Why You Shouldn’t Create a Newsletter (and What to Do Instead)

by Jon Morrow


Can I be blunt with you for a moment?

Not just direct, but say some things that’ll make some people mad?

Because you see, the world has changed.

Once upon a time, the online newsletter was the goose that laid golden eggs. Instead of hammering poor, unsuspecting website visitors into buying a product or service on their first visit, businesses got smart and asked them to subscribe to their newsletter, gaining permission to follow up again and again, sneaking in little sales pitches with every newsletter, and creating a nice flow of sales every time they published a new issue.

It was a game changer. Businesses went from converting 1-2% of visitors to an astonishing 5-20%, not because of a better pitch or product, but simply because they could stay in touch, educate the prospect, and occasionally nudge them to see if they were ready to buy.

And the best part?

It cost almost nothing. You could shoot out a new edition of your newsletter to thousands or even tens of thousands of people whenever you wanted, as often as you wanted, for a couple hundred bucks (or less) per month.

The result: enormous profits. Not just for big corporations, either, but for Main Street businesses, stay-at-home moms, and savvy writers around the world who wanted to make a living from their words. It was (and is) one of the biggest and most important changes in business in the last decade.

But the crazy part?

Nowadays, it’s pure foolishness.

If you’re publishing a newsletter, you’re potentially missing out on thousands of new subscribers, strangling growth by word-of-mouth, and depriving yourself of feedback from your readers, provided on a regular basis at no cost whatsoever to you, telling you exactly what you’re doing right and wrong.

Where newsletter publishers used to be the smartest people in the room, they are now the sad old fuddy-duddies of the online marketing world, hopelessly outdated, clinging desperately to a dying technology, destined to be crushed by new and savvier competitors. And if you’re publishing a newsletter, you’ll probably be pulverized right along with them.

Here’s why:

Social Media Changed Everything

Not long ago, publishing was a one-way street.

You wrote a newsletter, article, or white paper, sent it to your readers, and they either read it or ignored it. End of story.

With social media though, communication now flows both ways. Yes, we still publish information, but now our readers respond back to us, leaving comments, sharing with their friends, and linking to us from their own blogs and websites.

It’s a complete game changer. Rather than publishing an article you like and hoping your readers enjoy it, now you know what they think within a matter of minutes. You can also compare the response to different articles to see what your readers enjoy most.

The most important shift, though?

Thanks to social networks, it’s now easier than ever before to grow by word-of-mouth. If your readers like what you publish, they’ll share it on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, sending you hundreds or even thousands of new visitors for every article you publish.

Here at Smart Blogger, we receive 50-100 new email subscribers per day exclusively through word-of-mouth. That’s not search engine traffic. That’s not advertising. That’s just readers talking about us on social networks.

It also grows over time. The larger your audience becomes, the more readers you have talking about you, and the more visitors you receive. It’s a snowball of traffic that just keeps getting bigger and bigger.

The problem?

Newsletters are stuck in 2005

For the most part, they’re still a one-way street.

Yes, some newsletter publishers give you digital archives and buttons to share past issues, but are your readers using those features? Nopers. They just forward the newsletter to somebody they think might like it.

While that’s certainly appreciated, one forward usually exposes you to just one person, where one share on Facebook or Twitter exposes you to hundreds or thousands. It’s an enormous difference. Where your newsletter might get forwarded to a dozen people, the same article on a blog could reach hundreds of new readers.

You also feel like you’re writing in a vacuum. People recognize mass emails for what they are, and unless you train them to respond to you, you’ll hardly ever hear from anyone, not because they have nothing to say, but because they realize it’s not a conversation. It’s a one-way street.

So, they don’t ask questions. They don’t compliment your beautiful, powerful words. They don’t correct your mistakes. They don’t give you ideas for new products and services. They don’t tell you what articles they’d love you to write next.

Instead, there’s just a vast and empty silence.

It’s disconcerting, because even though you think you’re doing and saying the right things, what if you’re wrong? What if you’re really just a gigantic ass? What if you’re wasting your time?

You don’t know, and not knowing can drive you crazy. You start second-guessing yourself, and before you know it, you’re changing the name of the newsletter or redesigning it or any number of neurotic activities we creators engage in without feedback.

The good news is there’s a better way. And it cost nothing.

What to Do Instead of a Newsletter

What do you call a newsletter with built-in sharing for social networks, a place to leave feedback on every article, and an ongoing digital archive where all of your old articles are automatically indexed in the search engines?

Simple: a blog.

Whenever somebody tells me they don’t understand blogs, I tell them, “Imagine a newsletter where all the issues are stored online, people can leave responses to your articles, and they can share your articles with their friends. Imagining it? Great. Now you understand blogging.”

People act like social media is this mystical, indecipherable being that governs the web with a fickle, invisible hand, but it’s nothing of the sort. It’s simply an evolution of technology. It’s the conversion of a one-lane street to a two-lane street. Nothing more.

Of course, you might be wondering, “If blogs are so clearly superior to newsletters, why do some bloggers have both?” Let’s talk about that next.

Should You Have Both a Blog and a Newsletter?

The short answer:

No. Absolutely not. Start a blog and skip the newsletter altogether.

The long answer is more interesting, though. If you look around, you’ll see lots and lots of bloggers who also have email newsletters, and you might be wondering why.

It all starts with a technology called RSS. Once upon a time, people used RSS readers to subscribe to their favorite blogs, and it would collect all of the latest articles from those blogs and put them in one place for easy access, kind of like a clipping service that would remove articles from your favorite magazines and put them all together so you could skip the ads.

The problem?

Forgetfulness. Yes, you can get lots of people to subscribe to your blog with RSS, but most folks don’t check their RSS reader that often. They subscribe to a bunch of blogs, forget about them for a while, and then when they remember, their RSS reader is clogged up with hundreds of articles, and it’s too overwhelming to deal with.

The result: RSS delivers pitiful traffic.

A few years ago, I was thinking about buying a blog with 60,000 RSS subscribers, so I asked for their RSS stats, and I was shocked with what I found. Out of those 60,000 subscribers, only about 1,200 read any given post. That’s only a 2% engagement rate!

Email newsletters, on the other hand, typically get 20% or more to at least open up and take a glance at the content. That’s 1,000% better engagement. Or in other words, an email newsletter with 60,000 subscribers is the equivalent of a blog with 600,000 RSS subscribers.

Realizing this, a lot of bloggers decided to start an email newsletter in addition to their blog. The idea was to convert some of their RSS subscribers into email subscribers, making them much more engaged. And it worked. Engagement improved, revenue went up, and the blog grew faster than ever.

So, naturally, everyone started doing it. No one understood why they needed both a newsletter and a blog, but monkey see, monkey do.

It’s also the reason why a lot of email newsletter publishers criticize bloggers. On average, a popular email newsletter is massively more profitable than a blog with the same size audience, so they conclude newsletters are fundamentally better than blogs.

But they’re not. Email is just fundamentally better than RSS.

Only… who says bloggers have to use RSS?

Blog + Email = The Ultimate Publishing Platform

Look around this site, and you’ll notice something peculiar:

It’s not possible to subscribe via RSS. You can only subscribe via email.

When you do, you’ll see I don’t spam you with a bunch of advertisements for our products and services. I just email you whenever there’s a new blog post for you to read. You don’t receive the entire post either, but a simple explanation of what the article is about and a link.

The result?

People I link to tell me I’m now sending the same traffic as blogs with more than 200,000 RSS subscribers. Here’s why: massive engagement. We only have about 26,000 email subscribers here, but because I routinely send out high-quality articles, as well as prune subscribers who are no longer reading, our open and click-through rates are off the charts.

The blog is also growing like mad. As I mentioned earlier, we get about 50-100 new email subscribers per day purely through readers sharing the posts on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and so on. And that number is rising. By the end of the year, I bet it’ll be up to 150-200 per day, all thanks to those little sharing buttons.

And just look at the number of comments. It’s hard to find a post with less than 50 comments, and many of them I have more than 100. Not only is that immensely encouraging, but those comments also contain ideas for future posts, new products and services, and even separate businesses. You guys are literally telling me what to do next. I don’t have to guess at all.

In other words, I’m getting all the benefits of email plus all the benefits of blogging. It’s the best of both worlds.

And the real shocker?

It’s dramatically less work. Since launching on March 12, 2012, we’ve only published 27 blog posts. Of those 27, I’ve only written 10. That’s less than one post per month. Granted, I usually spend around 10 hours writing each of my posts here, and there’s also some editing time for the guest posters, but I would guess it’s no more than 20 hours a month.

And remember, we grossed nearly $500,000 last year. Here’s why: minimizing the amount of time I spent writing allowed me to focus on creating products and services, promoting them, and giving customers an out of this world experience.

The Truth about Blogging

Blogging isn’t about publishing as much as you can. It’s about publishing as smart as you can.

Which is smarter: publishing your posts to a reader’s inbox, which they check several times an hour, or publishing your posts to RSS, which they might check once or twice a month?

Which is smarter: asking readers to go through the effort of forwarding your content to friends and family, or giving them a button that makes it easy to share it with everyone they know in a single click?

Which is smarter: making it easy for readers to give you feedback and then carefully studying that feedback when deciding what to do next, or just continuing blindly forward without any idea if you’re on the right track?

Of course, it’s obvious when you put them side by side, but most folks never think through it. We just blindly copy what the “authorities” are doing without having any idea what the results are.

