Newsletter-to-Blog: Converting Old Newsletters and The Benefits of Conversion

Filed as Features, Guides on September 24, 2007 3:23 pm

In the last of this series on converting a newsletter into a blog, designed for small businesses, individuals, and small group newsletter publishers who want to streamline their efforts and minimize costs, as well as modernize, here are the last lessons and discoveries that came up during the conversion process with the business women’s group I worked with.

Converting Old Newsletters

After much debate about whether or not to include the old newsletters, the newsletter team decided that they wanted to publish pertinent articles from past issues, but not the whole issue. These articles they wanted available to the public.

They copied, cleaned, and pasted the content into the blog as posts, but their review of the past newsletters found a lot of value that they wanted online and available to the members for reference. Now what?

Luckily, the newsletters they created in Word and WordPerfect could be easily converted into PDF files, through built-in programs and online converters. However, converting Microsoft Publisher documents to PDF was a bit more challenging.

They found shareware and paid PDF converting programs that would handle Microsoft Publisher files, but the solution that worked best for them came from one of the group members who had experience with converting files to PDF and had Adobe Acrobat Distiller. To convert the Microsoft Publisher files to PDF:

  1. Save your Publisher files in PostScript format
  2. Using Acrobat Distiller, open the documents and it will convert them into PDF format
  3. Save them as PDF files

PDF files can be put into a directory on your web server, then a list to the files can be easily created and put into a blog Page titled “Past Issues”. The list on the Page also helped by including descriptions of the content within each issue, so a user could scan their eyes down the chronological list for keywords.

PDF files are indexed by search engines, though not searched through with the default WordPress search, so we replaced the default search with the free Google version. Yahoo would also work, allowing the search to include all posts, Pages, and static files.

Newsletters Don’t Get Comments. Blogs Do.

When their first comment from a real person appeared on their new blog, the newsletter editor was stunned. A non-member, total stranger, posted a comment which gave a few more tips on one of their working woman tips posts. I got a phone call:

“What do I do?”

“Well, what do you want to do?”

“Um, part of me wants to cry and thank them for paying attention. The other part of me is scared and wants to tell them to go away.”

“Why?”

“Because I didn’t get comments on my newsletters, other than thank you or corrections from the members. I’m afraid of getting comments.”

As the conversation went on, she said that she now felt an obligation to get to know the person who commented. To understand why they commented and what more they know. She wanted to invite them to a meeting so everyone could meet this amazing person who had the courage to comment on their new blog.

I explained that most of what she wanted was near to impossible, but courtesy did allow her to extend an offer to invite the person to their meeting, though this person could be living in Thailand. Still, saying thank you for the comment and for the contribution was also good enough.

In time, I told her, if readers continue to be attracted to the quality content published publicly on the blog, she will start to get comments from the same person over and over again, and slowly build a relationship through the blog. This can also lead to membership, involvement, and friendship. But let it develop slowly. This might be a one-shot-comment.

Newsletter versus Blog Communication

A newsletter is typically seen as a critical communications tool. But it’s one way. It’s a mirror that allows the writers to look through on one side, but the readers only see their reflection back in the mirror. Yes, there are ways to communicate with a newsletter editor and writer, but for the most part, it’s one way communications.

A blog is all about the conversation. It is all about the interchange of ideas, information, and discussion. Feedback can arrive within minutes of publishing, or months later.

This changes how the newsletter team worked, too. They now had to monitor comments, cleaning out comment spam and responding to comments when necessary. Contributors started to get feedback on their articles, which made them more excited and eager to contribute.

It was indeed scary, but in time, the whole membership started to enjoy the outreach nature of a blog, developing connections with working women outside of their community and even their country.

One member is talking about traveling to England to meet a commenter who she’s starting to develop a friendship with. A blog opens the door to the whole world, and you never know what or who will pass through.

Enthusiasm Brings New Contributors

The new blog, and its easy access and use, brought new energy and enthusiasm to the group. Many saw the potential of expanding their ability to communicate with each other and new members, as well as others with the business community. These hard working business women also saw this as a chance to expand their skills and add more goodies to their resume.

One woman was so excited about being “published”, she decided she would write a whole article series on investment plans for women. Another liked the idea of sharing working woman tips, she had 25 ideas written down within a few minutes, eager to share them online.

Suddenly, the newsletter team, which had consisted of three people, one of whom did all the work most of the time, was besieged with requests to interview members, write articles, and help out with the blog.

