SIDEBAR: JESSE BERST: THE PERSONALITY FACTOR.
Until recently, AnchorDesk was part of Ziff-Davis's ZDNet collection of Web services, and the newsletter still appears on the ZDNet site (now owned by c:net). But Berst recently launched a new company, IZ Inc., that produces private-label e-mail newsletters; Berst and the IZ editors now write AnchorDesk under contract to ZDNet and plan to replicate the AnchorDesk model with additional newsletters on topics like music, sports, business, movies, and cooking. We asked Berst to talk about what makes an e-mail newsletter successful:
* Personality: "Human beings are social by nature," Berst says. "The more people know about you, the more they want to know about you." Berst and his fellow AnchorDesk columnists are deliberately positioned as "characters" with opinions, private lives, and even pets who show up occasionally in the newsletter. AnchorDesk readers tend to welcome these familiar personalities, says Berst. "Your inbox is a personal place where you get mail from other persons, and when it gets too full, we filter messages by who they're from. Certainly 'webmaster@big-rich- company.com' doesn't make the grade."
* Relevance: "As our audience has broadened, the things that rate really high on clickovers have changed, too. People now look for product information, help and how-to stories, how to get more out of their PCs, a look at the future of the PC. Once in a while, the geopolitical struggles of a Microsoft pop up on the radar, but not as much as in the early days of the newsletter."
* Skimmability: "We work really hard to write for people who skim, not for people who read," says Berst. "It's kind of a telegraph style--very lean, only the essentials, never a pun or anything cute that might be confusing." At the same time, he adds, the writing has to convey "just enough" personality to make each columnist sound like an individual. "It's a balancing act," says Berst.
* Audience participation: Most AnchorDesk articles include a moderated "talkback" feature that usually attracts dozens of reader comments, which are posted on the newsletter's Web site. "We encourage people to interact right on the page, and we bend over backwards to put up opposing views," says Berst. "There are some articles where the opinions of our readers really enrich and enlighten the newsletter."
Jesse Berst, president, IZ Inc., 2310 130th Ave., Bellevue, Wash. 98005; 425/883-2883. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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|Date:||Nov 15, 2000|
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