Relying on Dead Accounts for a Subscriber Base

We rely on dead accounts. Dead or dud accounts should be clutter but they aren’t really. Instead they add to our numbers, and we like numbers as statistics we can see and measure. But, they aren’t all that reliable, or honest.

Twitter followers, Facebook friends, mailing list and newsletter subscribers… if you had to audit your subscriber list would you have even a quarter of those subscribers? A quarter was actually being nice. It is far more likely your subscribers and followers would reduce down to a very small fraction of those currently on your list. But, web publishers don’t yet have to face subscriber audits. I worked in the circulation department of a magazine, a print magazine. Audits were a reality there. Print magazines have to verify their subscriber lists, the people on them have to be real and currently getting the magazine. Advertisers really like having that kind of data when they consider spending their money.

So far the web is different, generally.

As a web publisher are you satisfied with that?

Do you care how many of your followers, friends and subscribers are actually real people (and maybe reading your newsletter too)? You don’t have to care. You can just ignore the whole thing. It’s nice to say you have thousands of subscribers rather than audit it down to a handful.

About once a year I take an axe to my Twitter account. I’m not ruthless about it. I leave some accounts which don’t look very active and probably don’t really care what I’m posting, or if I’m posting. But, I do set limits. It’s a Twitter audit where I only have to please myself.

  • I stop following accounts which have not had a post in a year.
  • I stop following an assortment of accounts which never followed me back. This is not a petty thing – I just don’t see the point in trying to reach out to someone who doesn’t want to listen to me. (Many of those who don’t follow back are just follow-me-back accounts who love having big numbers of followers but long ago deleted you from their own list of followed accounts).
  • I also delete accounts which have nothing to say. If the last half dozen or so posts are all re-posted links… I don’t want to follow an automated account.

I know I still have a lot of accounts which are dud and dead accounts in some way. But, I leave them because it is nice to have some numbers. I’m not immune to that game.

I don’t run a newsletter because I know just how fast I can build a subscriber base – of bots, spammers and dud accounts. Thanks for nothing. I miss running a newsletter. I had a few over the years online. My best was called InkSplatters, for writers.

If you had to audit your followers and subscribers how would it go? Could you be brave and do it or is it just too nice to go along and pretend all those numbers are real?

Some day you may have to prove them. I don’t think digital media will be left to make claims of thousands of subscribers they don’t really have for much longer. At least not sites which want advertisers to pay them for their space.

The New Newsletters are sent in Boxes

I’ve been saying newsletters are not worth anyone’s time for awhile. When did you last really read a newsletter from your email inbox? I’ve nearly given up on email itself, so newsletters tend to go right to the outbox.

Speaking of boxes… have you noticed the trend to getting themed boxes of stuff sent through the mail? Snail mail, not email.

I’ve found a few so far, without really looking hard:

Today I found something bigger, smarter and very interesting, Quarterly.

quarterlycurators
Source: Online Quarterly Subscription and Gifting Services from Quarterly Co.

Quarterly is the new newsletter, vastly improved. The idea of getting people to pay for a box of things (themed but not predetermined) sent out every three months is going to catch on. How could it fail? Who hasn’t become at least slightly addicted to shopping online, getting a present delivered to your door? Now it can be a real surprise, created for you, every month (every 3 months on Quarterly). Are you curious enough to look at the site? You can see what has been sent in past boxes from the curators (as they are called) on the site.

I think it’s brilliant. People will subscribe and look forward to getting your newsletter and other goodies. They won’t just read your newsletter, they will pay to get it. Just considering it from a marketing point of view… it is pretty amazing.

But, I’m not so cynical. I love the idea of being a curator of mailed out boxes. I’ve already thought about what I could send and how I could get things to send. It’s like Christmas and birthday shopping to plan a surprise for others.

Of course it’s not so simple. There are plans to make, angles to consider and I need a theme that works. I’m not sure about working through Quarterly. I’m not a household name in any household but my own. Also, I’m not sure Quarterly (as a service) would help me in any way I couldn’t figure out to help myself. But, I loved seeing it today. It’s not the first to mail out gifts and presents, but it seems to be the first to collect them in a group – like an online catalog of people who want to give you unique gifts, and a newsletter.

Why Have a Membership Site?

I’ve been thinking of ways to keep my domains active, other than using them as blogs. Keeping a blog is time consuming, every day. I’d like to have a few sites active as blogs (those I can sustain reasonably) and find some other use for the rest. A complimentary use would be smarter than spinning off in another direction.

So, membership sites came up as an idea. Not only could I find another way to use the domains/ sites but they could manage to pull in some money which would make the whole thing a little self sufficient.

