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Do Newsletters Still Matter?

8 replies on 1 page. Most recent reply: Oct 16, 2008 7:23 AM by Michael Levin

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Bruce Eckel

Posts: 875
Nickname: beckel
Registered: Jun, 2003

Do Newsletters Still Matter? (View in Weblogs)
Posted: Oct 10, 2008 10:09 AM
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Of course I'm asking the wrong crowd here -- you're watching the weblog. Still, you might have some ideas.

In the early days of the web, I was one of the first people to post a book online (Eric Raymond tells me The Cathedral and the Bazaar was the first, and Thinking in Java was the second, and I'm not inclined to argue with him). I started a newsletter for people who wanted notifications about books, seminars, and other activities.

Initially the newsletter was a great thing. And it cost money for the service to send it out. As time has passed, it's gotten to where anyone can set up a newsletter for free. I moved mine to Google Groups some time ago.

This was long before blogs. It took me a little while to make the move, but the more I blog the less I tend to pay attention to the newsletter. I changed it to a quarterly but it's become semi-annually, if that. I've discovered I'm just not as attracted to it anymore.

Blogging is relatively easy. You get a single idea, and you write, and you're done. Doing a newsletter is much more trouble. You have to plan and set up and review and eventually send the thing out. Then you get a ton of "out of office" autoreplies. It's not really a conversation, but more like old-school mass media.

A blog is like a continuously-forming magazine, with articles that appear as you think of them, and at the moment you are most excited about them. And right then, you get feedback about the ideas -- rather than weeks or months later, when a magazine or newsletter is published.

So blogs are real-time, interactive, a lot easier to do and with improving technology everything about them is getting better. So the question is: is there anything useful to do with a newsletter anymore?

The one value of the newsletter, which is more of a "push" medium, while blogs are "pull," is that it can be a kind of reminder to people -- people who want to be reminded, that is -- of what you are doing. Since I have taken more and more to putting things on the blog, perhaps a useful thing for the folks who want such a reminder would just be headlines and summaries of recent blog posts on a quarterly basis.

What do you think? Would you find such a thing useful, and if not what would you find useful?

320 200

Posts: 1
Nickname: warpr
Registered: Oct, 2008

Re: Do Newsletters Still Matter? Posted: Oct 10, 2008 2:05 PM
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I do not consider blogs to be 'pull' media. Any blog with an rss feed is just as much push as it is pull. I read most blogs in a 'push' way, because I am subscribed to their feeds and check my rss reader several times throughout the day.

Even before I was using a seperate rss reader, I had an aggregator set up to send me an email whenever a new post had appeared on any of the blogs I subscribed to. This is very similar to the old newsletter format, except you get a single mail for each article as soon as it is available. Still push, but without waiting for enough articles to pile up to form a newsletter.

Florin Jurcovici

Posts: 66
Nickname: a0flj0
Registered: Feb, 2005

The Cathedral and the Bazaar Posted: Oct 10, 2008 3:11 PM
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I would not consider "The Cathedral and the Bazaar" a book. A thorough, extensive essay, maybe.

Florin Jurcovici

Posts: 66
Nickname: a0flj0
Registered: Feb, 2005

Re: Do Newsletters Still Matter? Posted: Oct 10, 2008 3:12 PM
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Whether you or your PC do the pull it's just the same to the blog/RSS publisher. So IMO anything fed to yout through a RSS/Atom feed or an aggregator is pull.

Ling Wang

Posts: 3
Nickname: one0
Registered: Nov, 2007

Re: Do Newsletters Still Matter? Posted: Oct 10, 2008 8:51 PM
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I'd like all the remaining newsletters/mailing lists to be migrated to google groups.

James Watson

Posts: 2024
Nickname: watson
Registered: Sep, 2005

Re: Do Newsletters Still Matter? Posted: Oct 11, 2008 6:33 PM
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In a word, no.

As pointed out above, RSS allows blogs to be push as well as pull. It's an example of complete obsolescence.

Another example of this which is annoying to me personally, (I have not been subscribed to a newsletter for a decade if ever) is the continued dependence on newsgroups instead of just setting up a proper on-line forum.

Erik Engbrecht

Posts: 210
Nickname: eengbrec
Registered: Apr, 2006

Review Posted: Oct 12, 2008 9:48 AM
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I think the key difference here is that when you did the newsletter you ensured it received review. The new forms of media, such as blogs, almost never receive any review. This responsibility is transferred onto the readers. The ones who "know better" must comment, and the ones who don't must find the ones who "know better," and often times distinguish between a wide range of differing views.

I think the waning of more traditional media is leaving an unfilled niche. It will be interesting to see what fills it.

Soni S

Posts: 1
Nickname: hangar18
Registered: Oct, 2008

Re: Do Newsletters Still Matter? Posted: Oct 14, 2008 10:15 PM
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It still makes sense to have newsletters. As you have mentioned, its nice to be reminded. There are some newsletters which I may have signed up while I was interested in some topic and after a while receiving a newsletter reminds me of my interests!
But as you said, with Blogs and readers, it makes sense to point to the new articles in the newsletter.

Michael Levin

Posts: 3
Nickname: mikelevin
Registered: Apr, 2003

Re: Do Newsletters Still Matter? Posted: Oct 16, 2008 7:23 AM
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I check my email every day, no matter what. Yes, I read blogs and subscribe to groups. But, email is easiest to read on the lowest-common-denominator device. And, I don't mind the random, unscheduled email from a source I am interested in MindView!


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