Did social media kill the newsletter?


But the game changed.

Here’s how.

A dozen years ago, we found that newsletters were a brilliant way to “soft ask.”

Share some great content, ask for a donation or sale in the content of your newsletter, and BAM! the money rolled in.

It *was* brilliant because a newsletter cost very little in production (outside of endless hours of writing, editing, and approvals) and netted conversion rates of 5% – 20% instead of the customary 1% – 2% conversion rates.

Then social media and Google changed everything.

People could get content for free 24/7. They didn’t need your newsletter anymore to “be in the know.”

What’s more, the “one-way-streetedness” of a newsletter seems drab, boring, and as outdated as a rotary phone.


Printed newsletters are hard to share. Social media icons in newsletters perform poorly. You might get some email forwards, but your reader doesn’t have a chance to comment or interact with a community of interest.

I’ve had some nonprofit clients that saw their newsletter open and click through rates tank and want to “can it.”

Their board members flipped out. “This is how we stay in touch with our constituents. How else will they know how amazing we are?” I’m paraphrasing.

Here’s the thing, I’m not a fan of newsletters. Mostly because you get a great click-through rate for the top article and then the click-through rate for lower-level articles drops off.

I’m a huge fan of building a “community” of interest among your customers/donors. Newsletters make it tough for your readers to truly interact in a community.

I’m a bigger fan of blogs over newsletters with one condition.

RSS feeds are really a terrible distribution channel. You usually only get about a 2% engagement rate on your RSS feeds. There’s a good reason Google Reader went away.

You’re getting at least 18% open rates for emails, which is far better, so…

Better than a newsletter…

Blog + Email

Share a high-quality blog post 6, 8, or 12 times per year that you promote via email. You get better open rates, higher quality leads, search engine bump, and you give your readers a chance to feel like part of a community when they can comment and give you feedback.

People hesitate when I say “blog” mostly out of fear that you have to come up with lots of topics and publish frequently.

Not true.

You can publish a blog as infrequently as 6 times a year.

Plan to spend at least 10 hours writing a HIGH QUALITY blog post. Pour your heart into giving your readers a profoundly valuable experience, and watch it get more shares and comments and be better for your business or nonprofit.

Because of the glut of information available to us all, less frequency with higher quality will help you stand out.

The key to blogs isn’t high frequency. The key to successful blogs is consistency combined with promotion.

Be prepared to spend 20 hours promoting your high quality blog to get the exposure it deserves.

You’re probably spending more than that on newsletter filler articles that don’t get read anyway.

Isn’t it smarter to publish right to your subscribers inbox that they check frequently throughout the day on their smart phone?

Photo credit: andrewyang via Compfight cc