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Two simple guidelines for newsletter editors 03.02.2007

I've made two very simple guidelines for newsletter editors, that will make sure that people like me, and probably many others, will actually read their newsletters, and not tos them in the spambin. Here are the guidelines:

  1. Clearly identify yourself or your entity as the sender of the newsletter. In my world this is so simple I am surprised anybody ignores this, but I still get emails signed off with 'info' or 'donotreply', and nothing more than that.
  2. Make (at least some) sense in the subject line. Again, so obvious I am surprised anybody neglects it. In my spam folder, I have a mail with the subject "Patty thinks that it is good to drive". I don't see the difference in that subject line, and the following subject from a newsletter in my inbox: "Can you lend me the loan of a small pinch o'tea".

Now, an example to illustrate why I suggest these guidelines:

screenshot of entertainment.ie mails in Gmail

Take a quick glance at the emails above, and tell me how you would categorise them if they were in your inbox, mixed with all the other emails you get on a daily basis.

Spam, right?

They have some classic spam email signals

  • Nonsensical subjects (to trick the bayesian spam filter I believe), and
  • The sender is a pretty damn vague identifier - "info"

So, I would mark them as spam, right off the bat.

It turns out, that these are newsletters from entertainment.ie, an Irish website, dedicated to bringing you information about entertainment in Ireland. Since I am living in Dublin, I am subscribing to their newsletter. Partly because they are the only ones with a unified view of what's going on in Dublin, partly because their website is so horrible I'd much rather read their newsletter instead.

But because they have such a crap newsletter editor (or because I am incredibly uptight and conservative), I've never actually read any of their newsletters because I take them for false negatives, spared from the mercy of the powerful Gmail junk filter.

Suggestions to entertainment.ie

If you are reading this, entertainment.ie, this is what I would suggest you do with your newsletters. Remember, that communicating by email, especially newsletters, you have two chances of identifying yourself (the sender email and the subject line), and only one (ONE) chance to spark my attention to read the content of your newsletter (the subject line). If you neglect one of them, I might catch up on the other one, but if you neglect both, you are screwed. I believe just making one of the changes below would be enough.

First, don't make your sender out to be just 'info'. It doesn't tell me a single thing about who the sender is, and believe me, the sender field is there for exactly that reason. Putting either 'newsletter' or just your emailadress '[email protected]' in there, would be a huge benefit in identifying the sender (I see now, that Gmail is actually the culprit for just writing 'info', as you have indeed put your full emailaddress as the sender. In any case, it falls back on you. Know your audience, and the email-clients they use).

Second, don't try to be haha-funny by using non-sensical subject lines without mentioning yourself or the real topic in it. You used to be smart enough to do that, illustrated by this newsletter subject from the 30th of March, 2006: "entertainment.ie: With excitement like this, who needs enemas". Haha, I laughed, and I kept your newsletter, and read it, because I knew it was from you. If you want to be funny (which by all means you should), be so while identifying yourself properly, or save it for the body of the email.

Third, put at least some of the content of the email, in the subject, so I know what to expect. Even though your subject lines would be funny if you identified yourself in it, it doesn't tell me anything about what the actual content of your newsletters are. The latest newsletter you send me was entitled "Gunga Galunga. Gunga, gungalagunga". WTF? You expect me to actually open up that email? You gotta be kidding! In that email you have some great content, but I don't know, because your subject is crap. Why didn't you just mention the Decemberist concert, the Swedish music festival (where Moneybrother is playing), and Bloc Party. Come to think of it, that would've been a great subject line, right there. Instead, you put in a quote from a movie, which is part of your 'guess what movie this quote is from' quiz. And exactly how are the reader supposed to know this?

And with the above suggestions I conclude my rant about newsletters. I am not specifically targeting entertainment.ie, but newsletters in general. entertainment.ie was used as an example, because they have been quite consistent in the way they compose their newsletter lately, and I suggest they change it.

› Bio (sort of)

Bio pictureverture.net is the personal website of me, Jonas Voss, and this is my blog. I've lived in Dublin, Ireland from 2005-10, currently live in London, and was born and fully customized in Copenhagen, Denmark. I write about anything that comes to mind. Really.
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Disclaimer: I speak for myself, not my employer. srsly. || This work is licensed under a Creative Commons by-nc-sa License.