However, what sort of membership content would work for me and what would people find useful? This is where I am in my planning. I did find a post which had me thinking…

I’m going to share two different ideas for members only content. The first, value content, appeals to your audience from a learning and business perspective, while the second, insider content, appeals to your audience from a more curious angle. Either approach can be effective. Ideally you find a way to use them both.

Value content is content that will help your readers make money or do something they’re really interested in. It’s especially useful and relevant to your readers.

Insider content gives your audience some insight into you and your work routine or life. Humans are naturally curious and interested in people we admire. Entire TV shows and magazines are dedicated to documenting celebrity life.

Source: 3 membership site ideas

I’m not sold on Members only content. Yes, it likely works for many people. But, it also makes more to keep track of and organize for the site owner. I’d need to schedule more content. Content in addition to my regular posts. Likely, longer posts which would take more time to write. Considering I want to work my way back to daily posting, this type of content is not sustainable for me.

Instead a membership could be for use of a discussion forum which the site owner moderates or live content/ chats. The live chat, podcasts and etc. could be kept available as archives (when the content is a month old, not so fresh that a membership has no real value) for your site readers. But, members get the time spent with you to ask questions, get feedback, etc.

There is also the ebook or newsletter. I’d consider an ebook, but keeping it fairly short. I’m not at all keen on the newsletter idea. I really don’t think anyone still reads those. I don’t.

Of these ideas the discussion forum seems the most sustainable for me. But, is it useful enough for people to want a membership?

Writers Needed for Christmas in Canada

EXCITING NEWS FOR WRITERS!
From Janet Matthews

Canadian Co-author of
Chicken Soup for the Canadian Soul

We need your stories for a brand new Canadian title…

Chicken Soup for the Soul
Christmas in Canada!

101 Stories about the Joy and Wonder of the Holidays, Canadian Style!

I’m very excited to let you, as writers, know about this great opportunity to get published. I’m hoping you will forward it to your members, include it in your newsletter, and/or post it on your website. Here’s why:
In October we released O Canada The Wonders of Winter,and the publisher was so pleased they’ve asked us to create another Canadian title for Christmas 2014! We received submissions from writers across Canada that belong to groups like this, and many of them were published!

We need true, dramatic stories, 1200 words or less, that take place at Christmas time in Canada. (Yes, you get paid!) Here are just some examples of topics:
• Festivals of lights, Hanukkah, Boxing Day, New Year’s and other holiday traditions and events that come with a great story
• Creches, passion plays and church events
• The fun – or challenges – of winter weather at Christmas
• Adapting your celebration when the weather gets in the way (like the 2013 ice storms – we KNOW there are some great stories out there – do you have one?)
• The tree… and other decorating traditions
• Love and Romance at Christmas
• Acts of kindness and generosity – in the true spirit of Christmas
• Hockey!…and all winter sports at Christmas
• Family ties and reunions, children, and friends old and new
• Heroes in our midst – at Christmas
• Neighbours and Community, and Christmas in Canada for new Canadians
• Animals at Christmas
• Family lore – those stories you tell over and over again!
• Christmas in the north – First Nation stories

Our publication date is October 2014, so the deadline for stories is May 30th.
For full writers guidelines and how to submit your story, visit my website, www.janetmatthews.ca or www.canadiansoul.com.

I wish you great success, and I really hope to hear from you!

Love to you,
Janet Matthews
Co-author of
Chicken Soup for the Canadian Soul &
Chicken Soup for the Soul O Canada
The Wonders of Winter
janet@janetmatthews.ca
PS: One more thing. It would be so great if you could pass this message along to your friends and family and other writers…who may have a story! EVERY bit of help is really appreciated!

How to Write a Good Newsletter

We used to make zines with typed and photocopied pages. Those were the old days, before desktop publishing, computers and the whole concept of publishing on the Internet. Now, people are creating email newsletters to promote their online services and businesses. In between are the old, real newsletters which can still be created, written, planned, published and distributed to make money in the real (offline) world.

Consider making money with a real newsletter, in real print (not on the Internet).

Consider how many online newsletters you have actually read lately compared to the actual print newsletter which you pick up while you are out somewhere and likely read during some of your offline down time. I read the same print newsletter every month. It’s distributed through the family restaurant where I like to have a leisurely breakfast out a few times a month. I watch for the latest newsletter there. It’s sponsored by local businesses (it makes money by publishing their ads) and the content is light and simple. If the same content were on a website I would pass it by. But, when I’m just sitting there, enjoying a slow pace, that newsletter gets read and I enjoy it.

The print newsletter is not dead, it’s just a little rusty, dusty and over looked.

Make money writing a print newsletter you can distribute in your local community. Once you have a basic product (the newsletter) get paid advertising to make money from it all.

