Why the E-Newsletter Is Dead … and Why That’s a Good Thing
Ah, yes, I could hear the protestations from here as you read that title … “But what about 91 percent of consumers checking email daily?” … “What about $40 in business generated from every $1 spent on email?” … “What about 70% of consumers saying they always open emails from their favorite companies?”
Relax, Sparky. I’m not saying that email is dead.
I’m saying that the e-newsletter as we’ve known it — the bloated, rambling hodgepodge of text and links that we’ve been cramming into our followers’ inboxes since time immemorial — has gone the way of the dodo bird, and rightly so.
Just to be clear, email communications are as effective today as they’ve ever been. As Facebook emaciates Pages’ organic reach in pursuit of the almighty sponsored-post dollar and thousands join the already-crowded blogosphere every day, good old reliable email remains a staple for any savvy content marketer.
Okay, smartypants, if email’s so hot, what’s wrong with the e-newsletter?
Fair enough question, and here’s my answer: The problem is that we’ve been basing our concept of the e-newsletter on our concept of the paper newsletter, rather than on what we know about effective electronic communications.
Think about some of the paper newsletters you’ve subscribed to in the past, and maybe you still do. They’re probably between 4 and 8 pages and are crammed to the gills with everything the publisher wants you to know at this time. It made sense to do that, because paper and postage are expensive, so we need to get the most bang for our newsletter buck, right?
Here’s the thing: The way we take in electronic content is very different from the way we take in print content.
The print newsletter was never intended to be taken in immediately and all at once. It was designed with the assumption that the recipient would give it a quick glance and then perhaps toss it into a briefcase to read on that long plane ride, or leave it on a kitchen counter for perusal while the pasta water boils. It was a far slower, more episodic approach to delivering a large amount of diverse content, and it actually worked pretty well.
Contrast this with the way we take in email content. Faced with a burgeoning inbox of 100 messages or more, we flip through email after email, and even the most enticing content may get at most a minute of our time. If we come across a message containing a full-length article, links to the latest blog posts, a “Team Member of the Week” promo, a “here’s what we’re reading” section, a “here’s where our CEO is speaking next” blurb, the publisher’s latest tweets, and a funny or inspirational quote, it’s all way too overwhelming and we’re on to the next thing.
In the above example, chances are you pictured this behemoth of a message on a laptop screen or monitor. Now imagine it on a mobile device. Scary, isn’t it?
So, what’s a marketer supposed to do? Simplify.
We need to get rid of our concept of an e-newsletter and focus instead on e-content: brief, digestible messages designed to fit the appetites and behaviors of today’s online consumer.
The good news for us is that we no longer have to slave away penning and organizing huge tomes of information week after week. It’s unnecessary, and it could be hurting your open rates. All you really need is one main message, concisely expressed, and a couple of links for those who want to learn more. Easy, right?
OK, your turn: What’s your take on the e-newsletter, and how has your approach changed in recent years? Tell us about it in the Comments — we’d love to hear from you!
About the Author
A self-described geek who can recite entire episodes of South Park by heart, Rachel Parker has had a passion for content ever since she was old enough to hold a crayon (purple, please).
As Founder and CEO of Resonance, Rachel helps businesses publish content that connects with their audience … and converts those followers into customers. She’s also the host of the Content Marketing Podcast and a sought-after speaker, having presented to many major business and marketing organizations. Contact Rachel about speaking to your group or business.