Digital newsletters: the biggest mistake you’re making, and how to fix it | The Giles Agency


So you’ve made the decision to go digital with your newsletter. Easy – simply take what you did for print and stick it in an email, right? Wrong.

The way a reader consumes content in print and online formats differs greatly; if you want to see success, you must take this into account when creating digital newsletters.

Why you can’t just replicate

Visuals take time to load

Often print is heavy on the visuals. However, in a digital format all of those images need to be hosted somewhere, so they’re ready to load when an email or webpage is opened. The more images you have, the longer this load time can take – and the worse the experience can be for your reader.

Inboxes fill up fast

People make a conscious decision to pick up and read print products when they have the time, but your email newsletter will be one of possibly hundreds of emails your reader receives in a single day. You need to have a hook, a reason for them want to open and read your content, and then just enough copy to keep them engaged – but not so much it looks like a novel on screen and they decide to move on.

You have one shot

Unlike print, where the physical nature of a newsletter means that it’s likely to lie around for a while and readers may therefore revisit it many times, digital requires a one-shot mindset. You have just one opportunity to get your recipients to engage with your content before it’s filed away along with many others for a rainy day that never comes.

Engagement can’t be an afterthought

You can be far more engaging with digital than you can with print – if you have the right mindset. You can link to other relevant content the reader might be interested in, point them towards your social pages for further (and more regular) interaction, include a mix of audiovisual and multimedia content, and so on. However, this needs to be integrated seamlessly, and not just added as an afterthought.

What to do instead

To tackle the transition, you must first decide on the format of your digital newsletter. There are many options, from interactive PDF to eDM, microsite, webpage(s) and more. The format is often dictated by the content, but you should also have a strong insight into your audience’s preferences, including what they’re most likely to find engaging and how this will fit into their daily habits and behaviour.

Once you’ve decided on the format, the next task is to tackle the content. Let’s say you’ve decided upon an eDM that links through to a webpage. First, you’ll need to divide up the content: in this scenario, the eDM will act as the hook that brings people through to the site. The eDM needs a strong subject line to lead to it being opening, and then the content should offer just enough information to entice a reader to click through, but not so much that if they do click then they’re presented with replicated information. It’s a delicate balance.

This also touches upon something important: your SEO strategy. If you go down a digital route where you host your newsletter on a webpage, you now have a golden opportunity to adapt your content in order to increase your site’s visibility to search engines (SEO). Your content should include top search keywords among your target demographic, and copy can be edited to include popular terms and phrases. Images can have the same effect; something as simple as including keywords in the names of your image files, adding alt text for when images don’t load, and optimising file sizes will help to boost your SEO.

Finally, it’s likely that the layout of your printed newsletter will work well for a double-page spread, but this design is unlikely to work for a website – it needs to be adapted so that the user interface (UI) is intuitive to web, and can be used by both mobile and desktop users.


So your first newsletter has gone out. Job done…

…or not! A huge benefit of going digital is the ability to optimise your content based on what is proving most appealing to your readers.

With print, it’s difficult to know which content within your newsletter your audience finds most engaging, but if you set up your tracking correctly in digital, you suddenly open up a whole world of possibilities to ensure that your readers are as engaged as possible. The simplest tracking to set up is for email, where every click and scroll can be monitored – most email platforms will show you the proportion of an email that’s been read, which parts have been skimmed, and what has been engaged with most strongly. Even knowing which of your recipients actually opened an email gives you a strong insight into what’s working and what isn’t. With print, you can simply send and hope.

Want to discuss going digital with your content? Get in touch now for a chat about how digital could work for you.