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« The Minor Tasks List | Main | My New Time Management System (Under Development) »
Monday
Feb152016

Newsletter

Having told all my subscribers a few months ago that I was discontinuing my newsletter, I’m now reconsidering. The existence of the newsletter was pretty pointless while I wasn’t writing blog posts, but now I’m writing them daily, I think there’s a good reason for it again.

What do you think? Would subscribers object to my going back on what I said? And if it is resuscitated, what form would you like it to take?

In the past it has varied from being, in theory at least, weekly, monthly or irregular (usually very). There’s also the question of whether articles in the newsletter should be specially written for it or be repeats of what’s on the blog.

Going back fifteen or more years, some of my most popular articles were originally written for the newsletter. In those days the website was fed from the newsletter rather than the other way round.

Please let me know your reactions in the Comments.

Reader Comments (15)

I have read 100% of your blog posts and check the forums regularly for interesting discussion threads, so I probably don't need a newsletter to see your latest thoughts. However, I would certainly never object to seeing an email newsletter from you in my inbox.
February 15, 2016 at 13:31 | Unregistered CommenterPaul B
I have always looked forward to your newsletter and found it helpful and insightful. Sharing the process of how your mind is working on ideas, challenges and investigations has made me feel that this is 'real world' stuff, not just someone's opinions.

Two things come immediately to mind
1. I always prefer a newsletter to have an 'in depth' format and somehow feel slightly cheated if it's not! Blogs to me are immediate, almost what I'm thinking/doing/seeing now communication. Could the newsletter explore some blog entries in more detail? (Or - the blog be a precis of the newsletter?)
2. As part of that, I really like a newsletter that sends you to ideas/links/thoughts/places you hadn't examined before. A once a month, thought provoking, challenging missive that points in new or unthought of directions would appeal.
February 15, 2016 at 13:38 | Unregistered CommenterSue
I suppose it depends if you are going to charge for it. What I mean is there seems little point for you to offer a newsletter unless it forms part of any pricing regime you bring in. Can't see what is in it for you otherwise. If you were charging then Sue's model appeals i.e. more than the blogs, maybe a deeper look at issues which interest you or feeds off the new system however you allow that to be accessed. If you look as the site traffic when a new system is introduced particularly for AF and FV there was a lot of potential content for a newsletter. It is my feeling that there are less people actually contributing now and I think this may be because you have been introducing so many systems on a trial basis over the last few months. A newsletter could still hook a lot of people to pay.
February 15, 2016 at 15:59 | Unregistered Commenterskeg
skeg:

<< I suppose it depends if you are going to charge for it. What I mean is there seems little point for you to offer a newsletter unless it forms part of any pricing regime you bring in. Can't see what is in it for you otherwise. >>

I wasn't thinking of charging, but the newsletter is a far more effective way of publicizing anything I do have for sale than the website is. It reaches far more people, and is frequently passed on to non-subscribers. As evidence of that I am still getting regular new subscribers in spite of the fact that I long ago removed the subscription box from the website. They must be using the subscribe iink in old newsletters.

<< It is my feeling that there are less people actually contributing now and I think this may be because you have been introducing so many systems on a trial basis over the last few months. >>

The site traffic fell to about half what it was previously after I stopped writing blog articles. Since I've started writing again on a daily basic it's shown a good increase - though not yet back to earlier levels. Publishing the newsletter again should increase circulation considerably.
February 15, 2016 at 16:18 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
I'm all for more Mark Forster writing! I agree that the newsletter should have a different flavor than the daily dispatches here on the blog. A monthly newsletter could highlight particularly noteworthy blog posts or forum discussions. It could also be a place for a slightly longer essay or delving deep into a specific piece of something.

Given that you have such a backlog of previous newsletters that predate most of us, it might be interesting to resurrect or revise some of them in the monthly newsletter, in light of your current thinking. Which have stood the test of time, which have not?

Maybe newsletter subscribers, who may not be daily denizens of this site, could submit questions that you could answer in the newsletter.

