Saturday, January 24, 2009

Selling art online - email newsletter software

Are you confused by the different software options for generating a newsletter delivered via email? You're certainly not alone - and this site is starting to try and sort out what are the free and paid options and how they compare.
Introduction to Email Newsletter Software - Resources for Artists
A while back I did a review of email newsletter software - see Which is the best e-mail newsletter software?. This has now been converted into a squidoo lens which makes it easier to see all the different types of software - in terms of "free to download" and priced options.

What I've done is taken the review of each item of software which was identified last summer and included both the overview site description (from the website) and also my brief review.

Software is not enough!

I've also included some new material on the new site from Jakob Neilsen of the Neilsen Norman Group and useit.com who specialises in web usability. He has a couple of interesting statistics about email newsletters that it's worth drawing people's attention to:
  • users spend an average of 51 seconds reading a newsletter and
  • only 19% read the entire newsletter
The layout and writing both need superb usability to survive in the high-pressure environment of a crowded inbox.
Jakob Neilsen - Email Newsletter Usability
So thinking about content, design and what goes where is very important! It would be great if there were a brief digest of the salient points of his big report - that price is a bit difficult to digest!

I'm still looking for more suggestions as to good email newsletter software and comments as to experiences. Please leave comments either on this post or on the new site - anybody can comment. Plus if you like the site and/or find it useful please rate it. Thanks! :)

8 comments:

Anita said...

There is a lot to think about with newsletters. It something that I have been thinking about for well over a month. Never mind the software - how do you compile your mailing list? Wish I could figure that one out!

Katherine Tyrrell said...

The first step is to provide people with a link to click on so that they can join it!

You could do a post which would be read by existing subscribers to your blog and invite them to receive a newsletter.

However before you set up a newsletter and provide that link I suggest you think first about:
1) who your target audience is
2) what their information needs are (and hence how to avoid providing them with information they're not interested in)
3) what the purpose of your newsletter is ie what its content should be and how that differs from what you already provide on your blog.

For example, I don't want to subscribe to two sites to get the same information.

An example would be an artist who has a blog but who is also a tutor who provides very specific information about the workshops he or she runs in a twice a year newsletter.

This might contain a lot more detailed and/or practical information than you want to put in a blog post and maybe pics looking back at past workshops.

Then there is the artist who has a blog - but also does a weekly or monthly newsletter about work for sale.

Or an artist whose blog purely focuses on the paintings produced and links to the site where they are sold - but who also provides a regular newsletter about his or her activities, exhibitions, trips, new materials they've used etc etc. Something that gives an insight to them as an individual artist.

It doesn't matter which way round you do it - the blog and the newsletter just need to be different.

larry said...

Katherine wrote: :users spend an average of 51 seconds reading a newsletter and
only 19% read the entire newsletter.

In The Big Chill, a writer played by Jeff Goldblum says" Any article for People can be no longer than the average person can read while taking a ____"

Twenty Five Years ago that was a line designed to get a laugh, but as more and more newspapers and magazines are going bankrupt and people are more likely to have watched a skateboarding dog on YouTube than an informative News Hour, it's down right prophetic. It seems like software and content are a smaller issue than the overall trend of the people not reading. In a way this sort of dovetails with a previous post about art books in that the serious artist or news junkie has a dificult time finding serious information when the market for said information can't fiscally support it's creation.

Katherine Tyrrell said...

Actually Larry I didn't say that - Jakob Neilsen did.

Your points are precisely why this blog is different and I'm writing more! :) Interesting point you make about the connection to art books and the approach used for those which we talked about on this blog last week.

I'm setting out to write mainly for an audience that is interested in learning, being able to access information and ultimately knowing more - whether that's through anything I write or any of the links I provide.

I know that if people subscribe to this blog it's because they want to. I also know they probably won't want to read every item - just as I rarely read all the items in any newspaper I buy.

I do however think people are entitled to know what a blog post is about fairly fast - for those who skim read to sort prior to settling on items that want to read properly. That's why I write (what I hope are) helpful titles and say fairly fast what it's about.

I've got a blog post coming up next week about content overload.... :) (Thanks Sue for the reference!)

Rose Welty said...

Your point about using a blog/newsletter differently are very important. The audiences, with overlap no doubt, are also likely looking for different things. In fact, what you are trying to achieve with them is likely different as well. I found when I had answers to those questions...I had content to write and a clear direction for both.

No one should have a newsletter, just to have one. That leads you towards spamming people.

Lisa said...

I commented about Phplist (which I use) on the lens.

My issue with my newsletter is the huge number of spammers that sign up - hundreds a month.

My plans is to put a captcha form (word verification) on the signup page which should solve that problem.

Curious if other artists have a similar problem.

Brenda said...

Before setting up subscriptions for my e-mail newsletter, I extensively tested three different open source e-mail software programs: PHP List, Dada Mail and PoMMo.

Although I am quite familiar with HTML and CSS and have some distinct geek tendencies, I initially experienced difficulties with setting things up on PHP List. By contrast, Dada Mail and PoMMo are much more intuitive.

ALL require considerable fiddling around if you wish to customise the various pages that subscribers see (sign up, confirmation, update details, unsubscribe etc) to match the look and feel of your own website. However, if you can live with using their logos and layout, then customising the text content is reasonably straightforward.

Although I found the admin interface of Dada Mail and PoMMo much cleaner and easier to use, I ultimately returned to PHP List for its superior subscriber management. I like to be able to see when an inidividual subscriber has signed up and record what mail they have received and when. As far as I could see, neither Dada Mail nor PoMMo offer this feature.

I also researched various newsletter platforms that you could pay for. i Contact appears to be quite comprehesive and more affordable but I still couldn't justify the monthly fee for my low-volume, low-frequency purposes.

Anita said...

Great tip, Katherine!



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