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Digital vs. Print Business Newsletters: Is One Better Than the Other?

     A newsletter is an important element of communication for any company. Newsletters can be used to inform employees of company policy or policy changes that may affect them as employees of the company. Newsletters can also be a vital part of a business’ communication with its customer base. Business owners can use newsletters to inform customers of new product availability or special sales and promotions. Whether directed toward employees or customers, newsletters streamline communication making it easier for business owners to keep important information about their company flowing to those who need to know it.

     Traditionally, newsletters have been printed letters or magazines mailed out on a regular schedule, generally monthly or quarterly. However, with the rise in popularity of electronic communication, more and more companies are opting to either supplement their print newsletters with digital alternatives, usually in the form of email, or replace print newsletters all together. But, is replacing print publications always the best decision? The answer is it that is really depends on a company’s needs and its goals for the newsletter. In considering the question of whether a digital publication would a better fit for their business, there are several points for a business owner to consider.

     First, and possibly most important, is cost. Certainly, in the long run, an email newsletter is going to cost less to produce as well as send out. In a blog post written for Tingalls Graphic Design, author Steve Namio writes that electronic newsletters are less expensive to produce and distribute than their printed counterparts. He explains that this is due to the lack of higher printing and mailing costs that are associated with print publications. Lower cost could be especially beneficial for new or smaller companies with limited budgets

     The reduced cost ties well into another important advantage of digital publications – ease and convenience. The reduced financial cost means that digital newsletters can be produced more often than their printed counterparts. Even daily if needed. PS Print explains one advantage this provides is the ease with which smaller groups can be targeted with information specific to each group. For example, while a newsletter detailing changes to the company dress code might need to go to the entire employee base, a newsletter about changes to payroll deadlines only needs to go to employees who deal with payroll. Company-wide information such as dress code changes could probably be handled in a monthly publication whereas department specific information affecting the day to day running of the company will likely be needed more often. Thus, departmental communication could possibly be better handled by email.

     Given these two fairly big advantages, it could be easy to make the jump to the assumption that email newsletters would always be the best choice. And, indeed, in some cases they may very well be the best choice. But, when deciding which to implement for their company, there are a few additional things for a business owner to consider. One thing to keep in mind is that electronic communication can be much easier to ignore than print. PS Print goes on to explain that for all the ease and convenience of  producing and distributing electronic newsletters, there is one big disadvantage. Email is easy to delete and block. Because of this, electronic newsletters may only generate a response rate of about one-half percent compared to a rate of three to five percent for print newsletters. This means that email newsletters might be less than ideal for disseminating important information that a business owner needs employees or customers to read and understand.

     Another disadvantage of electronic communications is the amount of information that can be effectively included. Though they offer up advantages to both, UK based Parker Design Consultants Ltd. mentions this as a potential reason to favor print over digital newsletters. They point out that print publications allow the inclusion of more content and more in-depth detail than can be included in an email. This could be especially advantageous for a customer focused newsletter. With customer focused newsletters, more stories mean more opportunities to use each newsletter to connect with readers in meaningful and productive ways. More detail means the content is going to be more useful and practical. When offered in print, a single publication could serve as a catalog of product and services, advertisement for upcoming seasonal promotions, and a “how to” educational guide for customers on how to best use a new or unusual product offering.

     Parker Design Consultants, Ltd. goes on to list a few other possible print advantages as well. These include fewer distractions to allow the reader better focus and the potential for a printed page to be a refreshing break from the bombardment of screens facing readers today. These could work together with the previously mentioned benefits to make a print newsletter more beneficial in some circumstances.

     Email newsletters without a doubt offer some definite advantages over print publications. These are primarily cost and convenience. Lower cost can be useful for startups with limited budgets. Email can also be more practical when regular communication is needed throughout a larger company with specific information targeting different departments or smaller groups of employees. However, as we have seen, there are circumstance where print newsletters could offer some advantages. One such circumstance could be customer focused newsletters where the purpose is to create meaningful connections with the company’s customer base and increase opportunities for sales of products and services. So, it seems that regarding the question of whether email newsletters have an advantage over print newsletters, the answer is yes and no. Yes, in that there are times when email is clearly the better choice. However, no in that there will always be circumstances where print holds and advantage. Possibly, the best route would be for businesses to employ both, whenever it’s practical to do so, in order to enjoy all the advantages that accompany both electronic and print communication.