That’s why I tell you guys so much about the results we get here at Smart Blogger. It’s not just to brag (okay, maybe a little); it’s so you can see the results of what we’re doing and copy the right things in the right way.

The bottom line?

Email kicks butt. Blogging kicks butt. Put the two together, and you’ve got the biggest can of whoop ass in the history of publishing.

Use it.

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Jon Morrow

Jon Morrow has asked repeatedly to be called “His Royal Awesomeness” but no one listens to him. So, he settles for CEO of Smart Blogger.


A "cheat sheet" to making 2-5K per month as a writer, even if you're a total beginner.
Photo of author

Written by Jon Morrow

Jon Morrow has asked repeatedly to be called “His Royal Awesomeness” but no one listens to him. So, he settles for CEO of Smart Blogger.

238 thoughts on “Why You Shouldn’t Create a Newsletter (and What to Do Instead)”

      • LOL @ Tanya’s comment. Yeah, you may not have the RSS button but some of us sneaky ones know how to work around you 🙂

      • Dear John,
        If you want to stop people from reading your blog via rss you can use the code shown in disable feeds in wordpress from WPBeginner.
        However I don’t agree with the fact that rss are bad. Some people like me get to many messages on the mailbox so I trully like to read the blogs I via flipboard or feedly because they allow me to read them once a week.
        So If the mail I get from yours seems to be very very interesting I read it from the email link, if not I read it via rss half a week later.
        Thanks for your helpful posts.

      • This comment did make me smile, pesky RSS feed! 😉

        Really interesting article all the same, raises a few questions, too many questions, over email newsletters!

      • I subscribed via feedly, but only set it up last week and have yet to use it. Your email and headline brought me back here. ( :

        I’m new to all this and am not sure if this is a naive question, but are you using a service like aweber to send group email or does this mean you just send them directly. (I’m not sure how many emails direct handles.) If so, this post will save me–not just creative energy and time–but money.

        I was so relieved to read this, and have to admit it rings true. (I haven’t found to time to read a newsletter since about 2004.) Now I can forget any such thoughts and put effort into all the things that make a difference.

        Thank you,


      • Jon, I’m subscribed by RSS as well.

        But I use my RSS feed and my inbox differently. My inbox is for those blogs I read. My RSS feed is for those blogs I SHARE (you’re in both).

        Once a day or so I check my RSS feed, pick the best content and schedule it to share via social with Buffer.

        Just some insight into how I use it 🙂

    • This may not be the case if most of your audience is above age 60. They may actually ready hard-copy newsletters which is what our organization has found to be the case. I can definitely see this as important in reaching out to the younger and more technologically savvy older folks, though. Covering all bases is important! Thank you for your persuasive comments.

      • Great post as ever Jon.

        Carolyn – my experience is that hard copy newsletters stand out with people of all ages, provided the content is useful and interesting to the audience. Does anyone care about your office move? Probably not! but how-to tips and good ole list posts are great in print as well as in blog.

        In a crowded in-box, hard copy stands out. But used with digital, blogging and social too of course to facilitate sharing and conversation!

      • Duuhh.. I’m not even 45 yet, but if I can I prefer to read hard copies.. hehe.. and I’ve used computer since forever, to the days when we still use floppy disks..

        Nevertheless, thanks for opening my horizon, Jon. I’ve always learned that I have to collect email addresses and send them “friendly” newsletter, something which, in my experience, I have never read them myself..

    • I really like your theme about confidence and getting the right mindset about yourself. How you see yourself is such a big part of building a successful business. Great resource. And thanks for the laughs too.

  1. Thanks, Jon. What a relief. I’ve been so *not* into the newsletter idea, but thinking I’d better consider it anyway. It does seem old and worn out and then here you come, backing me and my hunch up with your strong reasoning.

    Whew. That was close. I was almost ready to start planning a newsletter. Thank goodness for procrastination. 😉

    • Coco..

      Don’t miss where Jon’s headline:
      “Blog + Email = The Ultimate Publishing Platform”

      Unless I’m mistaken (correct me if I’m wrong Jon).. he’s not saying email is wrong, he’s saying the traditional boring Newsletter is wrong. He wants you to engage and grow your audience.

      There’s a HUGE difference in the interpretation.

      I hate to think how many pp will ditch list-building because of misinterpreting this post.

      ~ darlene

      • Thank, Darlene- I got it, though I appreciate you looking out for a fellow blogger!

        I was just glad to hear Jon give the old-style newsletter the heave-ho. Just the thought of doing one for another project of mine was dragging me down and I couldn’t put my finger on why I was procrastinating. I did one years ago in another job, but couldn’t get excited about doing it again.

        I also do a lot of work for a friend who uses a pre-made newsletter through her company and have been so, yawn, bored with that and trying to get her company to wake up to the more vibrant avenues of communication that are cropping up all the time.

        I’m not in danger of ditching my list, so no worries, but thanks for the heads up!

  2. Loving this article!
    I have a blog and have just opened up an account to start my own newsletter.
    One ‘but’ though: because I publish four times/week, I don’t feel like sending out four emails/week for that myself. So the plan is to make my newsletter monthly, including a round of of my best posts of the month and some new stuff.
    Totally agree on your rss vs email point, but I don’t think my blog could pull it with just an article a month. I’m still at a beginner’s stage. Might experiment with my number of posts alter, though (have upped them since I started blogging).

    • You probably shouldn’t be publishing four times a week. That’s almost always a mistake for beginning bloggers.

      • I actually started by publishing two times a week. Then upped it to three, now at four. My traffic is increasing faster and faster, but of course I cannot link this to the amount of posts I publish alone. It’s a combination of factors.
        I’ve been at it since August 2012, by the way.
        I’d like to try and publish less, but am afraid to do so a bit at the moment as, like I said, thinks are starting to look good.
        Also, i’ve got so much to say 😀

      • Sorry,I’ve seen your take here: //smartblogger.com/posting-every-day/

        disregard the first question.Thanks.

    • Sofie, I normally tune out (and eventually forget and unsubscribe) from a new blog I subscribed to if I receive mails from them only once a month. And I will definitely unsubscribe if they send me mails daily. A weekly newsletter is the sweet spot for me. Something to think about….

      • This is so good to hear. I thought it was only me that hated lots of blog and face book posts. Now if I get more than one post a week I consider it spam and unsubscribe. I recently unsubscribed to Copyblogger. I loved the content but was overwhelmed by all the emails clogging my box – it stressed me out – so now it’s gone.

        I post a blog article about twice a month. So glad I don’t have the pressure to do more and annoy readers.

      • Note: I doubt I’m a typical reader, but here’s how I read posts & newsletters.

        I have loads of blogs–far over 100 and probably over 200–in my RSS reader . . . that I don’t read. And I have subscriptions to lots of newsletters, 30, 40, more?

        Of all those newsletters, I read 5. Just 5. They are ones that either aggregate the best of what’s out there on a weekly basis (2) or daily (1). The other 2 post full articles in their newsletter. They are basically a blog post sent by email, no stuff, no fluff.

        I suppose there are a few emails I read that have a teaser to the blog post (4-5?), but they drive me crazy. I don’t like teasers on principal. So the teaser better be both great and exactly what I want or I won’t follow the link. I’m guessing my click-through rate on these is 3-5%.

  3. I like the part about doing away with a newsletter! I’ve got newsletters clogging up my inbox and don’t ever find the time to read them.

    Your subject line is really what got my attention and I had to read it immediately! 🙂

  4. So many changes in the smallest amount of time. How can a semi-publisher keep up? What continues to amaze me with Google–their reasons for EVERYTHING changes it seems twice monthly. It’s becoming harder for small sites to compete. I guess I will stick to my site being an overall online portfolio if nothing else. Can’t win for constantly losing.

    • Just focus on publishing quality content and getting links from authority sites. That’s what Google wants you to do more than anything else. It hasn’t changed in 10 years.

    • Reply back to them and politely ask if they would mind copying and pasting their email into a comment on the blog so everyone can read it.

      • Sofie, in regards to Jon comment, “Reply back to them and ask politely if….”

        Jon’s reply was simple: ask them.

        The problem I see is that many people are too embarrassed to post their questions (you know, the whole insecurity thing), which is silly to me because that’s why we’re here in the first place…to learn.

        My suggestion: Make a blog post about it. Answer the questions. Help them get past their Fears and you’ll not only answer your beloved followers questions, but hopefully inspire them…and build your blog!

      • One thing you could do is go in and manually add those in as comments yourself. Or do a Q&A post with them, where the comments are used, and the content of the post itself is your responses to their problems.

        I don’t know about other people, but I really do like reading posts like that.

  5. I would never claim to be the master of email copywriting so the fault could lie entirely with me. But I struggle with the fact that my email engagement is “meh” where FaceBook engagement AND traffic is fantastic.

    Sidenote: For many reasons I hate Facebook and I totally agree that having an email connection with people is far better than hoping to show up in their newsfeed, get likes, comments, shares, etc.

    But the truth is I have roughly 3,000 Facebook fans and 3,000 email subscribers and from a traffic/engagement perspective, Facebook wins by a factor of 10X.

    Is it just me? It could totally be just me. Logically I totally see the benefit of email over Facebook. But when I look at the results, there just not there….

