I spoke to someone recently who was busy writing the latest issue of their company’s newsletter.
Me: Why don’t you blog instead?
Them: We work in a really traditional industry, nobody would read a blog.
Me: Why would they read a newsletter but not a blog? If it’s because you think they’d only read something they can find in their inbox, that’s OK, you can subscribe to posts by email.
Them: Maybe, but my boss wouldn’t want us to blog, we work in a traditional industry.
First, I understand the implication. It’s that blogging is somehow not cerebral enough for a traditional or “serious” industry. That’s plain wrong: it’s a medium just like a newspaper is, but no one would say newspapers aren’t serious because of the drivel that tabloids publish. It’s the quality of what you publish that matters.
Beyond that, I think there are a few reasons why a blog may actually be plain better than a newsletter.
- For a “traditional” industry like my friend’s, if blogging really is that unusual, then being the first to do so is a fantastic opportunity. Blogging is so common now; but imagine the chance to be viewed as ground-breaking and innovative simply by publishing one? An opportunity not to be missed I’d say.
- I think the blog format is a lot more appealing. It’s less daunting for readers who don’t have much time, enabling them to focus on one article at a time rather than have a whole load thrust at them at once. Plus I’d argue that the momentum you build up with a stream of posts is worth more than a one-off monthly bang when your recipients receive your newsletter.
- With a blog, all your content is in one place. Sure you can have a newsletter archive, but it’s a lot harder to browse through material by clicking on Edition 74: January 2006, looking through it, closing it, then opening Edition 75 and so on, than it is to scroll down ablog in search for titles that catch your attention.
- On accessibility, again, a blog makes it a lot easier for people to access specific content, using categories and tags (you could have a complex search function for newsletters, but it’d cost a fortune and probably not work; tags and categories are standard and always work).
- Interactivity. It’s a lot easier for people to leave comments on a blog than it is to give feedback on a newsletter, even though newsletters can have feedback functions. Plus in a blog, with comments published underneath posts and your responses in the same place, you’re in practice having an online conversation. So what? 1) You have the opportunity to explain yourself to doubters/naysayers and to showcase your expertise further; and 2) you become the company/person that’s hosting an informed conversation on the issue, and that’s valuable.
- There’s an online community for everything, even the most traditional of industries. Engaging with it may not be your priority from the off – your focus may rightly be on making sure you publish good content. However, having a good blog will make it easier to fit into that community if you choose to do so, and will give you more leverage when engaging with the other experts in your field (or even prospects) that are part of it. If you think your industry/sector isn’t representedonline, check on Technorati or Google Blog Search. You’ll be surprised.
- Marketing a blog is easier than marketing your newsletter, but I’ll save that for another post.
Just to be clear, I think newsletters are an excellent medium for showcasing your expertise, keeping people informed, and even attracting new business. I’d ordinarily make them part of the communications toolkit, but if I had to choose, it’d be blogging every time.