-adopter tool. So the same thing could happen with RSS as well.

  7. Ken Schafer - One Degree

    Hey what’s with all the “both” and “it depends” answers? I said you HAD to pick one over the other!
    Stop being so independent and re-writing the rules! It’s only day one of QotD and I’ve already lost control?
    πŸ™‚

  8. Cheryl Blakeney

    As always, the choice comes down to your customer base, their expectations and preferences.
    In conventional marketing terms, I consider blogs to be on-going branding/positioning campaigns; newsletters are direct marketing spots.
    Blogs excel in areas where credibility, authority, personality support a sale, particularly if the contents of the blogger’s brain is the product offered up for sale or rent.
    To support sales of other products and services, blogs are most effective when they provide valuable insider/expert information that appears to be somewhat objective.
    A newsletter can get to the point, make an offer. A self-interested pitch in a blog may wrankle but consumers are accustomed to encountering a call to action in a newsletter.
    I prefer newsletters that include summaries of and links to blog content where more this more extensive and thoughtfully branded information is easily controlled, archived, accessed.
    Many consumers don’t understand RSS. A talented blogger who can simultaneously position and pitch could eventually do away with a newsletter option by providing a simple explanation of how it works, in the language of their target audience.

  9. Mitch Joel

    I’ll be brave and say “Blog.” I know, you’re all shocked by this πŸ˜‰
    I think that the power of search engines, linking and RSS truly create the perfect storm (and ideal reason) for it to be all about Blogs.
    I also think that Blogs really open a company up to speak in a human, non-marketing-lingo type of voice… and to start a close-knit conversation with their consumers.
    We live in a day and age of being overloaded with marketing messages. I’m big on Blogs because although the number of readers “may” be less than an e-newsletter blast, I feel that the “quality” of the reader is higher.
    I also think that Blogs (with strong RSS) provide the opportunity to let your consumer choose when they want to be engaged by you.
    Very powerful.

  10. David Dougherty

    I know you were expecting a list of pros and cons for each option, however, I don’t think you should choose one or the other – you really need both.
    You should cross promote your blog posts in your newsletters, which should be archived on your website and delivered via both email and an RSS – maximize your visibility and keep everyone (including the search engines) happy.
    Your audience always has to be taken into consideration – but how your audience finds you constantly changes, as do their expectations. Establishing this integration now will increase your potential exposure and act to future-proof your channel development.
    As the use of blogs and RSS increases, the potential size of your email lists will inevitably decline. But, even as a blog advocate, I realize that RSS is still in its infancy, with many wrinkles that still need to be ironed out. It will be some time before the mass market figures out how to configure an RSS reader and to subscribe to your blog. Everyone online knows how to subscribe to an email newsletter.
    Everyone has different preferences – mine is to offer a blog. In general our culture is becoming much less passive and much less formal but much more demanding in our engagements. Blogs allow us to meet these demands in ways that email newsletters do not.
    This said – I would still choose to provide your current and potential audience with as many options as possible and let them pick the medium that they are comfortable with.
    I actually like what One Degree has done with its email notifications of recent blog posts.
    So, to further politic around providing a direct answer to the question at hand (choose one or the other), I would say: don’t discriminate – choose both and broaden your horizons πŸ™‚

  11. Carolyn Gardner

    To me, e-newsletters and blogs are like apple pie and ice cream. They go together!
    But as of today, if I could only choose one, it would definitely be the e-newsletter. Don’t get me wrong though because I do believe there’s going to be an ongoing rise in the power of the blog and RSS. It’s just that as of today, it’s really only the early adaptors that are embracing it fully. Compare this to e-newsletters where you see stats that demonstrate the average person has 8-10 e-newsletter subscriptions….