      • If you send your posts in entirety via email, your traffic will go down. I choose to keep it that way because I think my readers appreciate not having to click to read through, but that could be why FB is sending you more traffic.

      • Nope – I don’t send the entire post in email. I try to give some good reasons why the post is important and should be read.

        My completely ignorant thought on why FB>email is that my readers are all Moms of young babies and frankly they seem to LIVE on Facebook. Well Facebook and Pinterest. None of them care about Twitter or G+. Or, apparently, email?

      • Alexis, I have a new baby and I’m much more likely to engage on Facebook because I’m usually browsing on my phone while nursing or holding the baby. I’m terribly behind on reading newsletters and am not as likely to click through.

  6. Thanks Jon. I’m actually working on moving my enewsletter to a blog today. Being an intrapreneur, I had to start out sort of underground … in the form of an enewsletter. I’ve proven myself a bit now, so I can become a little more public with a blog. Fun stuff. Will try out what you recommended here. Thanks!

  7. Brilliant stuff, Jon. I’m part of Copyblogger’s Authority program and have been struggling with where to spend my time and energy when it comes to email marketing.

    This post is pure gold.

    Question for you though: what do you think about autoresponders for a newer site?

    • Depends. If the site is a blog, setting up autoresponders probably isn’t a priority in the beginning. If the site is selling something though, autoresponders are really powerful.

      • Interesting. As I was reading your article, I assumed what you wrote applied to autoresponders as well since they’re seemingly subject to the same limitations (one-way communication, sharing done by forwarding rather than via social networks, etc.).

        Can you clarify why you consider autoresponders “powerful” (under the right circumstances) and newsletters “foolish?”

      • The best way to use autoresponders is to link to content with comments enabled. Check out the way I do it on guestblogging.com. That’s an extremely profitable autoresponder sequence.

  8. Hear, hear. I’m glad you’ve called it like it is and pointed out that times are changing. (Thank god. It’s about bloody time.) People’s habits have moved on, and all our strategies need to move along with them.

    I know that I, for one, am quite thankful I can write less and get more engagement – after successfully blogging my ass off for years, it’s refreshing!

  9. Here you go again Jon, making a lot of sense. I can always tell that you spend quality time on you articles. i have it down Blogging + Email.

    Thanks again for sharing your Wisdom.

  10. You only have 26,000 subscribers and counting? Wow…I have 28 and two of those subscribed yesterday. I’m not so hot, not so great, but I am not giving up, either. I love to read your blog posts. I am one of the masses. I’m learning.

    Thanks, Jon for yet another great message. I plan to quote you in my blog post today that goes out by email. Don’t have RSS. Not going to get it. Have a good day. 🙂

  11. Jon, Thank you…. what a relief. I know I have heard you allude to this before, but I think it finally got through to me today.

    I was dreading taking on more work, even if my plan was a quarterly newsletter.

    I have been in a flurry of classes on marketing. There are so many voices out there. You are one of the few saying something different that resonates with the way I want to do business: ethically and intelligently.

    I can always depend on you,Jon.

    Mario Zeleny

  12. In particular “Blogging isn’t about publishing as much as you can. It’s about publishing as smart as you can” jumps out at me.

    I think a lot of new bloggers (who don’t know who to listen to just yet)fall into the quantity trap. The “publish every day” stuff that’s so easy to find out there.

    Luckily, when I first started my blog, I listened to the “email evangelists.” I’m so glad I did. While my list isn’t massive, it’s responsive and loyal.

    Thanks, Jon, for the affirmation!

  13. I loved this post, Jon. I’ve been considering the different channels we have and what to do about our newsletter. I’ve noticed that my newsletters tend to be much more intimately written than my blog posts anymore because I see it like I’m writing to close(r) friends. There’s a funny thing about treating blog readers like strangers: they stay strangers.

    I’m not sure that I’ll kill my newsletter but it is time for me to get more public again, y’know? I have some other reservations I may share about it on PF and link back here.

    Keep rocking it, m’man. 🙂

  14. Timely for me as I was considering developing a newsletter but the thought never sat right with me. I didn’t see the point. I blog once a month, and I will increase this to twice with one being shorter and more light-hearted. Now I need to work on call-to-actions!

    Any advice on plain text vs HTML emails?

    • In my experience, the most effective emails are the ones them look exactly like an email from a friend. So, no graphics, company names, and so on. HTML or plain text doesn’t really matter that much, assuming they both look like they’re from someone you know.

  15. Sorry to be a dunce, but I am not understanding the message. Not do a newsletter but do an email? So what am I sending through email? Just my blog posts(truncated I assume)? Through a service? Ack! I have this high on my to-do list and I am not sure where to start.

    Thanks! Lisa~

    • I think Jon’s advising to send out an email announcing your new blog post (presumably with enough of a teaser to make ’em want to jump over).

    • When I think of email newsletters, I think of those really long emails that come with multiple articles, that can take forever to read. It seem snow that many of them are coming into my inbox looking like a complete webpage with links all over them and way too many things to focus on.

      An email that gets sent like the one about this blog post, doesn’t give all the content in the inbox but asks you to come to the site depends on decent copywriting to make that happen.

  16. I must say if someone scans instead of actually reads this post, they’ll have the wrong idea!

    My traffic goes thru the roof on the day my “Newsletter” slash/ “Awesomeness content delivered straight to your inbox” goes out.

    Plus now that I’ve ramped up the questions/interaction I feel a much better connection. I’ve had pp reply they were shocked I answered them.

    A perfect example of how if we hold ourselves up to a higher standard, we’ll separate from the pack and shine!

    ~ darlene

  17. Great post and I can see exactly what you’re saying about newsletters. I don’t know if I agree with you about RSS though. Maybe I’m old-fashioned or something, but it’s still how I keep up-to-date with the blogs I’m interested in. I have them all on my igoogle page and can see when they’re updated at a glance. On the other hand I get so inundated with emails I ignore a lot of them if it’s apparent they aren’t personal. Couldn’t you have an RSS feed as well?

    • An RSS feed is all about the person reading the post. interaction in a social media sense works better if the reader comments on the blog itself by going there to visit; as opposed to being one of many posts presented in a technology designed to keep interaction to a minimum.

    • I like RSS too, and I continue to use it, but unfortunately, it’s just not as effective. The fact is, people like us are in the minority. For 95% of blog readers, email is much more effective. So, that means we have to use it, regardless of whether we like it or not.

  18. Well … I agree with the part about social media, and how the blog works like a big online newsletter (and I’m totally going to use that explanation next time someone asks me what a blog is – so thanks for that :)) … but, I also subscribe to your blog via RSS (a quick View > Source showed me what I needed) and, the first notification I received for this post was via your email list – which, whilst technically might not be a newsletter, was certainly sent via the medium you’re saying is stuck in 2005 and used by old fuddy-duddies!

    But, as ever, an interesting and discussion provoking post – thanks!

    • You’re welcome, David. If you go back and read through the post though, you’ll see I don’t criticize the medium of email. I criticize newsletters, which are a particular type of email. On the contrary, I say email is the most effective way to deliver your message.

  19. This article has been enlightening and has put in to words something I have felt for a while.

    I run an E-Commerce site and I’m beggining to build up a blog within it.

    One of our biggest assests is the 25,000 strong list of newsletter subscribers that I have been mining for a few weeks with emails that only feature our products. I use the word mining because even though it has been producing sales it is also depleting the number of subscribers alarmingly quick.

    I am going to transition towards featuring articles from the blog. The topics covered in the blog have not yet been set in stone. My worry is that I will loose the sales that are coming through from the email.

    Do you have any advice for such a transition?

    Thank you in advance.

    P.S. I’m a big fan of your work Jon.

  20. Those are mind-boggling numbers to me. What I’d like to know is how you went from 0 to your first few thousand readers and how long did it take. My most popular blog took about a year to go from 0 to 1000 visitors a month. Readership doubled in the second year and doubled again this year. That “success” has made me contemplate starting a new blog targeting a bigger niche, but I’d like to do it right this time.

    • Well, it’s not really a fair comparison, because I spent years building connections before I launched this blog. Because of those connections, I was able to get 13,000 email subscribers before writing the first post. In fact, I got nearly 2000 subscribers the first day. I also had about 6000 visitors the day I published the first post.

      It’s very unlikely a beginner could achieve that. In my opinion, it should take you no more than about 90 days to get to 1000 subscribers, assuming you are doing everything correctly. I’ve had students do it in as little as 30 days. If you’re not getting those types of results, something is probably off with your strategy.

      • Hey Jon:

        1000 visitors in 90 days? Incredible. Where can I go to read more about that? I’m at 180 days and have a bit less than half that. If there’s a list, consider me double-opted 🙂

      • Start with GuestBlogging.com. I’ll also be doing a webinar sometime over the next couple weeks about my strategy for launching a new blog. Keep an eye out for it.

  21. Your Royal Awesomeness.

    I’ve got a blend going of what you recommend. I have a Hiring Tips “newsletter” which sends a small snippet of each tip to the subscriber once a week. They have to click the “read more” link in the email to see the entire tip.

    They are then brought to my “blog” which is essentially a running record of all of the hiring tips! Every so often I’ll do a blog post that isn’t technically a hiring tip, but the space is there to do these kinds of things.

    I do have an RSS subscribe button available as I believe there are still folks out there that use their readers and want to consume content that way. I don’t think it can hurt to have the option there, but I’d love to hear your thoughts on that.