Open Source (Free) Graphics Editors

Desktop Publishing Software

The Business Plan

Start by looking at what sort of newsletter already exists in your area. You can get ideas from them and decide how you will compete with them. What could you bring that would get new readers, bring new information and attract local businesses to advertise in your newsletter?

Talk to local businesses and see who would be interested in in advertising and what kind of money they would consider fair and reasonable. It would be a good plan to approach them with a mock up of your print newsletter and a distribution plan. This way you will be ready to answer (at least some of) their questions.

Printing and Distributing the Newsletter

You need to find a local printer. Try offering free ad space in exchange for a discount on the cost of printing the newsletter. But, don’t choose a printer based on price alone. You want someone who can print the newsletter on time, without printing errors. One thing you can do is ask about left over paper stock from other jobs they have printed. You could get a bargain on paper someone else ordered and then didn’t use.

Printers can fold and/ or staple newsletters for you but that is an extra cost. Consider doing your own folding – at least until you are making money and can afford to spend on a few nice extras.

Is your newsletter being distributed in store fronts or mailed out? Options for distribution need to be considered based on cost, effectiveness and how well you can track the issues you put out versus how many were read by people. You need to know this for your advertisers. They want to know their ads are being seen.

Passive distribution means you leave your newsletter in public areas where people will pick it up. Active distribution means you have to know who you are sending your newsletter to, you will need to create and build up a mailing list of subscribers. If you use active distribution you can also consider having paying subscribers versus free subscriptions. People might pay for a subscription to a print newsletter if the content were valuable to them in particular. A general sort of newsletter isn’t likely to find a lot of people interested in paid subscriptions.

Read More

How to Write a Christmas Newsletter

Who’re is Not a Word

This was a word sent out in a newsletter by a writer, for writers: who’re.

I had to look twice. I thought it was whore for a spilt second. But that didn’t use the punctuation and it made no sense in the sentence.

Who’re, on the other hand, is not a word. Not a real word. It is a mangled word which should be who are. I don’t think even who are was used right. But, it was better than who’re.

Which sounds to you?:

Who are you?

OR

Who are coming?

Who are reading?

Who are writing?

etc.

I do not promise to be a great or perfect writer, especially when it comes to grammar. But, I try to keep up the standards as I have risen to thus far. Meaning, I try not to sink any lower than I already am. Lets all try to do the same, if not better.

Publishing a Hyper Local Print Newsletter

Small publishing and distributing a print newsletter with ads, to make some money. Could you do it? Would you do it? Is a small community newsletter/ newspaper a good idea for a home based business, for you?

Articlesbase: What Does it take to Publish a Community Magazine?

Newspapers Canada FAQ

Chron: How do Free Community Papers Make Money?

AZCentral: How do Free Community Papers Make Money?

eHow: How to Create Fliers for Free – a bit of desktop publishing using non-traditional software.

How to Publish a Small Newspaper

Tools Needed to Start a Newspaper Business

How to Start a Newspaper

How to Make Money with a Local Newspaper

How to Start a Small Newspaper Business

How to Write Your Own Advice Column

Writing an advice column sounds fun and easy. Until you think about being responsible for the thoughts and actions of the person who takes your advice. Then it gets a little scary. None of us are omnipotent, all knowing. After all, how often do you take your own advice?

If you want to be an advice writer (and you don’t have some kind of background in therapy, psychology or anything else to particularly give you credentials) you can break into advice writing by doing it yourself. Start your own advice column.

Writing your own advice column will take a lot of promotion of yourself and the column you write. Be prepared to put yourself out there, especially if you tend to be the quiet type versus the social butterfly. If you really have a hard time with the social side then round up a friend to be your PR (public relations) person. You’re going to need friends to get you started in other ways too. Who do you think will be writing those first letters for your advice?

Finding a Niche for your Advice Column

These days, when there are already lots of advice columnists, you will need something to make yourself different. This can be your witty sense of humour, but it might be simpler to start out with a theme. I especially like the idea which started Dead Advice (though the site is now dormant).

Think about your own background, the things which interest you and consider a topic which you can sustain over a long time. Something you can keep fresh and have new opinions and ideas about for a long lasting column. You might focus on people fresh from divorce – if you have experience in that area. You might focus on new Mothers – if you have been a new Mother yourself. You might give advice to Grandparents, from the perspective of a new Mother.

Perhaps your advice is less personal and intimate, career oriented or more about how to do things than writing about feelings and emotions. You might write advice for people who work in office cubicles, customer service, online craft sellers, freelance writers, musicians, inventors, dog lovers, figure skaters, tourists, fast food vendors, beauty school drop-outs, any career, business or hobby. There are endless genres and topics and circles of people which you would be suitable to give advice.

