Which Is Better — an E-zine or a Blog?
You might call me prejudiced. I’ve written literally hundreds of articles and stories for an e-mail newsletter — and not a single blog. But today I set up a blog to improve communications on one of my sites. I’ve had to work through the question of when is an e-zine or e-mail newsletter best and when is a blog more appropriate? Here’s my take on the subject.
When you’re trying to provide clear, comprehensive, enduring information about a field, I think articles on your website, published through an e-mail newsletter, are most effective. Here’s why:
Articles are usually taken more seriously by the writer (and the reader), and are much more likely to be carefully written. The writer takes pains to be organized, accurate, and complete. After all, this article will remain in cyberspace indefinitely, and may well be published on dozens of websites during its lifetime, to represent both the company and the author. It had better be well done!
Sending an e-mail newsletter is still the fastest and best way to distribute new content to a large number of people. Articles on your website intended for e-mail distribution will have immediate as well as lasting value.
But writing a well-constructed article and then publishing an e-mail newsletter is a lot of work — well worth the effort, but work nevertheless. So much work, in fact, that many times it just doesn’t get done very often, if ever.
Blogs, on the other hand, don’t usually make an attempt to be comprehensive, stand-alone documents. They tend to be short, (hopefully) focused comments that can be written quickly and published with extreme ease using existing blogging software and auxiliary tools. Blogs are usually read on the web, but distributed via RSS feeds (such as FeedBurner) and/or automatic e-mail updates that tell subscribers that a new blog is available. As a result, it’s easier to blog regularly than it is to write articles and publish a newsletter.
I need to note, however, that people like Google Analytics evangelist Avinash Kaushik blur the line and use blog software to publish high quality, full-length articles every couple of weeks via e-mail. Marketing Pilgrim’s Andy Beal publishes multiple blog posts each business day employing a team of bloggers, distributed via e-mail, RSS feed, and Twitter.
Both Newsletters and Blogs — in their Places
As you may know, I’m an ordained minister. Since 1996 I’ve published Christian articles and stories at JoyfulHeart.com. Typically, I publish seven or eight newsletter issues per year, usually at religious holidays or to announce a new Bible study series I’ve published. My double opt-in e-mail list reaches about 32,000 subscribers at present.
But the newsletter is so “occasional” that it’s hard for me to stay in close touch, and I’m too busy to publish more often. I regularly receive e-mails saying, “I haven’t received your newsletter for a long time.” I do plan to continue to publish the Joyful Heart Newsletter — periodically.
But over the next couple of weeks I’ll be rolling out an as-yet unnamed blog employing open source WordPress software. The blog will feature brief thoughts and ideas, comments on books I’ve read, pointers to key articles I’ve learned from, my take on current events, and so on. I’ll set it up with an automatic feed to Twitter and Facebook pages, as well as placing the first paragraph on my site’s homepage to keep content there fresh, as well.
So Which Is Better?
So which is better, an e-mail newsletter or a blog? Each has its place. For my carefully written and (hopefully) enduring articles and stories, an e-mail newsletter and website archives will be my medium of choice. For short, transient comments on books, articles, and current events, blogging is best.
Of course, “Which is best?” begs the real question that you must ask yourself, dear friend: Are you communicating with your customers by any regular means? If not, you’ve got a world of possibilities, marketing power, and profits awaiting you. Go for it!