Once you’ve established the name and the frequency of your e-zine, you’ll need to decide what type of format you’ll be using. In that respect, you’ve got three primary choices.
Text versus HTML is and probably always will be a controversial subject. To add to the mix, more and more webmasters are publishing their e-zines online.
So which version is the best choice? Unfortunately, it’s not as clear cut as simply choosing one over the other.
Text vs. HTML
Although text is probably the safest version you can publish, it’s not necessarily the most popular. Nor is it the most effective.
For the most part, readers seem to prefer HTML versions, both via email and online. And when compared to the text counterpart, more links were clicked and acted upon in the HTML e-zine.
In other words, the HTML version prompted more positive response from readers.
From a webmaster’s standpoint, HTML is far superior. Not only can you be more creative with regard to how your e-zine is formatted, you have many more options for its design and layout. Much like you would with a print newspaper.
Plus, you get the benefit of being able to brand your particular business. You can even give the e-zine the same look and feel as your website.
With text versions, all you can rely on for branding is the name of your e-zine and the type of symbols you use to separate and distinguish between segment features.
Last but not least, publishing an HTML e-zine means you’ll have the ability to calculate how many members of your list actually open each issue that you send. That’s not something you can do with text versions.
Although using a plain text format is the easiest and least complicated, it produces a somewhat boring presentation.
The best you can do to “dress” it up is to use symbols or special characters. For example…
For emphasis, you can use *asterisks*, “quotes”, or ALL CAPS. Be wary of the last one and use it sparingly. Some spam filters interpret all caps as a sign of junk mail.
In order to maintain a clean look, you need to restrict each and every line to a maximum of 55 to 60 characters. If you exceed that limit, some email programs will chop up the lines, giving your e-zines a rather disheveled appearance.
If you don’t limit characters to 60 per line, there’s the possibility your e-zine could look something like this when it arrives at its destination.
Some email programs won’t hyperlink a URL address unless it has the http:// prefix. Make certain you include it so your readers can click on any of your links just like they would on a web page.
The same concept applies to email addresses. If you don’t precede them with the mailto: attribute, the reader won’t have access to a live link.
For your subject line, it’s best to simply insert the name of your publication and the current issue information. Something like, “Marketing Software Gazette – Monday September 7, 2016 Issue”.
The first thing your subscriber should see in the body of the email is the name of your e-zine, the volume and/or issue number, and the current date. Place all that information at the very top of the e-zine. If you wish, you can also include your name, email address, and website URL.
Below that, place a brief statement that lets the reader know why they are receiving email from you. “You are receiving this e-zine because you signed up [insert how, when, and where].
At the very bottom of the e-zine should be your signature which would generally include your name, your email address, and website URL.
Below your signature, you need to place two things. First, explain how to subscribe to your e-zine (in case the e-zine has been forwarded to someone who doesn’t happen to be on your mailing list).
Secondly, you need to include clear and precise information about how to unsubscribe from your list. Don’t make them jump through hoops. If they want out, let them do it without difficulty.
And make certain you send a test e-zine to yourself. That way you’ll know if everything is correct prior to blasting it out to your entire mailing list.
HTML Email Version
There’s no question an HTML email version is more attractive. But it’s also the most difficult to deal with. At least, from a design perspective.
Here are some tips that should help in that respect…
It’s important that you hand code your HTML e-zine. If you use a WYSIWYG type editor, there’s a good chance your recipients won’t be viewing the same clean attractive version that you originally created.
Be aware that every email program handles HTML differently. Keep your design, layout, and coding simple and there shouldn’t be any problem when your e-zine arrives at it’s various destinations.
Use HTML tables rather than CSS for layout. This will allow your e-zine to be read by older email clients.
When using CSS attributes, make certain you embed it directly into the HTML code rather than link to a remote stylesheet. For example, between the opening and closingtags…
Here are some additional tips for HTML formatting…
• A single-column layout is best.
• Try not to exceed anything more than the traditional two-column layout.
• Avoid using background images.
• Use the target=“_blank” tag so links will open in a new browser window.
• Use the mailto: attribute so email links are live in all email clients.
Just like the text version, always send a copy of the finished e-zine to yourself before letting it go out to your entire subscriber list.
If possible, arrange for friends or associates who are using different email clients to also receive samples. Depending on their feedback, make any necessary changes or corrections.
Once you’ve established an HTML version that passes inspection, simply create a blank template that you can use for any and all future e-zine issues.
Aside from archiving back issues of e-zines, most webmasters didn’t really think about publishing online versions. At least, not until spam filters began to prevent e-zines from reaching their destination.
Currently, online versions have become more of a necessity than a novelty. But rather than choose only the web page publication, most webmaster still send their e-zines via email and then send a separate email message with just a link to the online version.
In case the filters kept you from receiving the email version of [insert e-zine name], you can access the online version at [insert URL address].
With a safe subject line (like your e-zine title and issue date), there’s very little chance that type of message will be zapped by the spam filters. And sending it a day or two after the usual publication date ensures that one way or another every subscriber will have an opportunity to view all your e-zine issues.
The overall best choice is to publish both an email and an online version.
Having an online version makes perfect sense, mainly because you’ll be archiving past issues. Since that means you’ll need to create an HTML version at some point, why not create it right from the start.
As far as the email version goes, you still have to decide whether to publish it in text or HTML format. Since both have their own pros and cons, it’s merely a matter of choosing which one better suits your needs and the needs of your subscribers.
Please leave a comment and let me know which is your preference Text or Html?