Your Blog’s Newsletter – Revisiting The HTML, Plain Text or PDF Dilemma

By on January 24, 2011

Every excellent blog has a great newsletter. Whether it’s to keep in touch with your community, send out promotional material or to build a solid email list for future marketing pursuits – you need one. All blog owners at some point come across the ‘newsletter format’ dilemma.

blog newsletter

Courtesy of masternewmedia.org

HTML, plain text or a PDF document…which to choose? With the rise of email marketing platforms like iContact and Mailchimp, its no wonder HTML has been the most popular format over the last few years. But is it really the best for your community?

Ask The Tough Questions

Your newsletter is supposed to cover a number of bases. Besides being incredibly interesting to your subscribers, it has to be easy to read and attractive to look at. At the end of the day, you want your newsletter to gather more interest and momentum – until you have a zillion people hanging on your every word. So which format would suit this purpose best? Let’s take a look at each of them, and ask the tough questions that people sometimes overlook.

Plain Text

Blog owners that decide to go for plain text are thinking about one thing – easy access. Let’s face it – text newsletters are easy to send, they don’t cost as much to produce and many marketers swear that they are more ‘personal’ than other formats. Unfortunately ‘text’ just doesn’t cut it anymore.

The average person opens a plain text newsletter, and junk mails it in seconds. They know it’s not from one of their friends. Not to mention the fact text among a million other bits of text (i.e. the other emails) is a bad way to grab someone’s attention. Plain text newsletters might be great for a list of 30 people that know each other, but other than that – no one wants to read them. Plain text is dead in the water.

HTML Format

With HTML comes the opportunity to add design to your newsletter, a must-have in today’s competitive marketing world. If a single person only subscribes to a maximum of 4 newsletters a month, you have to make the grade! It all begins with HTML. Usable on many of the most convenient platforms, this is certainly an excellent format for small to medium businesses with moderate lists.

Unfortunately EVERYONE uses HTML for their newsletter. It keeps people from adding those dreaded ‘attachments’ that always seem to contain the next ferocious virus. People don’t like attachments, we’re told. So blog owners go so far as to send nothing but a link in their newsletter messages, directing the reader to their website, where they have published the newsletter.

What ever happened to convenience? Very few people make it past all the opt-ins to the actual newsletter itself. Mostly it’s off-putting. If you want a newsletter that looks the same as everyone else’s, HTML is for you. That or hire an expensive designer to customize your design for added punch.

PDF Attachments

It might just be me, but I’m more inclined to read a long newsletter from start to finish if it’s a PDF attachment. If you think of the information in your newsletter as valuable, then it stands to reason that your readers will want to keep that information, incase they need to review it, or re-read it at a later point.

A years worth of PDF files can become an encyclopedia of knowledge for the subscriber. These days, it’s the bigger companies that are using the ‘old’ PDF newsletter attachments. Maybe we can learn something from them?

Instead of creating a newsletter that’s a quick read and a lot of marketing rubbish, these new PDF newsletters are downloadable – in essence you are giving free information to your reader that they can keep. Plus PDF attachments don’t cost as much to brand. Will they make a come-back in small business as the swapping of large files becomes ‘okay’ again? We think yes!

What format is your newsletter?
How does it affect your readership? Let us know!

About John Souza

John Souza is founder and chief strategist of SMMU and Social Media Impact, and is a bestselling business author. He won the 2011 Tech Marketing Awards ‘Social Media Marketer of the Year’ and most recently the About.com Reader’s Choice Award for Best Online Education Site. John has appeared on The Michael Gerber Show, and his business has been honored at the Mashable Awards, Forbes Business Awards and The Stevie Awards.
Close

Like what you're reading?

Like us on Twitter, Facebook or Google+ for more!