Your Input Wanted: Possible Changes to Scot’s Newsletter

Those of you who have been reading this missive for a long time can probably recall that every two or three years, I try to come up with a new plan that will save me time on producing the newsletter. My life has become more complex over the past three years. I now have three children. I no longer work out of my home. And I have a challenging management job with a lot of responsibility that eats up my time. It’s no longer possible for me to describe my work at Computerworld as just a “day job.”

When I started the newsletter in 2001, it was a weekly. A few years later I had to cut back to every other week. A few years ago, I was forced to cut back to monthly frequency. This year I’ve only been able to publish six issues counting this one.

Other issues make the newsletter business very tough. In my Let’s Fight Sp@m series, 2002-2004, I more than once articulated my concern that spam — and the way ISPs, the government, anti-spam solutions, and corporations are attempting to fight it — will eventually kill the viability of email-based newsletters. I was clearly right about that. On the Internet, email is guilty until proven innocent. And most people don’t care enough to ferret out the truth. Four years ago, many people believed that RSS would replace email newsletters. And in a way, that’s partially true. What has actually replaced newsletters is blogs (most of which have RSS feeds).

So, let’s cut to the chase: I am once again considering relaunching Scot’s Newsletter as a blog, using the Scot’s Newsletter HTML and Text lists as announce-only notification of major blog entries. The last time I suggested something along those lines, I got bags of mail about it that split into two extreme camps. Many of you preferred that kind of approach; but many of you really hated the idea when I asked a similar question about two and a half years ago. I’d like to check the point again, so please send me your vote.

Should Scot’s Newsletter become primarily a blog?

Vote Yes (click to email your vote).

Vote No (click to email your vote).

The subject line of your email will tell me your vote, but inside the message, I have a question for you to answer:

If You Vote Yes: Do you like the idea of being notified via an email when a significant new blog entry or entries have been posted? Or would you prefer to stop receiving email entirely?

If You Vote No: Would you be willing to switch to the HTML format?

Making the Entire List HTML
The vast majority of people who try the HTML edition of Scot’s Newsletter prefer it. Because I have to create two completely different versions of the newsletter every time I send it — Text and HTML — eliminating one of the two editions would also save me a good deal of time and aggravation. It would also save me money because maintaining two lists costs more.

Some of you, I know, are thinking: Great, so kill the HTML edition. There are two problems with that line of thinking. The first is that only 15K of the newsletter’s 45K subscribers are taking the Text edition. All the rest are HTML. The second is that in order to create the HTML archive, I have to create the HTML edition. So sending only the Text edition not only doesn’t save me time, it would upset a larger number of subscribers.

My gut tells me that making the big switch to a blog is the right move for Scot’s Newsletter and Scot Finnie. That would allow me to write blog entries periodically, throughout the month. Knowing me, I’d probably also write several larger things all at once, the way I do now. That’s just the way I’m used to working. But having the freedom to publish any time would make what I write more timely. And by spreading out the load of content — and greatly reducing the production overhead — I would be able to spend more time on content and less time on managing the newsletter.

Incidentally, from a business perspective, the newsletter’s mailing list is the thing that has the most value to me as a writer. Even if I use the list as a notification tool, many of you will probably unsubscribe. Also, the newsletter’s potential advertisers will probably be far less interested in Web-banner advertising on a website unless and until the new blog has a loyal readership with gobs of page views. I have no illusions about the business aspects. I never have. The newsletter is a labor of love, so a blog would just be an easier-to-manage labor of love. To me, that seems to be a worthwhile tradeoff.

I have not yet made a decision about this. And no matter which way I go, it will likely take me a few months to find the time to act on whatever I decide. But something has got to give. My call for your vote is your chance to give me your insights about what you think would work best.

6 Responses to “Your Input Wanted: Possible Changes to Scot’s Newsletter”

  1. MarkMcCoskey Says:

    Your blog format is fine with me. I obviously registered, and I read your newest newsletter here on WordPress. Just let me know when your newest issue comes out and I will be here. Thanks and good luck.

  2. Scot Says:

    Thanks, Mark. If we go this way, the newsletter will arrive once or twice a month with links to the latest articles. There’s also an RSS feed. And I may do an article about using RSS. Some folks have asked for that.

  3. LilBambi Says:

    The blog format is fine with me too. I even used your email link to subscribe to your RSS Feed and signed up here as well so I could make comments as well when I feel the desire to do so. 😉

  4. Ucla74 Says:

    To anyone interested in the blog format, using the RSS feed is great–and easy! I finally succumbed to the blog fever a few months ago, and I can’t believe how useful RSS feeds are!

    Personally, I use Google Reader–I can’t imagine anything simpler. (I’ve seen recommendations for Bloglines, but I can’t access their website from work, so of course that’s out for me.)

    Scot, I love the blog format, and sincerely hope it’s here to stay. And good call on using WordPress!

  5. HumanJHawkins Says:

    Blogs are great… Especially with RSS. I will throw the RSS link onto my yahoo home page and any new posts will come to me automatically. Great format change Scot.

  6. Samsgran Says:

    I have already voted YES to Blog but I also wanted to tell you I love the format of the blog. It’s so easy to read

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