Sorry, we’re not going to CLICK HERE to download your .doc or .pdf to read more…

I receive e-newsletters from congregations and districts across the UUA.  Recently I’ve noticed that some are trying to move to a format where they have teaser paragraphs and ask you to “click here” to read more.
That is often a great strategy, however it does not work if clicking results in a .doc or .pdf to download.   If you are trying to get members of our congregations to read something, if you tease ’em you better deliver the goods online.  Otherwise we’re going to abort and move on.  We’re trying to crank through too much email to bother donwloading your file and opening Word to read more.

Take all that “read more” content and put it either on your primary website or an official blog hosted on a site like WordPress or Blogger. Your email marketing service may be telling you that people are clicking to read more, but that is deceptive.   Many of us are not.

What do you think?  Do you like e-newsletters with full articles included, snippets leading to full stories on websites, other formats?

18 thoughts on “Sorry, we’re not going to CLICK HERE to download your .doc or .pdf to read more…

  1. Exactly! Particularly in a world of malicious software it is not a good idea to ask people download documents. I would agree that most people just won’t do it. I like the snippet that leads to a full web article.

  2. This has been a pet peeve of mine for years. As denominational affairs representative, my job was to pass along notices from my district to the congregation. Their use of PDF format and the inability to send attachments on our email list meant I had to RE-TYPE notices to pass them along. Frustrating!

  3. Agreed, both viruses and time are a concern to me. Click-through links that take me to another window immediately with no download are fine, though.

  4. My main point is, look how Oprah does it. Her eblasts contain a few articles with a subject, and maybe one full sentence and then a link to the remaining material on the website. I’m sure a lot of time and money went into figuring out that system, so if it works for her, it’ll work for anyone.

  5. The Alban Institute does a nice job with their “Alban Weekly” newsletter. They use Constant Contact, and include enough of the article (the first two paragraphs) to give an idea of what it is about, plus some additional links to related books.

  6. It’s actually the additional work from the administration side that I find most frustrating in this. Set your site up with title, excerpt and link and you can get exactly the same content in your RSS feed, itemize each post for easy sharing to facebook and twitter, integrate it into aggregated news feeds on a district site, etc. You can even automate the production of your whole newsletter using Mailchimp’s RSS feed to Newsletter function (and they’re now free for up to a thousand person list, so take a look).

    I’m all for making things as easy as possible to share and allowing people to read news in whatever manner they like best, not forcing them down a single path.

  7. Our church has had the issue that even if someone puts the church on their “White list,” if they are a Verizon customer and the newsletter has too many links, Verizon will decide it is Spam and bounce it. So we just put the text of the link without hyperlinking.

  8. Some pro-PDF arguments, for the sake of completeness.

    There’s news, and then there’s news. Some things you don’t want right out there on your web site – identified photos of children, people’s phone numbers, that sort of thing. Those things should be behind a password, regardless of the format, and just dumping the newsletter into an HTML file and posting it is not good policy. Be aware of who the news is intended for, and protect it accordingly.

    However, I think the main reason to keep newsletters in PDF format is that it relieves the church’s administrator/pubs person from having to reformat everything, essentially laying out a second newsletter, after having spent x days laying out and formatting the print/PDF newsletter.

    1. I agree that privacy should be an important consideration, but given that most churches leave copies on their front table for anyone to take I’m not sure we’ve ever really been as concerned as we think we are when the issue of the internet comes up. Incidentally, for those using WordPress, there’s a great function that allows you to simply mark little bits of a text as visible only to people who are logged into your site using a short code like [private]hidden stuff here[/private]. Good way to restrict info to only members.

      I think your second point is important too. Think about the workflow and information flow whenever any change like this is made. Adobe InDesign uses properly formatted XML that is easy to convert. Word does not. But also consider which one you give primary importance to. If more people want your info to read on their computer, why not format for that first and then print it out for people who want the physical copy to read. The more that we embrace a culture of sharing, the more we’ll want that information electronically.

      If I can share my pet peeve, it’s actually newsletters in general. Why produce a newsletter at the end of the month to share information with me that you could have given me two weeks earlier when it got submitted. The number of early-month church functions I’ve missed because the newsletter comes out late and I’ve already scheduled something else is really quite high. Newsletters are like bad information bottlenecks.

  9. Constant Contact and other email announcement systems that require, encourage, and/or promote the use of HTML-formatted email are a security risk:

    This article comes from Brian Krebs “Security Fix” computer security blog that used to run on the Washington Post web site:

    “Do Away With HTML Based E-mail”

    It’s a few years old but it’s still true.

    If you need to send out email announcements, limit them to plain text and web links that are not embedded. HTML formatted email is a bigger security risk than the one coming from downloading PDF documents. Downloading a document requires a bit more intentionality and many computer users configure their antivirus software to scan downloads automatically. Malicious HTML code in an email executes when you read the email (or preview it if you’ve got that enabled in Microsoft Outlook).

    1. Thanks Steve. That is a sobering thought. Though I do get html emails from most of the larger companies / organizations I am in relationship with. Is the message to not send HTML emails or to make sure you are a trusted source?

    2. Constant Contact and other formatted email services aren’t the culprit here, Steve. Yes, there are devious people exploiting vulnerabilities in formatted email, but it’s really clear which way the river is flowing—and both consumers/constituents and organizations have too much to gain from formatted email for this trend to be reversed.

      The reality is that most email users aren’t going to switch away from HTML email. Peter is right: The more important consideration is whether you or your organization are trusted and trustworthy senders. I would add that finding a way to provide a good text-only option for subscribers is also important. (And that’s something I don’t think Constant Contact makes very easy to do.)

      1. When you sign-up for a Constant Contact driven e-newsletter the main page where you select your interests and provide contact info has a very clear option to check your preferred email format.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s