Lame ideas, all, but that's all I have at this time of day.
February 15, 2016 at 17:36 | Unregistered CommenterMike Brown
Mark:

I feel the opposite of many readers. I like brief newsletters that sum up the latest at the website or are in a bulleted format (see Tim Ferriss' "Five Bullet Friday" newsletter for an example). A lot of newsletters these days are like novellas. I would rather they save it for the website and brief me on the best of it on a consistent cycle. I say:

1. Write for the website. Direct readers to the website by briefing them with the newsletter. This keeps things simple for both you and your readers and everything can be found in one place.

2. Don't use the draw of exclusive newsletter-only content to gain more subscribers. Use the draw of time-saving synopsis—a monthly briefing of what has trended, the best of what's been discussed on the website, latest developments, products offered, and any calls to action for readers.

3. Use a bulleted format for quick skimming. If readers want to go deep, they can read more at the website.
February 16, 2016 at 2:26 | Registered CommenterMichael B.
One way it could is like this:

1. The website has a section called "The Closed List".
2. The newsletter contains useful snippets from The Closed List.
3. Readers of the newsletter who wish to join this exclusive list may do so by clicking the link in any newsletter.
4. Readers who do not wish to join The Closed List yet may remain a part of the "Open List" public forums and yet still get some great highlights from The Closed List.
February 16, 2016 at 4:01 | Registered CommenterMichael B.
I'd support Sue's idea of outside links to support your key messages. Something like Jon Moon's newsletter (let me know if you'd like a copy).

And I love Mike's suggestion for teasing premium content.

Though to me, "Premium" or "A-List" sound better than "Closed List". Especially if we are moving away from closed lists as tools.
February 16, 2016 at 14:47 | Unregistered CommenterWill
Mark,

First, I'd love to get more Mark Forster in my inbox! I keep a zero inbox policy personally, and so I've rigorously unsubscribed to newsletters I haven't kept up with on a regular basis, as well as ads and such. I also vigilantly guard my inbox from further less-useful subscription emails. But know I'd keep up with an MF Newsletter!

Second, I tend to prefer newsletters. They tend to take web content and put in in my inbox - something I check habitually as part of my routine. This allows me to keep up with what's relevant to me, while saving time and complication.

Third, I'm torn between Sue's recommendation and Michael B's recommendation. I like Sue's idea of a newsletter that contains more pertinent content than daily postings. That clears the value hurdle required to make it worth the space in my inbox. Also per Sue's suggestion, I would prefer it to be less frequent, more of a monthly thing. This will clear the "able to keep up with it" hurdle required to make it worth the space in my inbox.

At the same time, as a website owner, it would behoove you greatly to direct traffic to your site like Michael B suggests. So the best compromise I can think of is to have your less regular, high value content on the website, alongside your daily posts, and have your newsletter point to that content on the site. Just as an example: The content in the Discussion Forum is perfect as-is - largely generated by an involved and engaged readership, with a smattering of your comments. The content in your Blog section would have daily thoughts to keep the readership engaged, and add fuel to the Discussion Forum. But your Articles section (Open list to the public as a whole, not an Exclusive Access Only section) could have a once monthly, researched and revised, high value content article. The newsletter could be delivered once monthly as well and as Michael B suggests, it could be more of a time-saving synopsis of the Blog Topics and trending Discussions, plus a teaser on the main article. (with links back to the site on all accounts of course.)

The most loyal blog followers will not gain much from the newsletter as they will likely visit your site regularly to keep up with the Blog. They will likely stay up to date on the most recent content and discussion on their own initiative. The newsletter would target the more casual visitor, or the merely curious, and either draw them in, or keep them coming back.

I personally tend to oscillate between "loyal readership" to "casual visitor" and back. I will check your site and the discussion forums daily for a period of a couple months, then the rest of the year I tend to leave your site and just focus on my own life. Then eventually, I again take up a more concentrated interest in following your site. A newsletter in this format would make it more likely that I'll either take shorter hiatuses from your site, or never really leave completely. I imagine you could compound that effect across your readership.

