During any web project, one of my tasks is to assist clients in updating their practices to match the new ways that people communicate online. Frequently, the biggest hurdle is getting the client to move away from their PDF newsletter toward a better system for publishing their content.
Why are PDF newsletters a mistake? It comes down to this:
Your content is incredibly valuable.
On the web, content is king. Content keeps visitors on your site, increasing their loyalty to your organization. It is indexed by search engines, improving your rankings. It’s shared by people on social media, allowing their friends to discover you for the first time.
But it takes a lot of work to write quality content. You’re busy; you only have so much time to produce it. With limited content production, it’s essential that you stretch all of your content as far and wide as possible.
PDFs hide your content.
PDFs weren’t designed for the web; they exist to create a consistent layout for printing. Web visitors have to download them and view them as a separate files, and visitors strongly dislike doing this. They are less accessible to search engines, and difficult to share with social media.
On top of that, reading a PDF means your web visitor is no longer on your website. They’re not seeing any of the promotional material you might have there, and you’re not collecting valuable data about their reading habits.
Sure, PDFs still work for printing, and you might have a physical mailing list that you print and mail your newsletter to. But if PDFs are your primary production method, you’re spending your limited resources catering to a small crowd, at the cost of everyone else.
So what should you do instead?
A blog stream maximizes the reach of your articles.
There are strong conventions online for publishing periodical articles like the ones that go in your newsletter. Together, those conventions are what we call a “blog.” You may not like that term; it comes with a lot of baggage left over from when it was the domain of amateurs and personal journalists. You don’t have to call it a blog- you can call it your news stream, or an online magazine. Regardless of how you spin it, the conventions are the same: a listing of your articles on the site, with the most recent on top, and archiving features to make older articles accessible.
Having your articles in a web-friendly format opens all kinds of opportunities for publishing and sharing them. In addition to social media and search engines, WordPress automatically creates a variety of RSS feeds from your blog, allowing advanced users to stay updated quickly. You can package articles into an HTML newsletter and send it by email. My recommendation is to send email subscribers teasers of your latest articles and links – drawing them back to your website.
What’s more, publishing your articles online is faster and easier than producing most PDFs newsletters – leaving you with more time to write that valuable content.