    And the blog posts of each hiring tip includes a podcast right there that can be subscribed to or one can listen while they read the tip.

    I feel the infrastructure is there. Readership (and listenership) is growing, but THAT can boosted for sure!

    • Obviously I am not Jon, but I have a thought about this because I went through a similar process trying to decide what to do.

      If your primary goal is for people to consume your content, then RSS is probably a good thing to have. It represents the minimum of amount of interaction possible and is almost solely focused on the reader. They don’t need to do anything to read what you have got to say.

      Sending an email with a link in it to be clicked by people wanting more information is a sorting process, like a qualification. They have already taken the next step to become more engaged with you.

      Kind of like when HuffPost or a similar site posts one of those “15 Best of” type of articles, and in order to see all 15, you have to keep clicking the “Next” button. The people who make it all the way to the end are really committed to reading more.

      When you let go of your RSS feed option, it puts you more in control of how your content is disseminated, and the people that engage are more likely (in aggregate” to take the action you are recommending.

    • That’s one way to go, Stan, but it sounds a little impersonal to me. From what I’ve seen, the most effective strategy is to send an email to your list that looks EXACTLY like something you would get from a friend. Introduce your, and then link to it. You’ll probably get better engagement that way.

  22. Jon, I’ve been on the fence about shifting my call to action from RSS email subscriptions (which I did shift to because they are a ton more useful than RSS reader subscriptions) to a MailChimp newsletter. Your post totally clarified my need to make the switch.

    But here’s my question — where’s a walkthrough of how to make the RSS email to email newsletter transition? I’ve got ~900 RSS email subscribers, and that list has taken about a year to grow! I know I won’t convert them all to email, but I’d love to get some.

    Thoughts? Resources? Previous posts where you’ve addressed this?

    Thanks Jon.

    • You have a few different options. If I were you, I would put together a super irresistible report, and then offer it to your existing subscribers in exchange for a new opt in. Don’t get your hopes up too high, though. You’ll probably only get 10-20% the first time dimension it. If you keep mentioning it over time though, you can probably get 40-60%.

      Another option is keep publishing both ways, but Get rid of all the RSS buttons on your site. That way, the people that subscribed in the past are still getting your content, and you’re also getting new subscribers onto your email list, which you have much more control over.

  23. I was so happy when you gave me this advice during our 1 hour, very valuable consultation a few months ago! I only wish I had killed my newsletter ages ago, I would not have lost all the subscribers that I did when I tried to transfer them over to my blog!
    Great post Jon!

  24. Thanks, Jon. I’ve had such thoughts for a few months. I appreciate the permission to relax. I’ve been a fan, publisher, promoter and writer for enewsletters/ezines/etc. Your insights confirm the new-day mindset. I agree. And I especially like the blog + email approach. Good post!

  25. Okay – I have to tell you that I publish a weekly newsletter and I actually use it as something that makes my site ‘better’ than others. There is a lot of competition in my niche, but no one else sends a weekly newsletter with updated information; they expect busy parents to go to their site and find it. I have found that this has really grown my list. Perhaps I am the exception that proves the rule?

    • I think you need to look at this from the reader’s perspective. Yes, you’re aware of your competition, but are they? Also, are they really choosing between you and similar blogs, or would they just subscribe to both? And if they do choose you, is your email newsletter really the reason why?

      My guess is 80% of them aren’t aware of any other blogs on the same topic. The 20% who are probably subscribe to them all, and almost none of the people who subscribe to your newsletter do so because it’s a newsletter. They do it because they like you and your content.

  26. I loved this article. I have felt this way for a long time and although I came close, I never started newsletters. I never understood overloading my readers with more to read in their inbox. Personally I have never been thrilled when another blogger goes overboard sending information to my email more than once a day (it happens a lot). Thank you for your take on this subject.

    • I don’t like getting (or sending) emails every day, either. In my opinion, the most effective approach is to only publish one or two articles per week, meaning you are only emailing them once or twice a week. That’s enough to stay in touch without overwhelming them.

  27. I don’t write on my blog as much as I once did, mostly since publishing a digital magazine. But I do like using a subscriber list on google groups that emails out new posts to people.

    It’s not exactly a news letter, but it let’s them know a new post is up.

  28. Thanks Jon. This is a great post for my clients who just want to slap a few articles on their site with no promotion plan, whatsoever. Very clear explanation you provide for the power of good ol’ email.

  29. Awesome post Jon. I’ve been taught that combining a blog and email is the double whammy of content marketing.

    Thanks for this. Really enjoyed this and looking forward to future updates!

  30. Thanks for this article Jon. I found I started a newsletter and it was painstaking to maintain really, but I tried to just post the newsletter ever so often when I want to give content I think is worth the readers time. So do you think it’s best to just stick to social media altogether and completely scrap the newsletter? Or still just send it out ever so often with important stuff?

    • Up to you. Blogging is already so time-consuming, I’m a big fan of removing as many distractions as possible, but if you want to send out a newsletter periodically, there’s not any harm in it. Just make sure you email out those blog posts.

  31. “It’s not possible to subscribe via RSS. You can only subscribe via email.” This is what I first noticed about BBT. I clicked on the RSS button and nothing happened. 🙂

    Newsletters can be good for internal purposes, especially when you have thousands of employees and or volunteers. Which leads me to my next point… I think newsletters can be useful for non-profits. You can send out special eBlasts about events (for profits can do this too, depending on the business). It could be another way to drive people to your site, especially if you don’t have a blog (I know).

    I’m kind of torn on this one.

    P.S. I too loved the headline! I had to read it. Then again, I ready everything you post. 🙂

    • Yeah, that’s a good point. For internal communication, you don’t want everything to be ultra public. In that case, a newsletter could still be the better choice.

      For nonprofits, I still think blogging would be the best way to go in most cases. The exception would be if you only want to announce an event to a small portion of your audience, such as a few hundred people that live in a certain city. In that case, just sending them an e-mail makes more sense.

      • Thanks Jon!

        I’m working with a non-profit and designed their public and volunteer newsletter. They’re comfortable with sending out a quarterly newsletter; however, I’d like to send it out monthly.

        It would be nice if people from all over the U.S. would attend their events, but using an eBlast makes sense to reach people in the immediate area and state.

  32. Totally disagree with the “you don’t need a newsletter” part.

    If your business has loyal visitors and you are providing information useful to them in your monthly newsletters, then it will work.

    If like you, they are sending out plain text emails with no images, it will only bore the subscriber and they will loose interest, maybe not today but next week for sure.

    • The question isn’t, “Will it work?” The question is, “What works better?”

      With blogging, you get more exposure and engagement from the same content. It’s just more efficient.

  33. Thanks for this post, Jon!

    I’ve been feeling like I’m missing something because I just send out the blog posts and don’t do a newsletter…and now I’m over the guilt! I couldn’t agree more — why knock yourself out creating additional content, or a roundup of past blog posts, that can’t be easily shared or spark conversation? The blog post is king for spreading your message. 😉

  34. Hi Jon,

    Thanks for this article which makes a lot of sense. What I do is put a bit of the blog article in the newsletter, like a teaser, breaking it at a point where I have described the problem and am about to describe the solution (OK, it isn’t as pedestrian as that makes it sound, but you get the idea). To read the rest, subscribers click through to the blog.

    In your opinion (which I value a lot) how does that compare to your apprach where you tell people the headline and what the blog is about, but not include the actual content?


    • It depends on the content, but in most cases, I don’t think it would work as well as introducing the post yourself. It’s more personal.

      I’m not sure how big the difference would be, though. Probably not very big. The most important thing is to email a link to the post, and your approach accomplishes that.

      Might be worth doing a split test, if you’re really curious.

  35. Great post, Jon.
    We blog and send out our monthly newsletter and now you have me re-thinking our whole process.
    Although I am sure this will not endear you to the Mailchimp’s of the world your points are difficult to argue with. Thanks again.

    • Thanks Steve. If all goes well with this approach, you should actually get more subscribers than you did before, which will result in you paying Mailchimp more money, which should result in them loving me more than they already do. 🙂

  36. Love this Jon! I publish a newsletter monthly, but since I’ve been blogging weekly I’m finding it difficult to create content that makes them feel different. I can feel a Sea-change for my content delivery coming very shortly…

  37. Hi Jon,

    What is funny is to read in your article:

    “Should You Have Both a Blog and a Newsletter?
    The short answer:

    No. Absolutely not. Start a blog and skip the newsletter altogether.”

    but then noticing that I got this advice from your newsletter. 🙂

    There is something I don’t understand in your marketing strategy. Could you please explain? If I could cancel my Aweber account, that would be good money saved.

    Warm regards,


  38. I have to admit: blogs are tough to beat.
    I’ve never heard the strategy behind them
    explained quite the way Jon did above.

    Plus, they are incredibly scalable. Getting 1,000’s
    of people to share content leverages their time
    to the blog’s benefit. 5,000 readers who spend
    30 mins sharing/posting comments is 2,500 hours,
    or just under 15 weeks (14.88 to be exact).
    There’s no way one person – or another platform –
    can match that level of magnified productivity.

    Can newsletters accomplish the same thing?
    Theoretically, yes. But as a practical matter,
    no. Why? No instant feedback, they’re harder
    to share, and it’s much more difficult to know
    which topics readers are most interested in
    right now. The best publications let the readers
    drive future content. Why bang your head against
    the wall trying to be creative? Just pay attention
    to your readers, and they’ll point you in the right
    direction every time.

