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Blogging vs Email – Is Blogging Dead?

Posted By Darren Rowse 10th of July 2010 Miscellaneous Blog Tips 0 Comments

mailicon.pngOver the last couple of years a number of fairly prominent bloggers have decided to shut down their blogs and move their communications to subscription only email newsletters. Bloggers such as Jason Calacanis, Joel Spolsky and Sam Lessin were three (all mentioned in this post on Gigaom).

Some of these have moved to a free email subscription while others have gone to a paid model.

I’ve had a number of readers ask for my response to this and asking:

  • is blogging dead?
  • do I have to choose between email and blogging?
  • should those starting out start with a blog or email?

Side note: In some ways I think that this post is pretty funny. Only a year or two back we were debating whether RSS had killed email and now people are debating whether email has killed blogging!

Today I thought I’d jot down a few random thoughts on the topic – I hope they add something useful for those pondering the topic:

1. It’s not an either or choice

My own experience over the last few years has been that things have really taken off for me when I’ve taken a dual approach. While I initially put all my eggs in the blogging (with an RSS subscription) model – I discovered a couple of years back that when I developed a newsletter along side a blog that my business really took off.

Over at digital photography school we are approaching half a million subscribers (combined total of RSS and email) – less than a quarter of these are RSS subscribers. Adding email as an option has expanded our potential reach incredibly.

2. Blogs build profile

One of the reflections that I’d have on the above 3 people who have abandoned blogs is that they’ve each used blogging to build their profiles. They have all done other worthwhile things to build their authority, credibility and reach – but part of what has enabled them to make their email subscription model work is that they had an established audience (partly from their blogging).

To start out with just an email subscription service and make it successful is not impossible – but I suspect some other kind of web presence (whether it be blogging, life streaming, Twitter etc) will help.

I guess it comes down partly to the stage you’re at as an online entrepreneur and how established your network is. If you’re well known, have a network already in some way and have the ability to pull numbers of email subscribers then it’s probably something to consider. But if you’re starting out online – you’ll probably need some kind of site or other presence online to help get the ball rolling.

3. Homebases

One of the things that I find useful about having a blog is that it gives me a ‘home base’. I’ve written about the importance of having a place that you control and that readers can find you (a home base) before and for me a blog is the ideal way to do this.

Email has become increasingly powerful in my own business over the last few years but part of the success for me has been that I’ve had a homebase.

For me having a blog alongside email does two things.

Firstly the blog helps me to drive people to sign up for the newsletter. We try to write the most useful content that we can – content that not only helps our existing readers but also the kind of content that they share and that leads new people to us via social media, search engines and word of mouth. Any new person landing on our site almost always finds us through the blog (a few do it via the forum but the blog is #1).

As a result we’re able to grow our email newsletter subscribers by around 800 new people per day.

Secondly – the email drives people back to the blog. In some ways our emails are like a condensed version of our RSS feed. So every week our email readers are being driven back to our blog in massive numbers.

Screen shot 2010-07-09 at 11.55.00 AM.png

It might seem a little silly to have a blog that drives people to email which drives people back to the blog – but without the email first time readers would arrive on our blog and never return.

Of course being able to drive people back to the blog in large numbers allows us to monetize it – through advertising, some affiliate stuff, selling our own products etc.

I guess my main concern with only going with email is where the growth will come from in new subscribers if its not out there for people to see, taste and be drawn into. Interestingly some of those who do emails then post their emails on the web in an archive – which in some ways isn’t that dissimilar to a blog.

4. It’s all about your business ‘model’

I guess ultimately it’s about the business model you’re using. I monetize in a variety of ways including advertising (ad networks and direct ad sales), affiliate marketing, selling my own products and more. Some of these could certainly be done purely through an email model but others could not.

For example running ad network ads is something you can’t do via email (at least not the major ones). I could certainly sell ads directly to advertisers, do affiliate marketing or sell my own products via email – but the markets I’m working in seem to respond best when I take a multi-pronged approach (communicating in email, on blogs and via social media).

For me targeting multiple mediums increases the reach significantly.

5. Other factors to consider

The more I think about the more I realise that there are many other factors at play in these kinds of decisions. They would include:

  • audience – who are you writing for and what mediums are they familiar with and a part of their workflow?
  • style – your own style of communication is going to definitely play a part here. The differences between email and blogging are subtle but you’ll find that your style will lend itself to different mediums. Some people just have a knack with email while others are much more engaging on a blog, in video or in short form like Twitter.
  • interaction – emails don’t have a comments section. This will be attractive to some (no more moderation) or unattractive to others. Of course people will comment (replying to emails, on social media etc) but one of the great things that happens on some blogs is the public discussion that happens after a post goes live – a communal experience that often adds a lot to a post. I guess it depends whether what you’re doing lends itself to communal interaction.

6. Will it end up looking like a blog?

I’ve had a number of conversations with people about this lately and about ideas to develop email subscription services. One conversation with someone pitching the idea of an email subscription was that he’d post his emails on a website so that new people could see what he was sending, get indexed in Google and so people could share them with friends.

