Newsletters: News From the Publishers

It’s hard to believe I started publishing Small Business Leader more than 5 years ago. I asked myself why it has prevailed and realized the main reason is because I like creating it and sharing it with my subscribers. The list has grown over the years, but I have not made it a priority. It has mostly been a vehicle for me to share, learn and grow and to build a community of people who understand and value what I have to say.

The art and science of e-newsletter publication has evolved substantially, especially since the advent of big-time spam.

There is a lot of super-hype “how to” information available on e-newsletter publication. There are experts within our subscriber base so I wanted to tap that wisdom and share it with those of you who are either already publishing some type of periodical or are considering doing so.

I interviewed two senior publishers and two new publishers.

Abbie Drew, publisher of DEMC Magazine, http://www.demc.com, has been publishing the weekly DEMC E-magazine since 1995 and currently has 175,000 subscribers. She uses her web site as a magnet for the search engines to drive traffic to her site where people are encouraged to subscribe.

Abbie believes her newsletter has been around so long primarily because she enjoys publishing it. She works to produce the best publication she can with every issue. Focusing on e-mail marketing strategies, DEMC complements and is an introduction to the autoresponder and hosting services she offers. Publishing the newsletter makes her an expert on e-mail marketing and that opens other opportunities. This also prompts her to stay on the cutting edge of her field.

Nancy Roebke, http://www.profnet.org, has been publishing Network Ink, a well-recognized e-newsletter on networking, since 1999 and currently has about 10,000 subscribers. By offering a niche publication, she has branded herself as a networking expert. She also writes using a Q & A style which keeps her subscribers engaged.

Robert Levin just started publishing the New York Enterprise Report as an online publication in the Fall of 2003 and is going to a print version in the Spring of 2004. His target audience is the small to mid-size business owners and managers in the New York City metropolitan area.. He hopes to create a great resource for small businesses, and gain market recognition and a viable business for himself.

The first issue of Elisa Balabram’s Women & Biz e-newsletter was published in September, 2003, and is currently published every two months. She is spreading the word about Women & Biz through networking and word of mouth. In seeking career direction for herself, she searched in vain for a print magazine targeting women business owners. So she decided to start her own, using the online format for budgetary reasons. She has always wanted to be a writer and now wants to provide a vehicle that will offer the opportunity for women business owners to learn from each other.

I asked these publishers how they are addressing the spam issue. As an e-mail recipient, we all hate the drudge of weeding through spam. As an e-newsletter publisher, getting past the spam filters and getting your publication read is now the challenge.

Abbie offers five tips gleaned from her own experience.

1) Confirm subscribers.
2) Inform subscribers of the “From” address that the e-mail will show so they can “whitelist” your publication and it will pass through the filters.
3) Assure your IP and mail servers are properly configured so as not to fall into “blacklist” status.
4) Use a content filter checker.
5) Test deliverability to a small group at major ISPs. She offers her own deliverability checker at http://www.sendfree.com/dchecker.html.

Nancy stays current on both spam laws and spam cases so she knows what the spam filters are cutting out “today”. She also continues to use a text based format because HTML is more highly filtered.

Robert is using opt-in with confirmation and content checkers to avoid being classified as spam. As a start-up with low volume, Elisa is still able to send individual personalized e-mails.

Arlene Rosen, President of ARA Media Solutions, http://www.aramediasolutions.com, is a direct marketing specialist who helps many of her clients use e-mail as a communication strategy. She does not produce a newsletter herself, but works with many clients who do. Here are some highlights from her list of tips for creating an effective e-newsletter.

– Provide unique and insightful information so readers will anticipate your next issue
– Survey your audience to learn what is relevant
– Keep the audience engaged
– Develop and state clear objectives and include an editorial calendar.

Jane Tabachnick, http://www.janetabachnick.com, an e-mail marketer and e-mail virtuoso, started using the Web when it was in its infancy. She offers the following tips for avoiding spam filters.

1) Hyperlink Format Counts – Some spam filters will be triggered by number IP addresses or links without http:// at the beginning.

2) Color with Care – Avoid hidden letters, non web-safe colors, colored backgrounds, non-black text.

3) Use an Email Signature – Most spammers do not use signatures.

4) Watch Your Wording -Use a content checker for potential “spam filter triggers”, so you can edit your email before you send it. A lot of people are writing spam filter triggers with * or ^ characters in place of vowels. Free would be written fr^e or Fr*e. It seems to pass the spam filters, for the present time at least. Test your words (no charge) at http://www.ezinecheck.com/. Also check out Jane’s SaniSpam presend Spam Checker http://www.sanispam.com

5) Write Your Subject Lines Carefully – Avoid lots of white space, “hello”, no subject at all, all capital letters, exclamation marks, “to” and FREE in all caps.

According to Howard Penn Hudson, publisher emeritus of The Newsletter on Newsletters, newsletter publishing is the fastest-growing business in the US with one million publications in circulation (in print and online).

E-newsletter publication doesn’t have to be an onerous task, but it is a commitment. Get expert help if you need it, but don’t let the new challenges keep you from using this low-cost way to stay in touch with your network.

Many thanks to those who shared their wisdom on e-newsletter publishing.