    Well done as always, Jon. I appreciate you telling
    it like it is!

    • I’ve never thought about it in terms of man-hours before, but you’re right. It’s like having thousands of people help you build a popular site.

      • Exactly, Jon. Many hands make light work.

        It’s also one of the biggest reasons why
        companies hire workers in the first place.

        A corporation with 100 employees working
        40 hours a week equates to 4,000 hours.
        Not only does the employer scale their time,
        but he also leverages their expertise and
        professional networks as well.

        The same principles apply to blogs. Even though
        a blog’s readership may only be 1,000, each
        one of those people knows at least 3 or 4 others
        who would love your content. So now your reach
        suddenly becomes 3-4,000. They don’t call it
        the World Wide “Web” for nothing…:-)

        Thanks again, Jon. Looking forward to the
        next post!

  39. Thanks for this, it’s affirming since I’d made the switch from a quarterly newsletter (Mailchimp) to simply doing a quarterly blog with the word (Newsletter) in header, to fill that void for subscribers. I rationalized that virtually everyone subscribing to the newsletter was also a subscriber to the blog/site, and that seems to have been true. People get their newsletter fix (which is a different flavor and context of content, more personal), without a marginal extra dime or time spent on my part. Thanks Jon… you were there for me at Square One four years, and you’re still helping me and many others now.

    • I would say having to bribe your visitors with freebies to get the on your list isn’t a good move as many will opt in just to get the freebie rather than because they want to hear more from you. You end up with a list full of unresponsive subscribers who don’t expect or want emails from you (they just wanted the free ebook) that never open your emails or click your links.

      Some of those freebie seekers can be converted to responsive subscribers of course but if you just get people to opt in because they love your content and want to be updated when there’s more of it available the list will be much more responsive.

    • Lead-gen offers still work very well. The key is making it easier to share them on social networks. Take a look at what I do with
      Headline Hacks.

      • Surely it sepends on whether your blog posts continue to be of value. Most of my subscribers stick around way beyond the freebie because they are still learning something of value to them.

  40. Isn’t it just that the term “newsletter” is outdated. The fact is that you’re blasting your whole list with your blog posts, which is exactly the same as what you would have been doing five years ago, but calling it a newsletter. I don’t see how the process is any different. If I’m subscribed to your list I’m getting content from you in an email, bottom line.

    • Agreed. Just said the very same in my comment. I was confused by this post as it seemed to me Jon was saying list building / email marketing doesn’t work anymore now we have social media yet he sent me this blog post via email then I see he’s saying ‘newsletters’ don’t work as if somehow signing up for a newsletter is any different to signing up to a list where updates when blog posts are sent out…it’s the same thing with a different name and slightly different way of doing it.

    • The difference, as I understand it, is that he’s sending *previews* of his blog posts via email to drive traffic to his blog. From there, people can comment, share via social media, etc.

      A full-blown newsletter means all of the information is self-contained in the email message. Commenting becomes replying to an email (which people are less inclined to do and is only seen by the recipient), sharing becomes forwarding the email (which only goes to the person you forwarded to rather than being broadcast to all of the sender’s followers), and so on.

  41. At first I thought you were saying that blogs didn’t need email lists at all which was ironic seeing as I received this post via email then I see you are just saying don’t need a ‘newsletter’ but a newsletter can just be a round up of posts or some exclusive non blog content (a good reason for people to sign up) so it’s just semantics really isn’t it?

    Also you talk about how you just email people when you update the blog, which is not very frequently. I believe this is a mistake.

    Here’s why…

    When I received this email at first I thought it was spam. The name ‘Jon Morrow’ means nothing to me and neither does ‘boost blog traffic’ because I stumbled across your site once a while back, thought it was OK and signed up to see what I could learn from you…..but then you never emailed me.

    Sure I probably got a welcome or confirmation email but then after that nothing.

    You didn’t build any relationship with me or keep in touch so I remembered who you were so when you sent this email I had no idea why you were emailing me.

    Not everyone who signs up to your list will remember who you are or have spent lots of time on your site to get to know you so IMO you need to be following up with them more regularly in the beginning so they remember who you are and build some sort of relationship and trust with you.

    Just my take on it.

    • If you signed up sometime in May, yeah, things were quiet around here. I’ve been in the middle of a cross-country move, so we didn’t publish anything for about a month. Normally, we publish once a week or so, so there’s better continuity.

      I’m sure I’ll pay for it with unsubscribes. Not much I can do about it but try to win everybody over again though. 🙂

  42. P.S.
    You mentioned your site made $500,000 last year, I’m curious how?

    I don’t see any products for sale on your site and you claim on your sign up page you’ll never spam your subscribers with offers (which implies sending affiliate offers are out) and you don’t sell ad space so how are you making money from your site?


    • It’s mostly from two sources: guestblogging.com and a high-end coaching program helping bloggers get their first 10,000 subscribers.

      Throughout the year, I do educational webinars related to those two topics, and I include a short pitch at the end. Also, a good many affiliates promote the guestblogging.com course.

  43. Jon, can I just tell you that I have a serious thing for guys who take unnecessary and counter-productive tasks off my to-do list?

    (hm…maybe I should mention that to my husband…)

    Seriously, fantastic article, and one that got me thinking. I scrolled through the content in my inbox that I regularly look forward to reading. And it’s not the snazzy looking branded newsletters. It’s the simple e-mails, engagingly written, with links to articles that are easy to read and have info I can use now.

    Like, um, yours.

    Not kissing up; just the reality.

    🙂 Thanks for the great info.

  44. Jon I’d love to know your opinion – exclusive content for your email subscribers to reward loyalty as well? Or everything for everyone? I’ve been doing these soul poem/letters/messages from the heart that I just share with my newsletter peeps that have a great response and a thing like you have for posts but considering other options so that more people can share these.

    • I think it’s fine to email something exclusively to your email subscribers every now and again. Especially if it’s something you don’t particularly want to be shared or commented on.

      But if you want more people to share, then yeah, make them blog posts and email a link to them.

  45. How do you get people to subscribe to your blog via email if you’re also offering a freebie? How do you let people know they’ll get the freebie and blog updates instead of a newsletter? Please elaborate!

    • The freebie subscription also subscribes them to my blog. The two are integrated. If you look at the way I do Headline Hacks, notice I also tell them they’ll be getting weekly traffic tips, which is a simpler way of referring to the blog. That way, it’s not a surprise when they received an article. Assuming they read the copy, that is. 🙂

  46. I sign up for people’s blogs (which gets you a notice that there’s a new post) and I’ll sign up for their newsletter (which tend to come with a more specific description of the content), especially if what they have to say is useful and different. It seems to me lots of people have both, and they insist you specifically sign up for the newsletter. I even follow people on Twitter, because their tweets sometimes point to information that doesn’t appear on their blogs. But I would much prefer it if I got a notice of something new on their website and a link to it.

    My POV is, I’ve given you my email — send me whatever you’ve got, as long as it’s within the parameters of what you offered. Perhaps that’s the difference — if you offer a newsletter, it has to be with content for a very specific audience and very different content.

    I feel after reading Jon’s post that it’s OK to just use a blog.

  47. Good article but not I am flustered. I have a blog plus a newsletter. People sign up for the newsletter and not the blog on my blog site.

    There is no way to switch them over to the blog list without their approval. What do you suggest?

    • Umm, why do they need to be ‘signed up’ for the blog? If your newsletter just has a link to the blog site so if they want to read it they have to go there, that achieves the same thing. From there they can do teh social sharing and commenting. Or am I missing something?

  48. I’m so NOT savvy about social media, and love the idea of not doing a newsletter which I’ve thought about, but not done. This gives me permission to get getter at something that works instead of working as something that doesn’t. 🙂

  49. Jon,

    Thanks for pointing out how the game has changed and what we can do about it.

    Back in the day I had a website, blog, and newsletter for two different niches. No more. As blogs became more popular and flexible, I dropped the websites and use the newsletters to announce new blog posts.

    Following your advice saves a ton of work, and with the viral nature of social media, spreads our messages and gets an increasing number of readers to engage.

    Nothing is more deadly on the internet than missing the changing of the game. Thanks to sharp minds and keen eyes like yours, we never need meet that fate.

  50. Hi Jon, reconnecting with my writing after a prolonged time-out, just a note to say boostblogtraffic is the best booster there is. I don’t know of anyone who packs value as tightly (and generously). Einstein’s “Make everything as simple as possible, but not simpler” comes to mind.

    I don’t have a newsletter, but suspected reading your post might still be worthwhile, saw the reference to Dries Cronje’s Why Posting Every Day is a Silly Strategy (And What to Do Instead) guest post which leads me to this: THANK YOU (and Dries).

  51. Hi Jon,
    Great post!I thought that RSS was good, so I’m obviously a 2005 dinosaur!
    Really enjoying your Guestblogging course, by the way. I’m learning loads not only about guestblogging, but also about social media. It is a real game changer! Laura

  52. Hi Jon,
    In the last week I have discussed starting a newsletter (to, or not to) more than any other topic. So, I am very very happy to put the question to rest. I am NOT starting a news letter on my site http://africainside.org
    thanks for helping me settle the question.
    Lori from AfricaInside

  53. And another thing…Blogs that offer free e-books use it to entice newsletter subscribers. Can’t I offer free stuff for a simple blog subscription? Does that count to whoever is ranking these things?

