Business of News Circulation Cool tool

Newsletters are hot, and they can be a great tool for community newspapers

Newsletters are one of the oldest forms of communication in journalism. They even pre-date newspapers, with the first newsletter coming out in 1538.  The first American newspaper to publish a second edition started its life as the Boston News-letter.

They have increased and decreased in popularity over the years, but everything that’s old is indeed new again.

Newsletters are hot.

And why should an old medium be experiencing such a resurgence in a digital age?  Perhaps because we’re inundated with news and information from every side. Newsletters can help make sense of all that because they digest what’s important and let us choose whether or not to read it. And they give us an email foot-in-the-door of busy readers.

In its current incarnation, a newspaper newsletter is like the menu screen on Netflix.  When you go to Netflix, you see movies categorized by genre and popularity.  Then you see thumbnail pictures and just a sentence of explanation telling what the movie is about.  You can surf through to something else, or, if you’re interested, click on that thumbnail to get the movie itself.

There’s no single type of newsletter used in newspapers.  The popular Washington Post newsletters give you a headline, a photo, and a teaser.  You can then click to go to the article on the Post website.  Actually, there’s not just one – the Post offers newsletters on news, opinions, the federal government, home and garden, education, lifestyle, business and tech, sports, science – there is even a newsletter called The Optimist with stories to inspire you. And there’s more that we didn’t list.

They’re right there in your inbox, waiting for you to scan them in the viewing pane, click on what you’re interested in, and head off to the WaPo site – even if all you had planned to do was to read your email.

And as you’d expect, The New York Times offers the same service.

Both papers sell ads in their newsletters, so the newsletters themselves are a revenue source.

Some community papers in Texas have effective daily newsletters:  For example, see the Texas Gatehouse newspapers, the Hood County News, the Wise County Messenger, Community Impact newspapers and the Fredericksburg Standard Radio Post.

Why are newsletters so popular for newspapers that already have print and online editions, websites and social media feeds? Because they meet readers where readers are sure to go every day:  their email in-box.  You don’t have to pick up a newspaper or go to a homepage.  All you do is check your email and there is the newsletter, viewable in your preview pane.  See something you are interested in?  Click, and it takes you to the paper’s website.

Publishers want to know, How can I monetize an email newsletter? Of course, this is another product you can sell ads for, and potentially a really attractive ad vehicle for businesses because it appears in the in-box of a wide variety of readers. But also, in an era when we’re all competing for attention and we want to establish ourselves as a go-to news source, newsletters are an in-your-face announcement every day or several times a week that our newspaper is the indispensable source of news for this county.

Once you get your template set up, newsletters don’t take that long to produce daily – after all, you’re just linking to the news you’ve already written.  And you can even use the same lead you have on the story, then link to the rest on your website.

As for the distribution, there are lots of mail management programs out there.  This site overviews what’s available.  If you’re looking for someplace to start with no initial investment, we recommend MailChimp.

Interested in looking into the world of newsletters?  Start out by finding a few (you can find links to some Texas community papers’ newsletters above).  Then subscribe.  They’re all free.  You’ll get newsletters in your inbox and just look them over to get a feel for what these papers are doing.  After a couple of weeks, you’ll have a vision for how you can reach new readers with newsletters and you can get yours started.

You can thank us later.


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Once you get past the name, you’ll like this site

The name is ePodunk. And having grown up in a town so small we used to go watch the druggist fill prescriptions on Saturday, I was a little put off by the “podunk” name. But I went, and I checked out a few Texas cities and a few in other states, including the Arkansas “podunk” where I was born. You’ll find lots of interesting information and links here on your town and those around you. Check this one out.