And, as you said, the newsletters would make excellent forwarding material to those I know who would find your content useful. To recommend your content to a friend without your newsletter, I would have to search your site for the content, copy-paste the link into an email, and type my own text introducing the content. But if I have newsletters sitting in my email, I'd just forward a newsletter. Easier to disseminate that way, and therefore, more likely to happen.
February 16, 2016 at 14:48 | Unregistered CommenterMiracle
Miracle:

Thanks for your helpful comments and suggestions.

<< The content in the Discussion Forum is perfect as-is - largely generated by an involved and engaged readership, with a smattering of your comments. >>

Of the last 100 comments and posts, 31 were written by me.
February 16, 2016 at 15:14 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Hi Mark,

Great to hear that you are considering starting an email newsletter again. I would appreciate any material - even if it was just a 'highlights of the week' with links to popular blog posts and discussions that week.
February 16, 2016 at 15:41 | Unregistered CommenterDAZ
Thinking about the newsletter idea, reminded me of Tom Woods and how he's been monetizing his podcast, newsletter, blogging, etc.

Tom Woods is a best-selling author, runs a podcast and blog, and had written several ebooks. He's been finding lots of ways to monetize all the stuff he's doing on the Internet. There are some ideas on his website, and he's supposed to be publishing a free ebook on the topic soon.

Examples:
http://tomwoods.com/podcast/bonus-ep-572-how-can-you-monetize-a-blog/
http://tomwoods.com/blog/how-not-to-earn-money-as-a-blogger/
http://tomwoods.com/blog/another-key-to-online-success-infinitely-reproducible-products/


He also posts affiliate links / ads for many of the services and tools he himself uses. Perhaps you could do the same. Nelson Email Organizer has an affiliate program. Amazon has a few different kinds. Maybe Evernote has one. Maybe even Moleskine has one.

With all these, you have essentially unlimited upside potential, depending only on how much traffic you can drive to your website. One of the downsides to a forum firewall is that you will reach a limit of who is willing to pay, and each additional subscriber will have a higher and higher incremental cost. There is always so much value in the open discussion on your site, I'm afraid you would kill some part of that if you hide it behind a paid firewall.

Back to the newsletter. As you pointed out yourself, the main effect of the newsletter is to drive traffic to your website. I totally agree with that. I like Michael B.'s suggestions about keeping it short, with the focus entirely about driving people to your website so they can find all the great content and products there (I'm not so sure I like the idea of a closed forum ,though). Tom Woods uses this approach with his newsletter, and often includes a "by the way, here is a great product that I use..." and then a little plug for an affiliate product; or maybe a "by the way, have you seen my latest book?"; etc.. Since these don't distract from the main content, but actually serve as helpful supplements to the main content, I have never been bothered by these "plugs".

By the way, if you aren't familiar with them already, I think you might like some of Tom's books, such as
http://tomwoods.com/book/how-the-catholic-church-built-western-civilization/

More here: http://tomwoods.com/books/
February 16, 2016 at 17:38 | Registered CommenterSeraphim
Seraphim:

Great ideas! Thank you for writing such a comprehensive brief - I shall start work on it immediately.

I'm ashamed to say that "How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization" is one of those many books sitting in my bookshelf that I've started to read but haven't got anywhere near finishing.
February 16, 2016 at 18:13 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
I liked the newsletters - I don't come here all that often, and found them an interesting summary of what you'd be working on lately, Mark.
February 19, 2016 at 12:25 | Unregistered CommenterBen H
I allow my subscribers to choose how often they get blog updates. I can also send a separate letter whenever I have something of particular interest to send out. I don't like having to write a whole separate newsletter in addition to posts -- unless I am promoting a book, for example.
February 19, 2016 at 23:39 | Unregistered CommenterMelanie Wilson

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