  12. Paula Skaper

    Mitch – I think you’re ahead of your time.
    If I have to choose, I’d have to say newsletter. Why – adoption.
    RSS feeds and blogs are powerful tools only within a (at least for now) limited segment of the online community. Yes loads of people read blogs, but how many of those actually install and manage an RSS reader with the same comfort level and proficiency as they use their email client? Only the techno-forward slice.
    (of course, I’d be constantly lobbying for additional budget for the blog until I got it – I mean come on, how much incremental investment are we really talking about anyway!? And without a blog, you will likely have a more costly publishing cycle for the content that newsletter links to!)
    Ken – maybe the real question is email vs. RSS?

  13. Keith Holloway

    I want to say blog for so many reasons, but since I have to choose I must take side with the e-newsletter.
    Yes you may have better quality readers on the blog, yes you can be found on search engines, but you need to communicate with your customers and prospects in the channel that is most likely to reach them.
    I believe in 90% of cases that will still be newsletter today.

  14. Ken Schafer - One Degree

    Funny, you think you’re asking a clear question and it turns out it is anything but clear.
    For me the “had to pick” was about resources. Not all marketers these days have the resources to fully support both a blog and a newsletter.
    I felt the benefits of both were there, but very different. I was kind of thought the discussion would focus on “I’d go with a newsletter because I need to talk to my current customers and my company wants a controlled, managed form of communication”. Or, “I’d go with the blog because blogs drive so many inbound links and search traffic that I’d rather work on building authority that way that talking to people who already know us”.
    That was the intent of saying “either/or”.
    Paula the “newsletter vs. RSS” might be a good future QotD.

  15. Dianna Huff

    Both. The newsletter because that that’s what my audience wants. The blog because it complements the newsletter.
    BTW, I personally prefer a blog to a newsletter. Newsletters seriously clog up my inbox. Whenever I can, I switch from newsletter to blog if a company offers a choice.

  16. Barry Welford

    I’m really quite upset at this forced choice question. The problem is that someone may think the answer is useful. It’s almost like the question, “If you want to get somewhere quickly, is it better to hop on your right leg or your left leg?”
    A good question that might have been asked first is, “If you have an e-mail newsletter, do you put the same newsletter as a web page on your website?” OK it’s a little more trouble, but for very little more effort you create a much more visible presence on the Web. For those who answer Yes to that question, then the QoTD becomes almost irrelevant. Naturally you should also have an RSS news feed of your newsletters. That again brings increased Internet visibility. More importantly it gets the most savvy members of your audience aware that a new Newsletter has been added within an hour or two of it happening. By now, in effect, your Newsletters have become a blog. You can now run with both legs to get where you want to go.
    Of course you’ve had to learn a few new skills to be able to move more quickly, but it’s not rocket science and you’ll be much better off with those skills.

  17. Debbie Weil

    This is still a very valid question, as the responses above indicate. I wrote an article on “e-newsletter vs. blog content” a while back that might offer a few useful pointers. Here’s the link:
    http://www.wordbiz.com/archive/blog_vs_enewsletter_content.shtml
    A few of them:
    – blog content (i.e. entries) tend to be shorter than e-newsletter articles
    – a blog entry is quicker to publish and disseminate than an e-newsletter
    – from a blog entry, you can link to a monthly or quarterly e-newsletter that’s posted to the Web

  18. Eli Singer

    Hey Ken, I’m going with door number three: opt-in SMS. It’s a great way to establish a personal relationship with a customer, and the 160 character limit forces you to be direct, simple and clear with your message.
    Not to mention all the other benefits of the phone, including it being:
    – a doorway to conversation
    – a transaction platform
    QotD seems like a hit already, great discussion here! Congrats!

  19. Nilaye Thakrar

    Newsletters are controlled more easily.
    Blogs can get out of hand very quickly.
    I would not discount the value of blogs; however, they need to be watched very carefully over time.

  20. MDM

    I agree with Nilaye.
    A newsletter has one point of view (that is controlled) vs. a blog that can have several (uncontrolled).
    Also, blogs need to be updated and managed. Newsletters can be sent out as often as is required.

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