Newsletter to Blog: Establishing The Post Categories

Filed as Features, Guides on September 13, 2007 5:30 pm

Continuing this series on converting a newsletter into a blog, now that the business women’s newsletter team had conquered converting their newsletter into a blog by sorting out the material for Pages for reference, and had started getting a handle on how to create blog posts from the newsletter content, it was time to tackle post categories.

The newsletter team and board of directors was thrilled with the idea of increasing the value of their past reports and articles by making them easier to access through blog navigation and categorization. This put even more importance on choosing the right category names.

Here is a list of the original structure left over from the removal yesterday of material for Pages:

  • President’s Message
  • Meeting Information
  • Meeting Minutes
  • Fundraising
  • Member Information and Activities
  • Committee Information, Reports, and Activities
  • Articles by Members
  • Event Information
  • National Events
  • Regional Events
  • Local Events
  • Tips and Advice for Members

These had to be turned into post categories.

Some were obvious. We created a category for the following:

  • President’s Message
  • Meetings
  • Meeting Minutes
  • Fundraising
  • Committees
  • Events
  • Membership News
  • Tips

I’ve written before about how difficult the process of developing blog post categories can be, and working with this list of categories was just as challenging.

Good Intentions. Bad Categories.

As we started to copy and paste content into posts within these categories, the category list we’d developed immediately broke down. It wasn’t enough, and it wasn’t “right”.

We knew we had to keep the President’s Message, Fundraising, Events, and Tips separate, but the issue of the Meeting Minutes and Committees and their reports didn’t hold up.

Meeting minutes are reports on the last meeting, so maybe they are a subcategory of the Meeting category? But the reports from the various committees are also reports, and yet related to the meetings as well. Where do we put meeting minutes then?

Then we had a problem with separating reports from the secretary, treasurer, membership, and other committees and board members. Are they all “reports” or should they be part of the meeting minutes? They are presented at the meeting, and reported upon in the meeting minutes, so should they be “with” the meeting minutes? Or should all reports be under “Reports”? Then how could the committees stay on top of what they are doing if the reports aren’t under their committee category? These reports had to be easy to find and now we were making a mess.

We debated for a while, then decided that we needed to create a category for Reports and include minutes and reports from all the different committees and board members as subcategories. The Meetings category needed to just hold information on the meetings, where, what, how, when, and who would be the guest speaker. News about what a committee was doing, such as alerts, events, and planning, would go under Committee Activities.

They also had a problem with some of the other categories as they converted the newsletter into blog posts. We changed “Membership News” to “Member News”, which incorporated articles written by members as well as member information and news, and “Tips” to “Working Women Tips”, the latter made to keep the category more search term specific. We also broke down the Events category into subcategories by location.

In the end, we came up with this revised category list.

  • President’s Message
  • Meetings
  • Fundraising
  • Committee Activities
  • Reports
    • Board Reports
    • Meeting Minutes
    • Committee Reports
    • Regional Reports
    • National Reports
  • Events
    • Local Events
    • Regional Events
    • National Events
  • Member News
  • Working Women Tips

Under categories such as Committee Reports, they decided not to add more subcategories until they had a better idea about the frequency of the various committees and their reports. They admitted that some of the information from the various committees represented a line or two in the Meeting Minutes, thus they didn’t need to publish a post. When they learned how easy it was to add a new category, they knew they could easily add another category or subcategory if and when they need one.

Luckily, a WordPress blog allows some flexibility in these issues.

Choosing Your Blog Post Categories from Your Newsletter

As you convert your newsletter into a blog, here are some tips to consider when choosing your post categories:

  • How Will Users Use Categories: If your newsletter features prominent and specific columns for redundantly published information, keep those. They are working for you and familiar to the members. Still, think about how people will use these, how they find specific information, and how they will use groups of information as they navigate through your online content. If they are used to looking under “Reports” for meeting minutes, annual reports, board reports, and such, then Reports is a good title.
  • Keep the Familiar: During the early conversion process, members are nervous and cautious about all these new fangled changes, so it’s not the time to start rewriting the whole newsletter format. Stick with the familiar, what has worked in the past. If you called your meetings “Get Togethers”, then put meeting information under “Get Togethers” until the group is ready for a more specific name change, if ever. Keep the names they know so they don’t have to hunt.
  • How Will Searchers Search: The main reason for converting your newsletter to a blog is to increase usability and access not just to your members but to potential new members. This means you need to be found. How will people search for your newsletter or group? What words will they use? The words in your categories should match those search terms so the searcher will not just fun the page, but recognize it when they arrive.
  • Start With Few Categories and Grow Slowly: Over time, a blog changes. It evolves. Your newsletter-to-blog may change the content and structure of your whole newsletter, as well as the willingness for members to contribute. You may find more people willing to post to the blog than were interested in turning in information to the newsletter. Start with only a few categories, the minimum you need. As the blog evolves, you may find a need for more categories or subcategories to break down the increasing number of posts and information. It’s a natural process to change categories over time, so take it conservatively and slowly and let the categories develop out of need.
  • Avoid Cute or Informationless Categories: The business women’s group wanted a category called “Tips”. Tips for what? Tips for using the blog? Tips for becoming a member? Tips on the various activities? Tips for working mothers? Tips for working women in general? Tips for how to dress for success? What kind of tips? We changed it to “Working Women Tips” to keep it specific, include search terms, and to be immediately recognizable. Keep categories recognizable.
  • Categories That Worked In Print, Might Not Work on the Web: Take care that the category names make sense and will work on the web. It’s easy to have an “Op-Ed Page” in a newspaper or newsletter, but would you call it that on a blog? A blog is a source of all things opinion and editorial, so a blog could be called an “Op-Ed” blog by description. Think about how to label and categorize the content for ease of access and searching, which may mean sorting op-ed pieces into Member News, Opinions, Working World Chat, Working Women Tips, or some other term that better summarizes the articles’ content, intent, and purpose.
  • Use Categories Which Define Themselves: As with “Tips”, make your category names define themselves so you don’t have to explain “Sally’s Stuff”. By clearly defining your category names, you not only direct the reader and member to specific information, you set the ground rules for those contributing to the blog on what goes where. The easier your category list is to understand, the less problems, confusion, and questions your members will have when using or contributing to the blog.

Next came lessons in how to publish newsletter reports and articles in a blog post, dealing with all those little nuisances that come from copying content from a word processor or desktop publishing program into a blog post and cleaning it up with some HTML.

Converting a Newsletter Into a Blog Series

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  1. Newsletter to Blog: Turning Article and Reports Into Blog Posts : The Blog HeraldSeptember 13, 2007 at 5:33 pm
  2. Converting a Newsletter Into a Blog : The Blog HeraldSeptember 13, 2007 at 5:33 pm
  3. By Dave Roberts posted on September 16, 2007 at 10:56 pm
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    Nice job breaking down the problems of converting a newsletter to a blog. I liked your style for leading the group into a learning effort that became the stepping stone to the next process. Thanks for sharing your work.

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  4. Newsletter to Blog: Blogger’s Friend - The Text Editor : The Blog HeraldSeptember 20, 2007 at 9:38 pm
  5. Newsletter-to-Blog: Converting Old Newsletters and The Benefits of Conversion : The Blog HeraldSeptember 24, 2007 at 3:23 pm

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