I helped write up the guidelines and “rules” for publishing on the blog, similar to what I covered in The Art of Guest Blogging: What Do Guest Bloggers Need to Know About Your Blog to Guest Blog. The blog’s publishing guidelines covered the usage of headings, links, bolds, italics, and other HTML layout techniques, copyright and quoting, privacy issues, and other techniques and guidelines the newsletter team had developed about what could be published on the blog.

A few weeks later, the newsletter editor called me to tell me what an incredible success this whole project was. Members were learning valuable skills about working on the web and publishing, as well as writing and communication skills. They also had attracted 3 new members through the blog, just from people searching for a group like theirs in the area.

Newsletter-to-Blog: Keeping Things Simple

Now, instead of one to three people in charge of generating the newsletter content, these busy working women had too much help. This resulted in several benefits they hadn’t considered.

At first, it made the life of the newsletter editor more complicated. Rules and guidelines needed to be set, people coordinated, content managed, approved, and assigned. In time, though, the members figured it out and started self-managing themselves with respect to the blog’s content.

Instead of the newsletter editor gathering information from all the different sources, from the board, board officers, committee chairs, national office, regional representatives, etc., all local officers and committee chairs are now responsible for publishing their own reports.

Individual members can contribute no more than four blog posts a month, unless assigned a specific task, controlling the flow of content, but also giving everyone “equal opportunity”. Those who want to contribute but don’t have time for four posts a month could do less, but those prolific ones could use the future posts method to set the post timestamp ahead, spreading their post content through the calendar.

Converting a Newsletter Into a Blog

While the process of converting this group’s newsletter from print and email to a blog format was tedious, it was a learning experience for all involved, including me. Some of the newsletter team had been publishing the newsletter and working on it for over 30 years. They knew how it worked and had it down to a fine science. Taking it to the web made them rethink the communications process from the inside out again.

The most important lesson they learned was how insular their newsletter was. The information and resources were limited to a few. By not making their valuable content public, few knew about the group and their good works. By opening the door to their group, word spread and the attention they deserved began to arrive through their new blog.

The membership was recharged, potential new members started showing up, and more members started feeling like they were contributing to something beyond themselves, to the world in general, helping other busy working women to work better and with more joy, knowing there was a support group who had “been there, done that, and lived to tell about it” right inside their browser.

What can converting a newsletter into a blog do for your group or business? Who knows what doors of opportunity and energy might open?

Converting a Newsletter Into a Blog Series

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  1. Newsletter to Blog: Blogger’s Friend - The Text Editor : The Blog HeraldSeptember 24, 2007 at 3:25 pm
  2. Newsletter to Blog: Quoting, Referencing, Citing, and Not Copyright Violating : The Blog HeraldSeptember 24, 2007 at 3:27 pm
  3. Newsletter to Blog: Converting to Blog Posts Part I : The Blog HeraldSeptember 24, 2007 at 3:28 pm
  4. Newsletter to Blog: Converting to Blog Posts Part II : The Blog HeraldSeptember 24, 2007 at 3:29 pm
  5. Converting a Newsletter Into a Blog : The Blog HeraldSeptember 24, 2007 at 3:31 pm
  6. Converting a Newsletter Into a Blog « Lorelle on WordPressSeptember 24, 2007 at 3:46 pm
  7. By Jim McDaniel posted on March 17, 2008 at 5:54 pm
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    Wow. This is a fantastic article. Telling it as a project story really kept me interested. You write well, and revealed a lot of useful information – far more than I thought I needed to know about creating a blog based site. I bought your book.

    Reply

  8. By Lorelle VanFossen posted on March 17, 2008 at 8:51 pm
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    @Jim McDaniel:

    Thank you for the kind words and enthusiasm.

    Reply

  9. By Josh posted on November 5, 2008 at 6:56 pm
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    Wow, I just read through all of these posts and am convinced I want to create a WordPress blog as my employer’s company newsletter!

    I have experience with WordPress, and occasionally post articles, however I really don’t have time to manage it. Now my ewmployer has broached the subject of creating a company e-newsletter and I want to convince her to blog it – especially because then I won’t have to be the one always posting the articles!

    I’m very busy as a graphic designer/Web developer and was a little unhappy to hear I was adding a newsletter (i.e. always updating) to my schedule. Now I can spend the time creating the structure, developing the rules and training 3 other people to do it and then for the most part I’m done.

    Thanks for your fantastic article, completely invaluable!

    Reply

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