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Internet newsletter marketing--then and now.

In October of 1994, nearly a decade ago, I attended the Direct Marketing Association meeting in San Francisco, including a special add-on session on "Marketing on the World Wide Web." The room was packed, people were standing along the walls and sitting in the aisles to see slides of website pages.

From the questions, I could tell that 90 percent of the delegates were as ignorant of the web as I was--although during the meeting I had dinner with two young Ph.D. candidates who told me in no uncertain terms that the web was and always would be the exclusive domain of academia and its pristine glory would never be soiled by (Yeech!) marketing.

And, in the wonderful ways of newsletter editing, in just a year, by October 1995, I was an expert writing thumbsuckers on "Where Are We Now in Internet Marketing?" and "What Will the Future Hold for the WWW?" In one such piece I interviewed seven different big-name marketers.

I'll allow them to remain anonymous now for the most part and I won't reveal who said, "Name one internet marketing success story. There aren't any."

Or, "Direct marketers who are currently besotted with the internet are throwing away millions of dollars 'getting ready for the future.' A new marketing concept that is 180 degrees from traditional marketing techniques simply will be--at best--a minor player in the media mix. At least in my lifetime (he's still with us) and probably yours."

At the time I concluded that I'd been talking mostly to copywriters, and their stock-in-trade, of course, has been putting words together in ways to convince people to part with their money--inspired by Maxwell Sackheim who wrote, "Do You Make These Mistakes in English?" and John Caples who penned, "They Laughed When I Sat Down at the Piano."

But in the way online marketing appeared to be developing at the time, there didn't seem to be much scope for great, creative copy.

But I will give credit to Jim Rosenfield who said, "Predictions about technology are never correct, and nothing anyone is saying about the Information Superhighway [when was the last time you heard that term?] has anything to do with what it will be like."

Fast forward to 2004

So what does internet marketing look like in 2004?

* Almost every newsletter publisher has a website. It's become a little like accepting credit cards. Having a presence on the web--putting that URL on all your materials--helps establish your bona fides as a legitimate publishing business.

* Newsletter publisher websites are giving away less "free information" than some once did, but we're still fighting the mindset of "information wants to be free."

* The basic marketing tool is the soft offer. Sign up and receive one, two or four issues free--"Just write cancel on the bill." Yes, these offers do attract a lot of tire-kickers and the conversion to paid isn't much higher than response rates to direct mail, but it does bring in orders at almost no incremental cost.

* Despite the fears of my 1995 "experts," copywriters agree that (although there's little room for long copy) online marketing relies on the same proven principles of any copwriting--strong, direct, benefits-heavy writing, often complemented by "meaningful content."

Strong, creative copy is strong, creative copy--whether in the mail or online. Stick to the basics and you cannot lose.

NL/NL's experience

* NL/NL has been pleasantly surprised by results from our website, It's a typical small publisher's site.

It offers a two-issue free trial, and at the end of the month the prospect either cancels or is billed or charged against the credit card account he or she provided at the onset.

Every month people search the web for newsletters, find us, and decide to subscribe.

Publisher Paul Swift admits (at least in private until now) that he hasn't undertaken any elaborate online marketing campaigns.

Our promotion is limited to a six-paragraph welcome letter stating some benefits of subscribing and telling them about the free premium they receive with their paid sub.

Swift says that, despite such weak efforts, about 10 percent of his subscribers now "have come over the internet transom."
COPYRIGHT 2004 The Newsletter on Newsletters LLC
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2004, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:DM Notebook
Author:Goss, Fred
Publication:The Newsletter on Newsletters
Date:Sep 7, 2004
Previous Article:Your pioneering editor gains allies in high places in lowercasing internet.
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