How to create a newsletter for the mobile age

Feb 04 2013

What might be easier then mass-sending an email? Pick a couple of contacts, fill in the “Subject” and the message itself – and voila!

But what if you need to spam send something important, say, to a couple of hundred folks? And they might want to unsubscribe at some point. And then subscribe again? What if you need to make your email both neat and viewable on a website for folks with weird mobile phones that don’t show your email correctly? So you see: The further you go, the more complicated it gets.

So instead of a manual mess, you might want to start a listserv or use a specialized tool to get maximum control over the process.

That’s exactly what we decided to do at Reese News Lab.

Keren Goldshlager, marketing manager for the lab, says that starting a newsletter is one of the first steps in ongoing marketing effort. And in future, we hope our name might shine as brightly as the journalism colossi like Poynter and Nieman Lab.

“I hope the newsletter will provide a good platform for us to share content and news about the staff and their accomplishments,” Goldshlager said. “I’m also hoping it will produce some good feedback and possibly help with stories.”

The idea of newsletter is great. Here’s what you need to set one up:

1) Content

2) Design

3) Platform

Content

On the content side, we decided to keep our subscribers updated on the latest innovations in journalism and all the great stuff we have going on here in the lab.

Design

Why should you ever care about design in an email? Isn’t it all about letters and text? Yes, but if you want to do something outstanding, you’ll have to stick to an HTML version. HTML, which stands for HyperText Markup Language, is the basis for the content on the Internet. Using it allows for some fancy formatting, pictures and easily clickable hyperlinks.

We wanted to have something simple yet neat and mobile-friendly. We also wanted a quick-and-dirty method of putting the newsletter together. If you’re like us, you might stick with some great templates out there, like these available from MailChimp.

Meghan Horton, Web application programmer at the School of Journalism & Mass Communication, and Ashlyn Still, our director of technology and design, adapted a MailChimp template with Reese News design elements, such as brand colors and fonts. We used a “fluid” (in MailChimp’s language) template that adapts well to mobile phones.

Platform

We chose MailChimp over a number of competitors (like iContact, AWeber or Mad Mimi) as a platform to manage our subscribers and mailings.

Horton says that MailChimp is free (if you’re under 2,000 subscriptions), powerful, flexible and constantly developing, which made it a good choice for our needs.

Voila, here’s a preview of our newsletter:

newsletter

Subscribe to our newsletter!

Similar stories

How to win a hackathon

In the first Pearl Hacks gathering, a hackathon for women interested in technology, we leaned on our storytelling skills to smoke the competition.

Read More »

Providing transparency for many audiences

To find our best ideas, we had to target specific markets.

Read More »

I thought I was a reporter, but I’m really in sales

I can't escape words like CRM, invoices and qualifed prospects.

Read More »