If you really aren’t sure what niche you could fill, think about the last time you gave someone advice. Who did you give the advice to? What was the situation? What made you feel competent to give the advice you gave at the time?

When Giving Advice…

Read the question carefully, more than once. Understand what is really being asked under the emotions, the frustration or negative feelings expressed. As you begin your reply work in the original question, repeating back the information in order to make clear communication.

Stay focused on the main question, the point of the advice asked for. Don’t wander off topic into your own personal issues or agenda. You don’t need to judge your readers, lecture them or over explain things and make them feel belittled or stupid. Give them options for moving forward, whatever the problem may have been. Give them empathy and ideas, stay optimistic rather than discouraging them.

Give the reader different view points, a fresh perspective and help them see solutions which they may have been too close to the issue to see themselves. Show your readers the skills they have (and may have forgotten, or taken for granted) which could help solve the problem. Often people just need someone telling them to focus on what they do have, rather than what they don’t have. To look for what they want to find, rather than focusing on the things they don’t like.

If you don’t know the answer, or the question is somehow more than you can handle, don’t just answer it anyway, hoping for the best. Write back to the reader, explain that they are asking too much from an advice column but also, offer them other resources where they can get trained/ skilled help.

Get Writing It!

When you know what you are going to write, it’s time to decide how you will write it. This is the same for any writer in any topic. Should you choose a newsletter, a weblog? What about a podcast? Maybe you want to create a zine (an independent print publication)? The format should be something that will work for you. Consider the ups and downs of each and decide which of them you can work with and distribute to readers/ listeners.

At first you will have to begin your advice column with letters you write yourself for advice, or get family and friends to take this seriously and write the letters for you. Unless you are trying to write a humourous advice column, don’t start out with tacky, soap opera sounding advice requests. Begin as you mean to go on, as they say.

As you answer the advice you will find your voice, your tone, your personality and your perspective. Try at least a few practice letters before you begin to publish anything. Having your niche isn’t enough, now you need to find your style too. Are you practical and sensible, witty, sharp, or even abrasive? Is your column going to be snarky, for the point of making fun of people or genuine and sincere?

Whatever voice and style you choose, make sure you can maintain it for the long haul. You also want to develop loyal readers. People who will make up your fan base and stick with you each week, or as often as you publish. In order to find readers who stick with you and believe in your advice you need to be both visible and predictable as a publisher. Pick a publishing schedule and stick to it. If you need to be away, announce it first and give a return date. Answer comments from readers on your posts or in your forums, contact forms, etc. Try to answer every reader comment in less than a week and give readers an expected response time when they leave comments. Respond quickly and give them the feeling of having your personal attention and being someone you wanted to reply to.

Don’t forget to actually ask readers to send in their questions for your advice. Never assume people will understand this without being given instructions. Use a contact form in your blog for people to send you questions. Or, give them an email address which you have created just for the advice column. (You can set up a new email address on Gmail or another web account for free). Give instructions for asking advice in the top of the newsletter/ site and give the instructions again at the end of your site/ newsletter. (Don’t use the same text – write it differently for people who didn’t understand the first instructions for whatever reason).

Treat your readers well, promote your column and give good, authentic advice from a real human being – those are the important things for publishing your own advice column. Good luck and have fun with it.

Do Your Subscribers Count?

The Internet gurus will still try to tell people to push newsletters and getting subscribers they can send regular emails about site updates, sales, new products or services, etc.

I say, that is a dead end. I will subscribe to newsletters and sites but I don’t read them. They just become more clutter in my email inbox, added to the general noise I try to ignore until the day I get annoyed enough to jump through whatever hoops it takes to delete my subscription. Never read.

Why do I subscribe in the first place? You already know the answer. Why do you subscribe to the newsletters and blog update feeds which you never get around to reading in your email? You had good intentions, it sounded interesting at the time, there was an offer of a free ebook… etc.

If you want to prove the worth of having subscribers, people you contact regularly through email, test it out yourself.

Without begging, bitching or bribing send out your next regularly scheduled email to your subscribers and ask them to do one simple thing, leave a comment on your Twitter account. (Or whichever social media you choose other than your blog/ site itself). Don’t try to cheat the test by using Twitter, Facebook and etc to push people to post a comment for your test. You only cheat yourself.

If you count on having subscribers who not only read your newsletter but actually read and take action based on your tips, advice, sales, etc… where are they now? A huge list of subscribers isn’t worth anything if you can’t get them to take some form of action. How does it benefit you – other than bragging rights to having a huge subscriber base?

Subscribers who aren’t interested in your site, your newsletter, your brand, your product or service aren’t worth anything in reality. Find another way to communicate. Something that actually works.