  54. And to illustrate Jon’s point, I clicked through to this article from a link in his email.

    How many of us did the same without even thinking about it?

    It’s just good service y’all 😉

  55. This is certainly interesting, I believe this is the only article I have read that does not advocate starting a newsletter. I never really got my newsletter up and running, down to being lazy. 🙂

    Oh and I am subscribed to your RSS feed via Feedly. 😛

  56. It never made sense to me why a person would create a blog and use RSS to add subscribers, since you couldn’t really track or identify them in any way – so essentially they weren’t really “yours” to begin with.

    In regards to the content of your email, might that depend a little on the audience? I’ve known clients who’ve done emails with some personal updating included with the link to their blog post and that seems to be more effective for them than just a blurb about the post with a link. And then I have other clients who see the opposite results.

    For me, I’ve found that as long as my subject line is engaging, my click thru rates are comparably higher regardless of the content length… so far anyway. 🙂

    • Yep, the only ironclad rule of marketing is “Do what works.” If you run into a situation where an old-style newsletter works better, by all means, stick with it.

      The key is to think about what you’re doing and test different things. In general, blog + email wins, but I’m sure there are some situations where it wouldn’t.

  57. I’m really actually very glad this is the way the wind is growing. I never liked dealing with e-mail newsletters, but I do like blogging. I do like receiving blog updates through my email inbox. I also use RSS though, because I use Feedly to help me manage different topics for work.

  58. I made the mistake for a while of changing my emails to my readers from a synopsis with a link to the blog instead to a full post based on a couple comments. That was a big mistake. Traffic and interaction died. Had to go back to synopsis. You are right on track.

  59. I couldn’t disagree more with this if you’d told me you thought I was ruggedly handsome with a body that would make Zeus weep with shame.

    Most bloggers I speak with are either seeing a decline in comments because there are no so many blogs coming online every day and the competition is so fierce. Or are so busy running round like headless chickens trying to generate comments by doing likewise that it becomes meaningless.

    You’re an outlier Jon. Just pull up 20 random blogs and half will have zero comments.

    I’m a relative small fry when it comes to readership. I have about 3,500 blog subscribers and about 6k newsletter subscribers, but I have very little cross over. Probably about 20% are subscribed to both and I almost never cross-pollinate and offer exclusive material through my newsletter.

    My newsletter readers are WAY more likely to hire me and that was the case a year or so ago when I had twice as many blog readers and newsletter subscribers.

    I have never run a coaching offer to my newsletter that didn’t sell out. My blog readers are way more fickle, way, way more. And just for emphasis, way, way, way, more.

    Also they’re a different demographic. My target market is people between 35 and 55 and they are still huge swathes in that group who don’t read blogs, but will read newsletters.

    Possibly that will change in time, but if it does a lot of people in my industry are screwed because it will be dominated by people who ‘appear’ to have authority, rather than those who necessarily do. I have seen terrible, inaccurate and down right dangerous blog posts go viral.

    You mention the lack of ability to effectively allow people to view previous newsletters and I agree that’s an issue, but how many people search the archives of blogs? Sure some will, but most only want to read the last post or two. Whereas I see newsletters being opened weeks, even months after they went out.

    I am really hands off and very protective of my list. I almost never JV, won’t run ads and probably only sell anything about 3 or 4 times per year, so maybe I’m not typical.

    I’d never give up my blog for various reasons such as allowing me to form ideas, I like the banter in the comments and for SEO purposes (there it does kick the ass of newsletters). However, the people most likely to hire me are my newsletter readers and I think it’s a huge mistake for anybody to shun something that isn’t yet broken, not in my experience anyway.

    I feel sure some people will do great with this advise, but I also think some will regret taking it. On reflection the two biggest mistakes I have made in my career were closing my newsletter down for two years because I thought my blog would do everything and dropping the F bomb in a casting for a reality program on Life Coaching.

    At least I got to correct the former 😉

    • And why haven’t you got an edit function for your less than adept typists?

      I meant “My newsletter readers are WAY more likely to hire me and that was the case a year or so ago when I had twice as many blog readers than newsletter subscribers.

    • I guess my question is, “Have you tried it?”

      The point of this post isn’t that newsletters don’t work. Because they do. The point is that blogs + email work better. In my experience, way better.

      But don’t take my word for it. Give it a try.

      If your results take a dip, then by all means, go back to the newsletter, but I would be shocked if that happens. By directing people to a blog post instead, you’ll probably get the same engagement as your newsletter but a lot more exposure to new readers.

      Also, the point about people not going back to read all posts isn’t accurate. Here at BBT, people read an average of 3.2 posts per visit. 🙂

  60. I have a segmented group on my main email list so that folks can simultaneously sign up for my newsletter and blog posts via rss to email. I treat my newsletter subscribers like VIPs and send them advanced notice of upcoming events and offers and news they need right away for things like keeping their site safe. I have a have open and click-thru rate and wouldn’t ditch my newsletter for anything.

    I also offer RSS to email subscription to two popular categories. One is a podcast. I do that through list segmentation too. So, one sign up, multiple options.

    And you don’t have to offer an RSS subscription on your site for folks to get your feed. Super easy for folks to just type /feed after your site URL and subscribe. But, thinking only power users are going to do that anymore. i scour 100+ blogs a week and no way could I do that via RSS to email. I use Feedly to get through them quickly. But, I am not my client, and they prefer emails.

  61. Hi Jon – What plugin do you use to combine your newsletter and blog?

    Also, any chance you could put the “Leave a Comment” box above the comments? You’re so popular that it’s an awful lot of scrolling 🙂

    • No plug-ins. Your email service should make it easy to combine the two.

      And good idea about the comment box. I’ll check into that. 🙂

  62. Jon, thank you for an awesomely inspiring post! ♥ I have a question ~ how do you actually DO emails like this?? As in, the nuts and bolts. Gathering emails, making it personal and engaging and unique… I haven’t a clue.

    • Alena, as a few others have helped out on other questions, I thought I’d jump in here as it took me a little bit to get what he meant too. What Jon is talking about doing is exactly what he did with this post.

      If you are subscribed by email, he simply sent a short couple of paragraphs to introduce this post. The post was not in the email, just the link over here.

      There are a few comments above where others have clarified the process a bit too. If you didn’t get notified of this post by email, sign up above and you’ll see his process in action. What he does not do is send out a “newsletter” that is all formatted with an intro, a feature article, upcoming events etc. that’s the difference he is trying to point out.

  63. The part about spending 10 hours on a blog post… that.

    That just made me breathe a sigh of relief.

    I feel crazy every time I take hours upon hours to craft a great post, especially with some other bloggers writing about how it takes them 90 minutes or less to write their posts.

    Thanks, Jon. You’re my inspiration tonight. (And on many other occasions, as well 😉

    • You’re not alone Therese! It sometimes takes me a day or more to write a post, and I used to feel like I wasn’t being productive enough – especially when I saw those bloggers with their “Here’s how I write an article in 5 minutes” posts.

      Thankfully for you and I, It’s quality over quantity that matters!

    • If you like, sure. That’s what we do at Copyblogger. Personally, I don’t make it easy to subscribe via RSS, because email subscribers are just so much more valuable.

  64. This couldn’t have come at a better time! We are in the process of establishing a blog strategy and revising our newsletter strategy. This idea is similar to one I’ve been trying to convince people of for several years: newsletters should alert people to web content, not be the content itself.

  65. Thanks for your insights Jon. I currently do blog + email + RSS, and have been thinking about getting rid of my RSS button to see if more people would then subscribe to my list. My only reservation is that I personally curate about 90% of the content I share through an RSS feed I’ve set up in Hootsuite. So, if you want me to share your stuff consistently, I need to have your RSS feed. Which, by the way, I just added you to my reader with the RSS button on your opt-in form. I thought you said you didn’t offer that option. What am I missing? Thanks.

    • An RSS button is still active somewhere? I’ll have to hunt it down and disable it. 🙂

      And yeah, I can certainly understand how it’s easier to curate with RSS. We do that through RSS as well.

      But we’re in the minority. Most folks just sign up however you tell them to.

  66. Thanks for such a detailed post Jon.

    A lot of points you make hold weight but I still feel that an Email Newsletter has its own place and significance.

    For one of my B2B marketing clients, we benefited a lot from monthly newsletter advertisements and promotions.

    I guess you need to carefully define the objectives that you want your newsletter to fulfill.

    I think Blogging+Social Media+Monthly/Weekly Email Newsletter make a pretty good combination.


  67. Hmm, I just subscribed to your RSS feed. Do you do anything to ensure that “It’s not possible to subscribe via RSS” ? I talked about this concept with my computer geek husband, and he had some ideas to help ensure someone less savvy like me couldn’t subscribe (like I just did).

    This is an interesting post, and gives me much to think about. I have a hard enough time keeping up with a blog, let alone adding a newsletter. Thanks for providing quality content. You are an excellent role model.

    • Oh, it’s still possible to subscribe via RSS. I just don’t make it easy.

      If that’s the way you prefer to read though, by all means, go for it. Just sign up for the emails too. 🙂

  68. Whew! I’m fairly new to blogging and still navigating different techniques and technologies. What a relief not to have to worry about the stuff of newsletters or RSS feeds. Thank you, Jon, for your practical, liberating advice!

