At the end of 2013 I thought it would be interesting to create a C# focused weekly newsletter. I registered the domain and created a website and hooked it up to the excellent MailChimp email service. The site went live (or at least Google Analytics was added to the site) on the 18th December 2013.
And then I kind of forgot about it for a year or so.
In the mean time the website was getting subscribers. Not many but enough to suggest that there’s an appetite for a weekly C# focused newsletter.
The original website was a simple affair, just a standard landing page written using Bootstrap. Simple it may have been, but rather effective.
I figured that I might as well give the newsletter a go. Whilst the audience wasn’t very big (it still isn’t), it was big enough to give some idea whether the newsletter was working or not.
I’ve now curated eight issues, I thought it about time to take stock. The first issue was sent on Friday 27th February 2015 and has been sent every Friday since.
The number of subscribers has grown over the last eight weeks, starting from a base of 194 subscribers there are now 231. A net increase of 37 in eight weeks. Of course there have been unsubscribes, but the new subscribers each week have always outnumbered them.
The website traffic has also trended upwards over the last year, especially since the first issue was curated. Now there are a number of pages on the website, the site is receiving more traffic from the search engines. The number of visitors is not high, but at least progress is being made.
I started a Google Adwords campaign for the newsletter fairly early on. The campaign was reasonably successful while it lasted. Unfortunately, the website must have tripped up some kind of filter because the campaign was stopped. Pitty because the campaign did convert quite well. I did appeal the decision and I was informed that Google didn’t like the fact that the site doesn’t have a business model and that it links out to other websites a lot. Curiously, both charges could have been levelled at Google in the early days.
The weekly newsletter itself is a lot of fun to produce. During the week I look out for interesting and educational C# related content and tweet it via the @C# Weekly twitter account. I then condense all of the twitter content into a single email once a week on a Friday. Not all of the tweeted content makes it into the weekly issue. There is often overlap between content produced during the week so I get to choose what’s best.
The job of curating does take longer than I originally anticipated. I suspect that each issue takes the better part of a day to produce, which is probably twice the time I anticipated. Perhaps, when I’m more experienced, I will be able to reduce the time taken to produce the issue without reducing the quality.
Time will tell.
I can certainly recommend curating a newsletter from the perspective of learning about the topic. Even after only eight weeks I feel like I have learned quite a lot about C# that I wouldn’t otherwise have known, especially about the upcoming C# version 6.
If you want to learn about a topic, I can certainly recommend curating a newsletter as a good learning tool.
One of my better ideas over the last year was to move over to Curated, a newsletter service provider founded by the folks who run the very successful iOS Dev Weekly newsletter. The tools provided by Curated have helped a lot.
One of the best features of Curated is the statistics it provides for each issue. You can learn a lot from discovering which content subscribers are most interested in. You won’t be surprised to find that the low level C# content is the most popular.
The only minor problem I’ve found is that my dog eared old site actually converted subscribers at a higher rate than my current site. The version 1 site was converting at around 18% whereas the current site is converting at around 13%.
I have a few ideas around why the conversion rate has dropped. The current site is a bit drab and needs to be spruced up a little bit. In addition, the current site displays previous issues, including the most recent issue on the home page. I wonder if having content on the home page actually distracts people from subscribing.
All told curating a newsletter is fun. I can thoroughly recommend it.