There are plenty of way to have “automated” newsletters sent out based on your WordPress blog’s RSS feed. Feedburner and MailChimp, among other do this, and there’s nothing wrong with those services.
However, if you’d want to write content specifically for your weekly e-mail, RSS is not ideal. High quality e-mailings usually don’t simply copy blog posts, they’re carefullt crafted by copywriters to get as much response as possible. That’s why the idea of a newsletter-theme has been floating around in my head. Here’s what I’m thinking might work…
Using WordPress to author e-mail newsletters
- Set up a WordPress install on something like mycompany.com/newsletter.
- Write posts like you normally would.
- The theme renders the newsletter as e-mail-friendly HTML.
- Take the theme’s output and send it out using a bulk e-mail service of your choice.
- The WordPress install functions as a “read this online” fallback and image host.
- Ideally, the theme would have a custom taxonomy to group posts into newsletter issues.
I once spent a couple of weeks editing HTML mailings for use in a very high-end e-mail newsletter system that did not have a nice visual editor, and this idea is primarily aimed at the users of such systems. But even compared to more user-friendly systems, there’s a case to be made for using WordPress. Authoring in an environment you control makes it easier to switch mailing services, and WordPress adds near unlimited flexibility.
No plan, certainly not one as immature as this one, is perfect. Gathering statistics is critical with newsletters, and there’s tons of standard WordPress stuff that the theme would have to omit to keep the result e-mail client friendly. But I think a customizable newsletter theme for WordPress has potential. I’d love to hear what you think.