Newsletters - picking right tools and technologies

Newsletters - picking right tools and technologies

Freewheeling Chats on Content Workflows

Newsletters - picking right tools and technologies:

The following sub-topics were discussed:

  1. What are the newsletters? What are the types of newsletter.
  2. What objectives do newsletters fulfil? Do you need one?
  3. How does one create a newsletter? What are the key steps in creating the newsletter?
  4. Why do individuals, publishers, brands and agencies choose newsletters over a blog or a website? Are newsletters a substitute for the website? Or, do they supplement the website?
  5. What should one keep in mind when picking a service provider; Substack/ Scrollstack vs Mailchimp vs Campaign Manager Vs Constant Contact vs DIY
  6. What are some interesting tools to create a better newsletter?

Session summary:

Newsletters 101

Newsletter is the latest publishing trend. Hobbyists, design and marketing agencies, writers, and non-profit organisations are either launching newsletters or have already launched them. Newsletters are precursor to newspapers. Though, they have adapted with new tools and technologies. Doing the right newsletter is about six things.

1. Types of newsletter

In the 16th century, newsletters started as publication to inform friends, trading community, and the citizens about specific issues and topics. Sales promotion newsletters or catalogues aim to sell more merchandise. They gave birth to e-commerce and online ads.
Audience building newsletters help in increasing the visits to a destination website. Creative writing newsletters aim to bypass the intermediary to publish directly for the readers. Brands and organisations send informational newsletters with updates about their present and future. New technology has enabled sequential mailing for educational courses. They are drip newsletters. Before picking up the type of newsletter, it is important to define the audience and the objectives.

Know more: 60 newsletters

2. Objectives of a newsletter

If you do not know where you are going, any road will take you there. Before starting a newsletter it is important to understand the audience and define a clear objective. Understanding the needs and behaviour of the audience is always helpful. Once the audience is clear, defining a specific outcome is easy. For example the marketing objective can be to increase awareness for the Third Wave specialty coffee. Media businesses such as NDTV would want to increase readership for its website. Non-profits will use newsletter for building the community and outreach. Existing content websites will re-purpose published articles to engage their readers.

Learn: POST method of defining objectives.

3. Creating a newsletter

Knowing the audience and objectives are half the battle. The other half is right content strategy along with the tools and technologies. Information newsletters will involve different content types such as a note, calendars, tables and forms. Service providers, such as Mailchimp, are useful for such newsletters. Substack is suitable for creative writers or news professionals, who prefer writing longer newsletters. Non-profits may prefer customizing the templates as per their niche audience. The key elements are:

  • Style guide, which is a list of do’s and dont’s, such as tone and voice on the basis of audience and objectives.
  • Newsletter platforms such as Mailchimp, Campaign Monitor or Substack.
  • Adding the contacts to the tool to send the newsletter.
  • Learning to use the content management system to create templates, designs, content blocks.
  • Understanding analytics such as open rate and click rate.
  • Finally, feedback to improve the newsletter.

[Dig deeper]

4. Integrating with websites or blogs

Newsletters can’t be discovered as websites allow. Newsletters are easier to send than an article on the blog or a content piece on the website. They are easy to read digests, whereas blogs allow the freedom to explore the entire content on the website. Experts suggest to keep a mix of two. Websites act as online archive. Websites also enable custom integration of tools unlike newsletter platforms as the service provider has the final say.
Skift, a travel media brand manages more than six newsletters along with a destination website. Paul Writer, a B2B marketing agency, maintains a blog and a nine-year old newsletter.

Worth your time: Content Web chat about Website-social media/SEO

5. Right tools and technology

Most service providers such as Mailchimp, Campaign Monitor, Constant Contact etc, claim to provide all the features. Picking the right tool depends on the following factors.

  1. A one off email to your audience vs a regular mail will require different tools. For example Tiny Letter is a good tool for one off mails, where as Mailchimp is good for regular mails.
  2. Length of the mail, graphics and visual heavy, interactivity such as forms decide the right composer and editing tools. Substack’s CMS is limited as compared to Mailchimp, but easier to use.
  3. Newsletter archiving helps in discoverability. Pick the tools, which allow to archive and map your domain. Substack doesn’t allow mapping, while Mailchimp allows it.
  4. Audience tools allowing to segment the audience and track their journey. Paid tools provide tools for segmenting the audience.
  5. Automation tools will allow to send mails to different audience for different call to action. Most paid service providers offer it in their plans such as Constant Contact.
  6. Analytics help in identifying the right metrics such as open rate, click rates and call to actions such as buying merchandise, registering or donating money. All provide the basic analytics.
  7. Integration with the content management system (CMS) of the website is one of the criteria for picking the newsletter tool. You should work with a professional web developer to decide the right newsletter service.
  8. Budget helps in choosing between free tools such as Substack or paid tools such as Mailchimp. (Mailchimp is free for the first 2,000 users.) Free service providers limit the tools users can use such as mailing list, A/B testing and audience segmentation.

6. What are some interesting tools to create a better newsletter?

The hosts and curators for this session were Souvik Das Gupta and Abhishek Rai.

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About Content Web freewheeling chats: This space is all about the good ol’ websites that we’ve been designing and publishing for decades. Online publishing, marketing websites and the likes have always been on the rise. And so have the supporting tools, technologies and techniques for website publishing and content management. The practices of web design, development and content publishing have grown in complexity much faster than the spaces available to discuss them (esp. if you don’t want to get sucked into the constant buzz around JS frameworks, web applications or product development). In this space we plan to stay focussed on content publishing, web design, web development and the business around it.

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