Converting a Newsletter Into a Blog

Filed as Features, Guides on September 11, 2007 3:03 am

I was recently approached by a professional membership organization about turning their newsletter into a blog. Thinking the task would be easy, I agreed. With 20/20 hindsight, I think I gained more insights and benefits the conversion process than they paid for.

Newsletters graphic - copyright Lorelle VanFossenMany bloggers have or are adding newsletters to their blogs, expanding their publicity and access beyond their blog. My challenge was to think in the reverse: Take a long-established newsletter and turn it into a blog.

Arrogantly, I assumed that the structure of their newsletter would make the process of conversion to blog format much easier. After all, they have a regular structured format, categorized and redundantly published information each month, and they are a structured organization. This should be a breeze.

It wasn’t.

Over the next week or so, I’m going to share with you the lessons I learned converting a traditionally formatted membership newsletter into a blog. Hopefully, you will learn more about how you blog, what you blog, and how to categorize and structure your blog’s information in the process.

The Newsletter Structure

The newsletter is for a business women’s association. The redundant “columns” of content are:

  • President’s Message
  • Meeting Information
  • Meeting Minutes
  • Membership List
  • Committee List
  • Board of Directors List
  • Contact Information
  • Fundraising
  • Member Information and Activities
  • Committee Information, Reports, and Activities
  • Articles by Members
  • Event Information
  • National Events
  • Regional Events
  • Local Events
  • Calendar
  • Tips and Advice for Members

The first challenge was to determine which of these would become posts, article information published on the blog in chronological order, and which of these would become Pages, pseudo-static web pages with the information most commonly needed by members and visitors.

Pages Versus Posts

In order to understand how a blog works compared to a printed newsletter, I had to explain the differences between a post and a Page.

A Page holds timeless information, information that is frequently needed and referenced by users. From the above list, we culled the following to be Pages:

  • Membership List
  • Committee List
  • Board of Directors List
  • Contact Information
  • Calendar

From this list, we created the following Pages:

  • About: Contains information about the group, such as their mission and purpose statement, location, when they meet, description of activities, and a summary of what the group is about. We included the list of board members on the About Page, too.
  • Committees: The group does a lot of its work by committees, thus they wanted a specific Committee Page to feature committee chairs, descriptions of the committee activities, and contact information to get involved with each committee. Under the Committee Page, a group of subPages can be formed, one for each committee.
  • Membership List: This is a list of the members in the group – however, the decision to publish their names and contact information brought up privacy issues. It seemed that it was okay to include names, addresses, phone numbers, and birth dates in a printed newsletter, but on the web, security became an issue. They’ve decided to contact their members and include phone numbers and obfuscated email addresses if the members agree to release that information. They may decide to make that Page “private”, accessible only by password.
  • Contact: After much debate over whether the Contact Page should have all the contact information for board members, committee chairs, and such, they decided to limit the Contact Page to those associated only with membership and the website. For more specific contact information, they would go to the About or Committee Page.
  • Calendar: The Calendar Page is the one they realized would be the most visited Page by the membership. A constantly updated Page, it would host basic information on upcoming meetings, events, fundraisers, and various deadlines the group needs to be reminded of. They had several choices in format, but stuck with a simple list of the events under each date rather than a formal, and often difficult to edit, calendar structure.

The rest of the information in the list would be posts, articles and reports which are published when available, since they tell the ongoing story of the association.

It was in the publishing of posts that we ran into our biggest problems, which I’ll introduce you to tomorrow.

Converting a Newsletter Into a Blog Series

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  1. By Yehuda Berlinger posted on September 11, 2007 at 4:43 am
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    This is a good topic. Looking forward to the rest.

    Yehuda

    Reply

  2. By pelf posted on September 11, 2007 at 5:17 am
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    I help my Supervisor maintain her Turtle Research and Rehabilitation Group website and I have been thinking of converting the static website into a blog so that it is easier to update and manage by future Research Assistants (her previous Research Assistants knew nothing about updating the website and all).

    Thanks for starting this series, I can’t wait!

    Reply

  3. By Jermayn Parker posted on September 11, 2007 at 5:34 am
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    I look forward in reading this whole series

    Reply

  4. By Michelle Ayers posted on September 11, 2007 at 2:15 pm
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    We tried this too only to be foiled by LotusNotes which we are stuck with for now…I assume youryour delivery is via Outlook?

    Reply

  5. By Lorelle VanFossen posted on September 11, 2007 at 3:03 pm
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    Michelle: I’m not sure I understand your question. This series is about taking any newsletter format, created by any program or service, and converting it into a blog. As far as I know, blogs are not run through LotusNotes or Outlook. I will be focusing on WordPress, though the theories involved can be used on any blogging program.

    The process is copy and paste, not “export”, though that is possible, it requires a very high level of programming proficiency. Moving to a blog doesn’t make the past issues invalid. It moves forward towards eventually stopping the printed versions.

    Bringing all past versions of a newsletter online would probably best be done by creating PDF versions of the past issues and adding those to the blog for reference.

    Does that answer your question?

    Reply

  6. Newsletter to Blog: Turning Article and Reports Into Blog Posts : The Blog HeraldSeptember 12, 2007 at 12:30 am
  7. By Swiss posted on September 12, 2007 at 5:14 am
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    That was highly informative . Thanx !

