About the Author:
Todd Kuipers is a software designer/Internet consultant, living and
breathing, with his wife Susanna, in Calgary, Alberta. He is resident at
Merak Projects currently working on Web based implementations of their
petroleum software. He spends his spare time reading, writing, reading and
writing about beer, tasting beer, reviewing anything that he comes across
and providing pure research skills to paying customers. Things Todd and Internet can be seen at http://propagandist.com/.
One time proprietor of the currently defunct
"E-mail-zines list", a listing of e-zines available via e-mail, Todd kept his
interest in "low-bandwidth active delivery content" and currently subscribes
to 40+ e-mail publications on a wide variety of topics.
June 22, 1998 - A.Word.A.Day / Dr. Science
June 8, 1998 - Newspeak Review
June 1, 1998 - CineZine Review
May 25, 1998 - Edupage Review
Author's Note: Today I figured I'd talk about e-mail-zines and how they work and how they work best. I'll tour through some of the terminology, provide some tips and links to further info. This will be a pretty quick look at the topic, so if you have questions, please let me know.
An e-mail-zine is one of the most effective ways to get your message across to an audience. Whether you're delivering original poetry or a column on proper business practices an e-mail-zine can be the ideal way to build your readership and exposure.
The excellent features that e-mail-zines/columns/newsletters have include:
- E-mail - The the most basic part of the Net. If you are connected at all you have an e-mail address. If you have an e-mail address you can receive an e-mail-zine. If you have an e-mail address you can distribute an e-mail-zine.
- Low Bandwidth - Generally e-mail is sent out as plain text or plain graphics free HTML. This means that the content is light and free from unecessary graphics. You get the information/content across immediately.
- Complete Platform Independence - It's generally sent out in ASCII text, meaning that you don't have to worry about different browsers, operating systems and their (sometimes) annoying idiosyncrasies.
- Push - Push means you broadcast the e-mail-zine; you don't have to wait for people to visit or remember to visit your Web site. The content, or parts thereof, come directly to the viewer. It's an inexpensive and effective version of push technology without the need for new software.
- Target Audience - The people that receive your newsletter/e-zine via mail have asked for it, they are reading it because they are interested or at least curious about what you have to say.
Since plain text doesn't always get your message across effectively you might want to combine the features of e-mail with a Web site. There are three basic types of e-mail-zines content styles, each with advantages and disadvantages.
- Reminder - This one just tells the subscriber that the Web site or file download has been updated. It reminds regular site visitors that it's time they visited again. Works best if the e-mail contains the URL of the site. The disadvantage here is that not all subscribers will click on the link to read the new content.
- Overview - This is becoming the most common type of e-mail-zine and is used by most on-line news agencies to notify you of Web content changes. The added feature here is that each updated article or section on the Web site is (or should be) listed with a title, brief summary and URL link.
- Full - This version contains the full content of the e-zine. There may be a link back to a site where you can view it in HTML, but the content is fundamently the same in e-mail and on the Web. For the most part these full versions are the ones I will review on this page.
Once you've determined what content format you'd like to deliver and the style in which you'd like to deliver it, you have to decide on a delivery mechanism. Of course all would be sent out via e-mail, but there are ways to manage and control the mailing list of subscribers that want your e-mail-zine.
- Self-Administered - This is the most basic and doesn't need any software other than your e-mail program. In this case you would maintain a list of subscribers in your e-mail program's address book. Every time a new issue came out you would simply deliver the e-mail-zine to everyone on the list. This works well for mailings lists under 500 people. More than that and you may spend more time adminstering the subscriber list than writing your e-zine. For lists this small a decent e-mail program like Eudora or Eudora Light would suffice.
- Auto-Administered - An auto-administered mailing list interprets and processes subscribe and unsubscribe requests for you automatically. There are many programs like ListServ and the L-Soft products that will help you manage your subscriber list. There are also sites/companies on the web that will host your mailing list for you such as ListBot. Remember though, these programs aren't fully automated and still need some administration to keep your mailing list up to date. If your list grows to 2,000 or more, you'll definitely want to make use of a list administration program.
Now that you've figured out content, delivery and administration you'll want to make sure that people sign up for your e-mail-zine. There are various ways to promote and design your your e-mail-zine: Below is a select list of resources that will help you learn more about and promote e-zines.
- The Open Road - A great column about e-mail-zines. Look here for tips and reviews on e-mail-zines.
- Low-Bandwidth - This site includes the reincarnation of the E-mail-zines list that I used to maintain. You can submit your e-mail-zine to this site for an easy to find, categorized listing. Visit - http://www.disobey.com/low/.
- The Book of Zines: Resource Guide - Chip Rowe is the guy on the net for zines and e-zines (and is so on the ball that I didn't have to let him know about this column). This site is packed full of resources like e-zine lists, articles, interviews and tips. - Visit - http://thetransom.com/chip/zines/resource.html.
- E-zines list - John Labovitz maintains the E-zine list at http://www.meer.net/~johnl/e-zine-list/. It is easily the most comprehensive listing of on-line publications available. Search for e-zines similar to your own and see how they do things, or submit your e-mail-zine for listing.
- New-List - The New-List is an e-mail list that publishes new e-mail discussion and e-zine lists. You can subscribe to the list or promote your site from http://listserv.nodak.edu/archives/new-list.html.
- Usenet - Usenet news groups provide targeted audiences for your e-mail-zine. alt.zines, alt.ezines, alt.etext and rec.mag are ideal places to publish and promote your e-mail-zine. (In fact there are e-zines that only publish to Usenet). For more information on Usenet and News Readers, visit the Deja News site at - http://www.dejanews.com/.
Last, but definitely most important, is the content you want to publish. Content ranges from daily quips to monthly twenty page essays, from personal insights to stock quotes; there are no hard and fast rules on content. Having said that the only tips I want to give are:
Some of the above items will be covered in more detail in future columns. If you have any questions or comments, please let me know. Thanks!
- Research - View the content and style of other similar e-mail-zines. Determine what they do well and do poorly and emulate the right bits.
- Unsubscriptions- Make sure every issue has unsubscribe instructions. When people want to unsubscribe they want to do it now without hunting. You'll save yourself a pile of hate mail by doing this.
- Subscriptions - Make sure every issue has subscribe instructions. Sounds funny as the e-mail already goes out to subscribers. But, it is likely that if your existing subscribers like what you do they'll forward it to friends, with the subscribe instructions attached.
- Copyright - Include a copyright statement with each issue so that readers know who owns the content. This will help ensure that honest types out there will properly credit you for quotes and references.
- References - always include sources of your content if you are reviewing, summarizing or quoting others. Keeps your butt covered.
- Web Site - If at all possible have an associated web site that contains back issues and covers the last four topics in detail. This allows other sites to link and promote your e-mail-zine more easily.