Many University users of our WordPress blogs wish to use their blog as a digital newsletter. While the blog format is not necessarily geared towards this type of publishing out of the box, there are still options for you to create a digital newsletter using your blog.
In this post we’ll investigate the two options available to you, as well as some best practices for sharing your blog newsletter.
One option for your digital newsletter is to post each edition as a single blog post. This allows you to only create one blog post, and users can find all the information from a newsletter edition within a single post. There are two examples on campus posting their content in this format, and they are great examples to follow if you want to go this route.
The Provost Communiqué is an example of using a WordPress blog as a single-post newsletter. The Communiqué is typically published once a week during the academic year.
The Communiqué is especially successful in using the single post format because of the way each blog post is formatted.
Notice at the top of the post the large yellow box that contains links. A user can easily scan this box of links and quickly jump to the particular part of the weekly newsletter they want to read. Adding this link box at the top makes it easier for the reader to quickly scan the content of your newsletter without having to scroll through the entire post.
This link box is created using the table tool within the WordPress post editor window, and each link points to a headline within the post using the anchor tool.
Another blog that uses single posts to achieve a newsletter format is Presidential Updates. A variety of posts are published here, but an ongoing series of posts is published in a single post newsletter format under the Clif’s Notes title. Each post is titled with a volume and issue number, ensuring consistency.
These posts do not contain a link box such as the example in the Provost Communiqué, but the content itself is consistent for each post with a similar format and organization of content.
Pros of single post newsletters
- can be published on a timely, set schedule (once a week, every two weeks, etc.), mimicking a printed newsletter
- all of the latest news and information from your unit is collected in one place
Cons of single post newsletters
- can be difficult for the reader to scan your post and find the information pertinent to them
- readers subscribing to your blog via RSS will not be able to easily see what content is included in a post without going to the blog and reading the entire post
The other option is to post your content in a normal blog format as separate posts for each story. While this option moves slightly away from the newsletter concept, organizationally speaking it is better than a single post containing all of your content.
Publishing each story as a separate post allows you more freedom in presenting your content, and makes it much easier for readers to find and consume the content they are looking for.
While this method is not fundamentally different than a typical blog, I will point to Missouri State Magazine as an interesting example. This site has a custom theme, but it is essentially a WordPress blog.
Stories in the Magazine are published as separate posts, making it easier for the reader to view the homepage or table of contents page and quickly scan the headlines to determine if they want to read a particular story.
Pros of multiple post newsletters
- separate posts for each story makes it easier for users to find and read the stories they wish
- allows for further categorization on your blog, again making it easier for readers to find the content they are looking for
- readers subscribing to your blog via RSS are able to see what each story is about based on the headline and summary
Cons of multiple post newsletters
- is no different from a typical blog if posts are separated and posted at different times, effectively not mirroring the structure of a printed newsletter
- multiple posts can be published at the same time to better replicate a printed newsletter; however users subscribed to your blog via RSS will receive many posts at once and are therefore less likely to engage with your content
Publicizing your newsletter
Depending on if your digital newsletter is being posted as a single post or as multiple posts, there are already some established best practices on campus for publicizing your newsletter.
Publicizing single post newsletters
The Provost Communiqué sends out a weekly email to campus immediately after the publication of that week’s issue. This email is text-only and lists some of the most important stories in that week’s Communiqué, with a single link that points to that week’s post.
Since this method only has one link per issue or post, it is easy to share it via email or through other social media channels such as Facebook or Twitter.
Publicizing multiple post newsletters
Newsletters published as multiple posts can be somewhat trickier to share with your readers, since there are multiple posts and URLs that make up an issue or edition of your newsletter.
Missouri State Magazine sends an email each time a new issue is published online. This email includes a URL pointing to the Magazine homepage, from which readers can find all of the articles for the most recent issue.
The email also highlights three feature stories from each issue. Each highlighted story includes an image, headline, short summary and link directly to that story.
This approach works well on two levels: one, the inclusion of images and links to the highlighted stories will generate better engagement from your readers, and two it allows your readers the option of going to your site to view all of the stories, or they can go straight to one of the highlighted stories that is of interest to them.