How to Create a Newsletter Using Feedburner
Though blogs and RSS feeds are the hot thing right now, there are still lots of people who prefer good old-fashioned email newsletter. Newsletters have a number of qualities that make them preferable to blogging for some purposes, such as:
- They’re “push” technology: Instead of waiting for a reader to visit your blog, or check their RSS reader, you “push” newsletters directly into readers’ email inboxes. Since most people check their email daily (at least!) there’s a good chance they’ll read your newsletter the day you send it (or shortly thereafter).
- You build a list: You have a record of the email addresses — and often the name and other information, such as location — of your newsletter readers. This is valuable information for anyone with some marketing savvy; most importantly, it means you can always reach the readers most important to you.
- You have pretty exact numbers: It can be hard to analyze website logs to determine how many people are visiting your site and what they’re doing there. Are unique visitors more important, or daily hits, or time spent on site? How do you put it all together? With email newsletters, you have numbers that are more like a magazines subscription count: while you can’t be positive the people who get the newsletter are reading it, you know exactly how many are getting it.
Use Feedburner to Create Your Newsletter
The easiest way to set up a newsletter is to use Feedburner’s email service. Feedburner is an RSS feed service, but they can take the content of your RSS feed (which is generated automatically by most blogging sites’ software) and send it via email. They handle the signups and confirmations, providing a sign-up form you can embed on your site, and will auto-generate a newsletter whenever there’s new content in your feed.
You can use Feedburner to simply recreate your blog in email form — every time you post, your list will get a copy of the post via email. Since only a small percentage of websurfers really “get” RSS, this provides a way to turn first-time visitors into regular readers. You can customize the header of your newsletter with a logo, and include ads in your newsletters if you want.
With very little work, you could also create a specialized newsletter “channel”, offering premium or bonus content in addition to your blog — or instead of blogging at all. In WordPress, you can easily set up a category of posts that don’t get published to the front page, and generate category-specific feeds (they’re at “http://yoursitename.com/category/categoryname/feed” for each category). Create a “newsletter” category, and feed its URL to Feedburner. If you’d like to send newsletters out on a specific day, simply schedule all your posts to be published on that day using the WordPress “Schedule” function. On the allotted day, Feedburner will collect all the posts from your RSS feed, apply your custom formatting and header, and generate a table of contents that will appear at the top of your newsletter.