When I asked whether he’d miss the comments people give he agreed and said he’d add a comments section to that website.

My reflection was simply that it was starting to look like a blog with the option to subscribe via email.

Final reflections

I’m certainly not anti the idea of email or even focusing solely upon email subscriptions instead of blogging – however I guess it comes down to what you want to achieve, who you want to speak to, what your current situation, and profile is, whether you’ve got time to do multiple mediums and what kind of medium best suits your style.

What other factors would need to be considered in making such a decision?

About Darren Rowse
Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
  1. Thank you, thank you, Darren.

    I’m a real newbie. I’ve been working on getting my blog to the “good enough” stage since March. I “got there” less than a week ago on June 30th, and I announced it to friends, family, business colleagues & acquaintances via email to my Outlook address book. I quickly learned the limitations of THAT and have been putting some effort to learn about “list building” and email services. I am SO GLAD I subscribed to your blog (at least I think that’s what I did) so that I got an email today with this Blog Post.

    You’re on my team now!!! And I’m on your team!!! You rock!!!

    Tom Huntington

  2. You need to have both. I agree with you, you need the “home base” and then from there you can build whatever you want.

    I personally believe if you do one or another, it won’t work. You need to have both to make your business successful to make money on the internet.

    Given that there are over 120 million blogs out there and growing daily, it does begs the question… however, an email list is not going to come easily if one don’t have a base to build it… that base is the blog.

  3. I don’t think that it is an either/or situation – in fact, I think that the two are just part of the ‘puzzle’ that we call ‘the web’.

    If a blog is linked to email which fits with several social media sites and travels back to a web page which interacts with a blog… and then, when that overlaps with another blog and starts a whole new circle ~ then I think there is more opportunity to interact with your potential ‘audience’ and provide your service or product to a greater number of people.

    So I see ’email’ and ‘blog’ as just parts of a larger continuous whole. The important thing is to have definite links and a common thread so that all of the puzzle pieces fit together and make ‘a total picture’ that states exactly who you are and why you are ‘there’.


  4. On one of my blogs 75% of the traffic comes from search engines. I don’t know how I would replicate that with email alone.

  5. I think we can switch to email blogging when we have so much subscriber. But how much will be enough?

    BTW, thank for shring, I have never think about it before.

  6. Hi Darren,

    You’ve made some excellent points and comments which led me to writing about this in a post and discussing it with a friend of mine who does only emailed newsletters.

    Her newsletters (only) have kept her visitors coming and her site growing but she has wondered about setting up a blog to work in conjunction with them. Your article is PERFECT for so many who have had the same question.

    In my article/post, I ref-d back to you and this article and you’re welcome to see what my friend’s take has been with how newsletters and email have worked in her case

    GREAT WORK and I know what you’ve written will help a lot of folks sort out “to blog or not to blog; that is the question.”

  7. Heya,
    somehow as i scrolled down each and every one of the comment, I somehow recall back the those days where I was woking purely on affiliate marketing,
    They say that money is in the list. nevertheless the more s-mail contacts you have, the better chance it is for your to make money online with affiliate marketing.
    however, i beg to differ. I did not wok on email marketing. not even one bit and I was still able to earn a decent amount.
    Instead, provide valuable content such as articles, forum commenting etc. which is very similar with blogging.
    i suppose its really up to ones personal preference. if you believe blogging is the way to go, then it will be. if you think email will inevitably drive you the money, then it will be . =)
    i was so sure I could do it without email marketing. somehow i did it . lol

  8. I completely agree with having a “homebase.” We have been blogging for about 7 months now for http://www.verosdental.com and maintain that as our homebase, while still sending out a quarterly (or sometimes monthly) newsletter, as we see fit. It provides ways for readers to link back to your site, inviting them to read previous posts if they perhaps weren’t receiving your newsletter at that time. Sometimes our newsletter articles end up looking like some of our blog posts, but it drives people to our website and provides credible material for our readers that might generate questions for our business.

  9. I don’t think that it is an either or senario. Email is outbound marketing and has advantages including getting some immediate business in the door. Blogging is a long term social media strategy for inbound i.e. once the blogger gets a following, he or she can expect inbound results. Each organization needs to work out an internet strategy that could include one or both of these tools.

  10. Great post. I agree that for most of us, we should be using both the blog and newsletter so we can appeal to a wider audience. As the www gets larger, people have difficulty keeping up with all of their favorite sites, so newsletters may be easier to manage. However, blogs tend to give that home base/professional/personal feel that most of us expect these days. (What? Your business is not online!?) My opinion: Blogging is not dead and newsletters are good :)

  11. Thanks for this post.

    That’s right that there is not an either or choice. Only the combination of both makes it perfect. I had the same experience, like you on my websites. So you are definitely right.

    I wrote a free book about email marketing, so that everyone can become an eMarketer in just one day.Then you know how to integrate email services in your own blog and grow it rapidly.

    The free book can be downloaded on http://www.gochimpgo.com.

    Thanks again for this nice blog post. Keep on writing about such topics!

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