    Reply

  8. Newsletter to Blog: Establishing The Post Categories : The Blog HeraldSeptember 13, 2007 at 5:31 pm
  9. By David Ward posted on September 13, 2007 at 8:15 pm
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    I just wrestled with these issues myself. I may have unduly complicated things, but I keep evergreen articles linked to an “article” page, and (will now) cut-and-paste better posts into pages, giving visitors the ability to find content via tags OR by browsing articles. But as a new blogger, I may not be allowing for the demands of future growth. For example, I see a time when the article page (a list of links to other article/pages) will need to have sub-pages.

    Also, there are a lot of reasons to keep a newsletter in addition to the blog, and I have done so. I wrote about those reasons and referenced this article in my post today, but I am so new, I don’t know the proper method for linking to it, nor the proper ettiquite for doing so.

    I enjoy your writing on WP and am glad I found this blog as well.

    Reply

  10. By Lorelle VanFossen posted on September 13, 2007 at 9:03 pm
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    I’ve worked with a lot of people who separate the concept of “posts” and “articles” and in time, they’ve found the “articles in Pages” is time consuming to maintain and just doesn’t work. Besides, why be redundant.

    The issue regarding articles in Pages is to “preserve” them, call special attention to them. But you are only calling attention to them for yourself. Not for your readers.

    Think about it. How do new people find your content? Searches. They land on a web page on your site and are thrilled. They’ve found the answer. Do they know it’s a Page or a post? No. Do they care? No.

    How do your regular readers find your content? Through feeds and a visit to your front page, or to a specific category of posts or category feed of posts. Pages are not included in your feeds nor categories, nor on the front page of your blog. Why bother?

    Stop thinking print and start thinking blog :D

    You can keep the newsletter going, as I’ve mentioned throughout this series, but if the cost of the newsletter, and the volunteers/staff to manage it change or need to minimize their activities, makes the newsletter a time and money waster, then convert it into a blog to keep the process streamlined and simplified.

    As for linking to your article, you can include a link in a comment, or if the program you are using, like WordPress, has trackbacking enabled, a link to this post in your post will automatically generate a trackback link in the comments here, showing us that you wrote about this article.

    Don’t work it too hard, this new blogging thing. It is actually much easier than you think. :D

    Reply

  11. Newsletter to Blog: Converting to Blog Posts Part I : The Blog HeraldSeptember 14, 2007 at 11:28 pm
  12. Blog Herald Newsletter to Blog Article « Grazing PortalSeptember 16, 2007 at 1:45 am
  13. By Michelle Ayers posted on September 17, 2007 at 1:47 pm
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    Loelle,

    I realize I wasn’t clear when I made my comment about LotusNotes delivery. I work at a Federal Courthouse and the court personnel are now receiving a Library newsletter each week via LotusNotes. When they open the email they see the full newsletter. We do not want to send them an email with a link to a blog. Believe it or not, we feel strongly that our readers would not take that extra step of clicking a link to read a newsletter created using blog software. Lotus Notes will not allow us import the blog into an email message. Lotus Notes will also not allow us to send the blog via a email message directly from the browser. We’ve tried and the formatting breaks down and it looks pretty ugly.

    We notice some legal news vendors (Findlaw; Law.com, etc.)sending newsletters via email but often the formatting suffers and/or images do not open. They look pretty awful and we are left to wonder if they ever tested sending their newsletters to Lotus Notes recipients! We don’t want our newsletter to suffer the same fate so for the forseeable future and unless/until our users become more sophistocated, we are stuck with the production process we know will work for us.

    On a more positive note, I have used WordPress to successfully create two Blogs, one for Library Staff and one for Law Clerks. Because of the confidentiality of the content of these blogs, we have loaded them to our in-house servers and are keeping them private and off the Web. Our goal in using them in-house to create a better way to communicate and share information and I am happy to say we are succeeding.

    Regardless of our situation, I am still very interested in reading your series. Thanks for your work on this!

    Reply

  14. By Lorelle VanFossen posted on September 17, 2007 at 3:49 pm
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    You are restricted in many ways, and yes, I agree with you with the formatting of email newsletters. Personally, I’m a fan of as LITTLE formatting of any form of email as possible as it reduces size and all I want is the information, not the “pretty”. Faster is better when it comes to processing email for me.

    If something happens to Lotus Notes, what will happen to your newsletter? That’s the bigger question. Still is works for you.

    As for the issue of “clicking another link”, an emailed newsletter is usually stuffed with tons of links, but the issue of saying “here’s our newsletter go visit our blog” is a different one. Some like that, allowing them to dig into more information if they want.

    For you, this won’t work, but there is something that might. Using feed email services, you can email your blog’s feeds directly to subscribers. These can be customized to a specific category or the whole blog. It can be scheduled to be released daily or weekly, however you want it done. This would allow those who want to visit your blog by non-subscription methods to do so, and less work for your team to send a newsletter to those who do subscribe via the email feeds. The concentration would be back on content and now blog plus newsletter.

    This particular group wants to stop their ineffective and costly production of newsletters. Your company relies upon them. So your need is not the same as theirs.

    Reply

  15. Newsletter to Blog: Converting to Blog Posts Part II : The Blog HeraldSeptember 17, 2007 at 8:02 pm
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