Friday, December 18, 2009

Blog vs Newsletter - What is the difference?

Here is the premise: you have been tasked to create a newsletter for your organization. You've traditionally created a printed publication, but now you want to go online to save printing costs. Do you create a newsletter formatted Web site or do you use a blog?

I've been asked this question many times and recently the answer has become increasingly clear. First, let's define what is a blog and newsletter. The definitions below are courtesy of Wikipedia.

A blog (A contraction of the term "web log") is a type of Web site, usually maintained by an individual with regular entries of commentary, descriptions of events, or other material such as graphics or video. Entries are commonly displayed in reverse-chronological order.
A newsletter is a regularly distributed publication generally about one main topic that is of interest to its subscribers. Newspapers and leaflets are types of newsletters. General attributes of newsletters include news and upcoming events of the related organization, as well as contact information for general inquiries.
If you look at the definition of a blog and a newsletter there are not a lot of differences. Many of the differences that come to mind are because of what historically the words mean to us. Newsletters were originally printed pieces that came out on a regular schedule, usually monthly, on topics of interest to an specific audience. For organizations these newsletters range from human resources to information technology and most of us get PDF versions of newsletters with a wide array of readability and use.

What is the stigma with blogs?

The blog was one of the first Web 2.0 and social media platform. Blogs initially were given a bad name because the general public felt that it was only one person's opinion of a topic. This was true for a period of time in the early stages of Web 2.0, but is now one of the primary methods of communications between professionals. If you remove all preconceived notions about blogs, you have a simple platform to share information to an audience on a timely basis around single or multiple topics.

With today's blog tools many authors can contribute to a blog and can release a batch of "posts" on a regular schedule or release each post at a time. Tools are available to allow people to subscribe to the RSS feeds or even receive an email notification when new posts are published. Since blog entries are time based on a particular subject, they can be a helpful way to inform an audience on a timely basis.

Any benefits to a blog?

With today's technology there is not much difference between a blog and an online newsletter as a communication tool. Blogs by default are categorized or grouped by year, month and day. If you have a monthly newsletter, you could simply publish all your posts as they are completed. You could then send a link to just the blogs for that month via email or using automated method. Another benefit to using a blog format is that visitors can comment on the posts and easily share them on social networks.

Posting on a continuos cycle will also make the search engines happy because they will see content being updated regularly. When content is updated often search engines will index your site on a more frequent basis thus driving more traffic to your site by people searching on keywords.

When creating blog posts you can keep them in a private or draft state until you are ready to publish so it is not a continual stream of edits during the creation of an individual post. When creating posts you can also tag or categorize each one with simple words to allow visitors to see all posts related to a topic. For example, if a communications unit was creating a newsletter with a blog tool, you could categorize posts with topics like Web, marketing, publications, photography and so on. Visitors could look at all the posts related to a topic that specifically interests them and even beyond just the latest issue. Tagging is an important characteristic as most newsletters go out to an diverse audiences and this gives the visitor a way of creating a filter based on their interests.

At the core, a blog and a newsletter is simply a Web page. Each communication format can contain text, images, and formatting styles. The important distinction between blogs and newsletters from general Web sites is that they are time based and are for an intended audience. Blogger and WordPress are a few examples of free tools that will allow you to quickly create your online newsletter. Most content management systems can also be structured like a blog and provide many of the same Web 2.0 features.

Any common trends with newsletters online?

Historically, online newsletters are created using print publication software, like Word, and digitized into a PDF to be either emailed or placed on a Web site. Not only is this more work, but the PDF technology was not invented to present information for online reading. Creating an online newsletter using print software and PDFs may give more design freedom, but it does not benefit the consumption of the information or the ease of content creation. Online newsletters in PDF are usually created based off an author's experience with print newsletters and their comfort level with newer technologies.

Next steps

In closing, please try using a blogging tool to get your online newsletter content into a Web-friendly format that allows for easy reading and sharing with others. Once you get past the stigma of what a tradition blog is all about, you will find that a blog is simple just a tool with a wide variety of possible of uses. Blogs are one of the best tools to communicate content to an audience and is simple to create and maintain. Remember a blog is simple a Web page formatted a specific way to read content that is shared on a regular and timely basis.

Comments welcome!


Monkeyhead said...

terminology that distinguishes between individually and collectively-authored blogs would be helpful.

Jennifer Swift said...

Thanks for making this clearer. Many people have dilemmas of whether to choose a blog or newsletter. Now that you have properly differentiate them, they can surely choose the best method to fit their needs.
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Walter Fennigan said...

There is a great difference with blog and newsletter. Thanks for sharing this post. This clarifies all between the two. Great job!

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Jimmy Mehr said...

First of all I would like to thank you for sharing with us helpful information about the difference b/w blogs and newsletter. I think blog is much productive as compared with newsletter, Blogging is also a best way to get huge amount of traffic on your website.

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Unknown said...

Very helpful & important differences in blog & newsletter.I think blog is much productive as compared with newsletter, Blogging is also a best way to get huge amount of traffic on your website.Thanku so much great sharing.

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