  69. Thank you, Jon, for you specific and helpful post. I am a fledgling blogger/promoter of my writing workshop and am always searching for coherent advise on how to use social media. I send my blog posts to the various social media sites but had been reluctant to mass send to my e-mail list. You have helped me rethink how to do this. Back to the drawing board. Thanks for your generosity of spirit.

  70. Hi, thanks for the post. I post everyday, and trying to update every hour. we have a lot to publish but i am confused about number of post per day. too much is also not good. 🙁

  71. Hi Jon,

    I can’t dispute your figures when you say you get 50 to 100 comments per post, but in my experience, it can be tremendously hard work just getting one comment! And you may say, well, that’s because you don’t have enough traffic, and you would probably be right. So, is getting traffic the real issue here?

    I see so many successful bloggers wax lyrical about the amazing advantages of blogging, and they make it look easy. But the reality is you can create a blog with an award-winning design, be a fantastic writer and publish an article a day without fail for months or even years and get little or no traffic and comments.

    Blogging is a lot harder than it looks, which makes the question of whether to start a newsletter immaterial…


  72. Nice one, Jon! You’re one of the shift-changers.

    Newsletters have a taste of “me-tell-you-what’s-happening-you-listen” about them.

    The world has changed indeed. It’s interaction now. It’s engagement now. It’s standing out now. A big part of that is showing off your character (who you are), so your readers can identify with you.

    You can only do that if you can feed off your readers’ wants and needs. In other words, they create you and you create them. A tribe. Or “common bond” as I call it.

    Your blog is a lead generator: A home – gathering people to your message (email subscribers). Your email list is where all the magic happens. It’s through your emails to your readers that you can create real engagement, get to know their own personal needs (by asking questions and helping them out individually), and tailor your message to their needs.

    It’s not about writing the monthly glory of your own voice in a newsletter to your minions. It’s about getting to the hearts and minds of your readers by answering their burning questions with answers that give them exactly what they want.

    Cheers Your Royal Awesomeness!

  73. I’m both relieved and confused at the same time. I’m setting up a new blog and had signed up for a newsletter service, but was cringing at the thought of having to write one in addition to valuable content.

    Is Jon advising still setting up an aweber type solution and crafting an email that goes out with each post as apposed to a Feedburner type situation that just automatically shoots them out?

    Great post — so valuable.


  74. Not to quibble Jon, but pointing out that a Blog is actually an online newsletter… sorta means newsletters are not dead.

    People want NEWS. They will always want NEWS. My journalism prof started out telling us the word stands from North East West South. All Points bulletin is same-same. I’m older than dirt, so I don’t mind telling you I made fortunes in the 70’s and 80’s sending newsletters by snail mail. Heck, my readers were even willing to pay me handsomely for the privilege of receiving my mailed newsletters. Because they got NEWS they considered valuable.

    The only thing that has really changed is the media format, the media channels and the announcement trigger inside the email, instead of the entire newsletter.

    Newsletters and news is alive and well. Makes me chuckle when someone says that email marketing is dead. If email were not a vital part of the marketing process, how would anyone every join Facebook

    More on point, you rightly say that the real game changer is the two-way engagement. That is what dovetails into the whole “social media” paradigm and puts your message billboard up there when your readers share.

    Successful marketers always shift with the new paradigms, it’s grow or die always. New channels, new media are springing up everywhere. But hitting them right between the eyes with a message that resonates in a compelling, engaging way… this is the heart and soul of marketing. Always has been and always will be.

    A few comments here point out how hard it is to blog and get comments/engagement/interest by blogging and sending announcements to their email list.

    Its more about making something intriguing to reader profiles. One person’s news isn’t quite news to another. However, if your subject line/headline isn’t shouting something the reader is interested in… it isn’t news. And it won’t get action.

    Jon made his email subject line newsy and at same time, Jon made it subliminally held a challenge for some us… and some of us hustled on over here and left a comment for him.

    Nice job with your blog and $500k with 27 annual posts is a blast of a message for everyone. I’m betting that moola all came from promoting offers to your email marketing list, which you created only because you also created strong newsy posts for your online newsletter to create loyal followers.

    • What combo of plugins or systems are you using for your wordpress comments here, Jon? I noticed the comments pickup the Google profile photos.


  75. Ok, I’m going to sound really dumb here (and in a little defense of myself, I’m still a newbie at this stuff) but I don’t understand exactly what the difference is between a newsletter and an email newsletter. And how do you set up one as opposed to the other.
    This came at a perfect time for me because all you read is how important a newsletter is and I’ve been dragging my feet trying to set one up and kicking myself for it! Now I’m glad I waited.
    My main question is, how do you set up a mail newsletter? Do you still use something like Aweber?
    Thanks for this post!

  76. You might be right about newsletters, but I disagree on RSS. This is as a blog reader, not as a blogger myself.

    I came here via a link from Anne R Allen’s article, 7 Ways Authors Waste Time “Building Platform” on Social Media on Goodreads. I found that because The Passive Voice is due to reblog it (PG has an Upcoming Posts feature, and I wanted to read ahead). I subscribe to The Passive Voice by RSS.

    When I read my RSS feed I often visit the sites to read comments, in case I want to add my own. That was how I saw the upcoming post on PG’s site. So not only do I engage because of RSS, I found you because of it.

    I do have two blogs I subscribe to both by email and RSS. I tend to ignore the emails unless they don’t also turn up in my feed. Those are the sorts of emails I want if I subscribe that way — stuff that doesn’t go on the blog. I don’t subscribe to any blogs solely by email because I prefer the RSS route.

    Your decision, of course. But I would suggest that you shouldn’t recommend people don’t have an RSS feed. Statistics on active engagement are all well and good, but reader choice is better. Passive consumers are still valuable readers as they may contribute in other ways, such as word of mouth. By not having RSS you might just be telling some of them that you don’t value them as readers.

    That said, //smartblogger.com/feed/

    I think it is tricky not to have a feed if you are using standard blog software. The only people you are stopping are the ones who look for the RSS symbol. And yes, I did just subscribe to it.

  77. Jon,

    Thanks for this post. I’ve tried the straight-up blogging approach, but was disappointed with the lack of engagement and posts going viral.

    I was wondering how I could increase reader engagement, and I think creating a blogging-email hybrid will do the trick. And only emailing portions of posts will still get readers to click through to my site.

    Good stuff, and I think you and Glen Allsopp are on the same page (he discusses a blog-email hybrid approach in his Cloud Blueprint program).


  78. I love most everything you put out Jon. But this post, in particular, hits close to home.

    To me, the observations you’re making are important not just because newsletters and RSS feeds are dinosaurs that don’t yet know they are extinct; nor because social media is being abused by almost every person who uses it. The observation is most important because these practices you’re observing are symptoms of a larger problem – one that’s holding back people from building businesses, following their dreams and making the world a better place.

    The Internet (and more specifically the way we all use it) is still stuck in an infant stage, with the vast majority of people still using it to emotionally vomit information outward, rather than to build communities of shared purpose and collective action.

    Anyone who wants to start an entrepreneurial endeavor in today’s world – be it a business or a social cause – has to understand how to build a community. To do so, the Internet needs to be a way of listening more than it is just a way of talking. It has to be a place where we go to show people how much we care, not just how smart we are. And, perhaps most importantly of all, it has to be a place where we go to freely share the expertise we have (whatever that may be) in a way that creates a conversation, instead of a lecture.

    None of us have to look any further than you Jon to see how successful the community approach can be for both helping people and for attaining the kind of financial independence most of us aspire to.

  79. I LOVE this article. Thanks for writing it. Blog + Email = loyal readers. That was true for me. Blogs attract, email keeps them coming back.

  80. Actually, many marketers ARE using email and blogs,
    but, simply labeling them as newsletters.

    My train of thought is that a newsletter composed of short blurbs and links to blogs posts does the trick just fine. There still exists a wealth of folks accustomed to receiving newsletters on a semi-monthly, monthly,or less frequent basis. I personally, am one of them.

    So I wouldn’t throw the baby out with the bathwater,
    and disregard newsletters altogether. Just create a blog, get subscribers by giving away good value, and label your periodic emails with blog posts as a newsletter! 😉

  81. Hi Jon, I don’t think it’s your contrarian view, or that people just seem to “Agree” with you because you make a coherent point…

    On the one hand, I think you are right in the point you are making that blogposts can illicit and openly invite more feedback… But I think the main argument you are making is a sensationalized one that doesn’t really mean much.

    I personally still use email to great effect, and stand firmly that the pointed questions and feedback loops i’ve setup via email “newsletters” (which you are very loosely using,) are much more personalized, much more insightful and thus relevant for both relationship development and product research.

    Otherwise you make some good points, and are certainly getting some good response-so there’s something working.. But the “newsletter” will never “die,” it will just be renamed something else.

  82. Jon, this is not only one of the absolute best articles I’ve read on the subject of newsletters since I can remember, but one of the best ever. Period. Your points are excellent; you hit on several things that I’ve actually been pondering intuitively lately on my own and to read you validating them was indeed refreshing. Thank you, sir, for another outstanding article and for sharing your amazing content with the world!

  83. Hello Jon,

    I do love this post. I appreciate you taking the time to create a great piece of art.

