A newsletter is a periodically disseminated piece of information housing content of common interest to a group of people or its subscribers. They are meant to offer interesting snippets of unique information to a target audience.
The exact origins of the newsletter are still a conundrum, but research illustrates that they were first launched sometime around 1538. One of the known pioneering efforts was The Continuation of our Weekly News circulated in Great Britain in the year 1631 which featured events around the locals in overseas shores. In the U.S, around 1704, the Boston Newsletter made its appearance and one of the most sensational stories to be featured on it was how ‘Blackbeard the pirate’ was slain in a fierce combat while his ship was caught in a battle. By this time newsletters were considered the early predecessors of newspapers with most of them transforming to take up bigger roles and paving the path for daily publications.
By early 1900’s the world saw newsletters making a glorious comeback. With the industrial revolution, a strong need was felt for distilled information regarding industrial demands, research, progress and future outlook. This lacuna was conveniently addressed by newsletters. Babson’s Report, an investment advisory was reportedly the first to surface in 1904, followed by Kiplinger Letter in 1923, which continues its awe as the most popularly read forecasting periodical across the globe. Now newsletters started mushrooming everywhere covering all topics under the sun from entertainment to personal interests, and they saw their audience grow both in terms of numbers and needs.
Come the mid-1980s; the decade which saw personal computers invading the world and changing the landscape of business and communication. Desktop publishing became the buzzword with digital prints, online marketing, softcopies, etc. being coined as new terminologies set to completely metamorphose the way men perceived data and communication. Newsletters were undoubtedly also roped in this frenzy. The old way of publishing and distribution in a hardcopy paper format was all set to emerge in a new avatar! What was born is today commonly known as the e-newsletter, the electronic format of its older cousin. People preferred getting newsletters in their E-mail inboxes than delivered in hard copy via snail-mail. This revolutionized production, distribution, marketing, cost and accessibility factors for the newsletter industry.
With the “Dot-Com” boom, the versatility and power of newsletters have increased unparalleled. They have become instruments for outbound marketing. Companies embed hyperlinks to their websites into their newsletters in order to draw traffic. Also, advertisements and PPC (pay-per-click) campaigns are in popular use which helps to target and re-targeting the customers to the desired products. Special effort is invested to produce the newsletters so they become content-rich and info-taining as it is easy to find sponsors for them with advertisers having faith that they can reach the right audiences with them.
Be it print or electronic, newsletters can be broadly classified into the following types based on the purpose they serve:
Promotional Newsletters: Frequently used by businesses to promote a product or service. They are used as marketing tools sent to potential and/or existing customer base to drive sales or promote a brand. They have sketchy content but are more focused on rich graphics, catchy one-liners, and captivating pictures. “Burn the list” newsletters are also a subset of these which are focused on drawing quick sales.
Relationship Newsletters: These capitalize on common interests of the target audience (club newsletters, employee newsletters, church newsletters, alumni newsletters, etc.). They try to build a relationship with their audience and assess their moods. There is usually space for a guest column where readers can share their feedback.
Expert Newsletters: Unlike the above two, these may be run as a paid service offering specific information requested by the subscriber.