    Yes, “old school” email newsletters are not as effective as they used to be. We just can’t send out sales letter copies to make a five or six figure income. We can’t build trusting relationships that way.

    It’s just a complete turn off.

    Blogs are very effective as the “new school” email newsletter.

    Prospects are more inclined to opt-in to your list to receive updates of quality content that has already been created via your blog.

    Saves time and builds trust.

    Thanks for sharing this most valuable for the beginners and the seasoned bloggers and online marketers.

    To Your Success,

    Stacie Walker

  84. I am technically challenged. Sometimes I think of the good old days of smoke signals and the telegraph. If I had to set the clock on my computer it would be blinking 1200 like my VHS machine. I guess the only thing I got going for me after 20 years of driving a truck is humor. I am very funny, I know this because I told myself this during many of my conversations with my self. Jon I like your post and it makes me think. It is like life you adapt or you die. Now I still like reading the occasional print newspaper, but am realistic to realize that their greatest value is in the bottom of birdcage or when training a puppy. What I get from your post is to adjust and try different things. What I get from some of the comments is different strokes for different folks and if it is working do not stop. Important thing is to think. Oh yeah I may be ugly but if you can let me know how I can display my photo/icon when I comment I would be thankful. At least that way people will get a laugh even if I am not as funny as I told me.

  85. Jon, I think there’s a lot of potential with email, but I agree with the notion that enewsletters are dead.

    I know what you’re getting at with this post – aka don’t newsletter, instead share your post via email – but I think you could have gone further and showcased, in addition to blogs via email, 2 or 3 of your fav types of email campaigns that also work, or link to them from another post. Your title, “what else to do,” led me to believe there would be more of that type of content.

    Otherwise, as always Jon, you rock.

  86. We’ve been sending out the iDecide Coach newsletter for 2 1/2 years. It’s enjoyed an open rate of over 50%, well above the 20% average and has been a reliable source for new business. I’ve tried doing a newsletter and a blog but the blog always got short shrift because I felt a more intimate connection and commitment towards NL subscribers. I didn’t know how to make the shift.

    As a direct result of reading this article and scanning responses, I now know two important things that support leading with a blog instead: –that I can email these subscribers blog posts w/o need to opt in again, and that using the synoposis/link approach will increase engagement and links to my site.

    Have to say, Jon, this blog is one of the most thought-provoking ones out there and I learn something valuable every time you post. Thanks.

  87. What you’ve said goes against the grain of practically every other content marketing blog that I’ve ever read. The conventional wisdom is that newsletters can drive traffic to your business, that it can create rapport with clients and develop new leads. But when you’ve already got a website where you create that speaks in your unique voice, newsletters tend to become repetitive and even cumbersome.

    RSS is also pretty much outdated, to be sure there are some folks who still benefit from RSS feeds but it’s much easier to engage people through social media and to attract new contacts through social networking.

    Focusing attention on a website rather than a newsletter can free up more time to promote your business and improve the quality of your content.

  88. I hate to sound like an idiot because now my brain is confused. I just started sending out my blog through email… are you saying thats a bad idea. Everyone and I mean everyone tells begginers like me that “the list” is important are you saying ditch it all together….sorry brain hurts

  89. This is an interesting conversation. I agree that there is still a place for print newsletters. I’ve run a couple organizations where about half of the audience was >55 years old and though they had email, that was about the extent of their online activity. Subscribing to blogs was not a known activity. In that case, we started to segment our lists and send the most relevant type (hopefully email / blogs as that was much less expensive).

    There are ways to create newsletters that are digital these days with links, videos, and other interactivity, which gets us out of 2005! This “How to Make a Newsletter” post was pretty helpful for me as I got started with that strategy.

  90. Thanks Jon, this is very helpful. I always found that writing a newsletter is very time consuming, when I just wanted to inform subscribers when a new post was online.

    Could I not always send an extra email when I had something other to offer? I will have to try this out.

  91. Excellent post – I’m a new blogger and was thinking I should add a newsletter but I honestly didn’t want to do it. I prefer the email subscription and the social networks I’ve chosen to work with. Thanks for confirming – I’m going to stay with my original plan and I also started following you for more tips. Awesome!
    -Carole @ GardenUp green

  92. Hey Jon, I’m a big fan, but this post has me confused! I currently publish about 2 posts a week on our company’s blog, and then send out a monthly newsletter via MailChimp to our organization’s entire mailing list with 5 articles linking to the blog posts. We get a lot of traffic on our blogs, but sadly, not many “subscribe to receive blog posts via email” subscribers. We also disabled the comments plugin because of all the spam. Is that the point of your article – to get more blog subscribers and encourage comments? Any light you can shed on this would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

    • @Maureen McKeon You definitely want to encourage as many comments on your blog as you can. You can eliminate those spam comments by using the ‘Akismet’ plugin. It offers a free and paid version but the free one works fine. Not sure if you knew about that or not. Hope it helps.

  93. Wow! This article really opened my eyes to some things I didn’t really want to admit since so many “authorities” preach the benefits of newsletters. Thank you for sharing your insights with how people read want to receive content right now, not 5 years or more or so. I’m definitely going to change some things in how I deliver content!

    • Now that I think about it though, the only way I use my newsletter IS to promote my blog or products. So the work is getting open rate and click through to increase.

  94. Jon,

    Quick question that I can’t figure out the answer to offhand — do you also share your guest posts with your list?

    I know you’re a huge advocate of guest posts and it makes sense to promote those posts as much as possible (positioning you as an expert, exposing your audience to other helpful experts, building trust & credibility, etc) but I can’t recall ever having gotten an email from you that linked to a guest post (though that may be my faulty memory).

  95. Well, with the obscene amount of pro-killer content you have here, I guess any form of promoting it would do.

    I keep linking to your articles on my blogs. Since I have been using your ideas, there are even some people who read them.

    I am still overwhelmed with the inspiration from Glen’s last post, and it will take 6 months to work in all the ideas he gave me, maybe longer.

    I had had an uneasy feeling about newsletters for a while. Personally, have never done them.

    Now that you are writing about it, I realize that some of the companies I follow have abandoned newsletters and switched to other forms of promotion, mostly building real-life communities.

  96. Hi Jon. I have benn using RSS feed for a long time. Now i realized it is better to replace my RSS feed with email newsletter. Then only i can increase readers engagement rate. Actually, i never thought about using newsleter. But after reading this, i changed my mind.

  97. I suppose I am not very smart. I fail to understand the twist here.

    1) Should You Have Both a Blog and a Newsletter? No. Absolutely not.

    followed by

    2) The bottom line? Email kicks butt. Blogging kicks butt. Put the two together, and you’ve got the biggest can of whoop ass in the history of publishing.

    Newsletter IS email, is it not? Pray, explain.

  98. Hi Jon,

    I enjoyed reading this post and just came across it when searching for online advice on how to improve my educational blog. I am looking to hire someone to work with me on my blog as there is promise of so much potential. I am a professional and experienced writer and educator but I do NOT have the technical savvy to really get my blog off the ground running at top speed. If you are interested in working with me, I’d love to hear back from you. Thank you in advance for your time!

  99. Hi Jon, i enjoy reading this article so much. I just started several website and you saying combining email and blog is an ultimate publishing tools which i think is great! I am still finding way to doing this method.

  100. Thanks so much, Jon, for making sense of this topic. I have been using the same content for my newsletter and blog but you have given me a few more ideas as to how to use them even more efficiently. And it sounds like I can tell my clients who are just starting out in their business to favor the blog and add a newsletter when their list is bigger. And I’m glad to hear that RSS is not a big deal since I have completely ignored it anyway.

  101. But what about the connection between posting links to articles directly to Facebook and Twitter and emailing them as teaser blog posts, which have the option to eventually share via social media? Are you saying email subscribers engage even more than those who have signed up to your Facebook page, for example? I guess my website just consists of articles, so every post has reference to them, instead of a separate blog with these articles in them. Unless I change the website to make the articles as one massive blog and the actual product the stand-out item, information for which is different from that which you’d get via email, i.e. the articles complementing the main product..

  102. What I like to do is write a blog post and copy it and put in my newsletter with a personal message. I would love to post some video too in my newsletter, is that possible with MailChimp? Anyway, great article!

  103. Hi Jon. Great article. I’m late to the replies on this I think – and I found you because I’m experiencing the same problems right now. I have more than 2000 subscribers on a home DIY site I own and I’m wanting to get some feedback to change direction. I emailed just 10 people to start with, asking if I could ask them for feedback – got no replies. Did another 9 – still no replies! >.< Frustrating as heck!!! But the idea of adding a blog to the other info on the site – yeah, like that! Going to do that straight away! Thank you!

  104. Thanks for the information! I’ve been considering giving up my newsletter for awhile because it doesn’t seem to be adding value. One of the things I’ve been thinking about is cancelling my aweber account in favour is using Jetpack to share my blog more widely. Any thoughts?

  105. Hi Jon! Thanks for this fresh view on a newsletter vs blog. A quick question from my side: I work for a Programme supporting sustainable fisheries in developing countries. We run a newsletter and we also do research surveys. We are re-launching our Survey Blog, with some takeaways from each survey. Does it make sense to keep our quarterly newsletter and send people an email with a link to a blog from each leg? Legs are long and take some 3 weeks of exploring the seabed, so I won’t overload people with the content very often either…Thanks for your view! Best, Agata


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