E-mail Newsletter Sites: The Strongest Link

Adam Graham-Silverman

E-MAIL NEWSLETTERS are nothing new, but with the advent of free list services, such as Yahoo’s eGroups, anyone can now disseminate information to friends, supporters and whomever else signs up.

Candidates are not the only ones to capitalize on the advantages mass e-mail provides. News sites, advocacy groups, parties and partisans are sharing their stuff with the world, sending out information at record levels every day. The messages can inform, promote a site, try to guide opinion or cause action, and many employ strategies that can be adapted to campaigns.

Most large news sites such as the Washington Post and ABC News offer newsletters. The Post’s Newsbytes allows users to customize the kind of news they receive — from tech info to international items — and the frequency of delivery. ABC News features “Jennings’ Journal,” written personally by anchor Peter Jennings each afternoon.

Often these messages offer little in the way or real news but instead drive traffic to the source sites, where it is easier to store and organize content — and let viewers see ads. The key e-mail offering, the link, brings Newsbytes users to the Post’s Newsbytes stories, while Jennings’ personal touch is intended to persuade readers to tune in to both the Web site and the TV newscast.

Smaller news outlets, however, can take greater advantage of the Web. An independent news group covering a state legislature, for example, would be unlikely to have the budget and equipment to put out a daily briefing on paper. But online, this type of group can simply update their site and send an e-mail out to subscribers. Minnesota’s Checks and Balances site, for example, sends out an e-mail alert with headlines whenever a new issue goes online. And when publisher Shawn Towle got an exclusive interview with Gov. Jesse Ventura in February, he put the audio up on the site and sent out a release. In Texas, Harvey Kronberg’s Quorum Report sends out a free message every morning called “News Clips You Need to See,” culled from his reporting and local news sources. Throughout the day, he sends out “Hot Buzz” updates on the latest news. Paid subscribers can get the full package — in-depth news, columns and a massive archive. In California, Calvoter.org sends out a lengthy newsletter that explains the state’s pol itical processes in detail, helping voters to understand initiative and candidate elections and giving observers an easy way to research new election developments in the state.

Part of the reason this approach is so successful is because it is updated on a regular schedule. Be it daily, weekly or at some other interval, once subscribers expect the news, they will count on it being delivered on time or the site will lose credibility.

Another way newsletters can generate interest is by becoming a conduit for a discussion. A good example is TheMail, a service ofDCWatch, an online magazine that covers city politics. The list is not a newsletter per se – it’s a forum in which any subscriber can post opinions, questions or news about Washington, D.C. It’s moderated, so it does not become a venue for rants, and it’s delivered twice a week — a nice pace. By continuing the discussions begun on the Web site, it keeps people interested and involved in the issues. The local angle also means the messages are home to calls to action, classified ads and other political appeals.

But trying to keep up with all the political news online often results in a huge clutter in your inbox. Instead of reading messages, the frustrated user ends up deleting them. Some can get around this by using services like Spyonit.com or Web2Mail.com, which can email you when a site is updated or send you a page once an hour or once a day — just like newspaper delivery. This is also a nice option for those who don’t have time to check back on a site every hour to see if it’s been updated.

Unlike these newsy sites, however, most newsletters featuring political information do have a political slant. The subscribers to these sites are a whole different set of customers — they are less concerned with staying up on the news and more interested in staying active politically, expressing their opinions and finding others who share them. The first place these people turn is often party sites, both local and national. State parties often do well keeping their base involved and interested with newsletters announcing news and events. Indiana and Kentucky Democrats offer a partisan look at state and national issues from a local perspective with links that tie into full-length items on their party’s Web sites. Minnesota’s Republican party does the same, offering a more frequent, pointed look at the issues. Like its Web site, the state newsletter links to content provided by the national Republican party.

The GOP, Democrats and their House and Senate campaign arms also offer political e-mail. However, due to the fact that they are national and cater to such a broad constituency, they are often too vague or are mere solicitations. The National Republican Senatorial Committee, however, produces a regular newsletter aimed at the political specialists who frequent its site. It offers news tidbits, contests and the requisite reminders for donations.

Other newsletters are maintained by individuals and groups not officially affiliated with any party. Though independent and sometimes extreme, these sites nonetheless can offer interesting insights and keep subscribers excited and active about issues. Sometimes these lists accumulate enough subscribers and attention to carry the weight of a newspaper’s editorial page.

A good example is the Eagle, a service of GOPUSA.com The newsletter provides headlines from the day’s conservative press and offers the beginnings of several articles, including President Bush’s weekly radio address and columnists like Labor secretary nominee Linda Chavez. Links take you to the whole article, along with issue briefs from many states each week.

Several other sites provide more opinionated commentary. Rich Galen, a former Gingrich aide, runs the Mullings.com site and newsletter, which he claims is read by more than 325,000 people each month. His breezy, pointed and easy-to-follow style no doubt contributes to this popularity. The Federalist.com and its newsletter also provide a decidedly conservative take on political news, sprinkled with quotes from historic conservative icons.

Sometimes these sites become prime examples of the Internet dividing people instead of bringing them together. Name-calling, divisive rhetoric abounds, and while it may thrill supporters, it is just as much of a turn off to opponents or casual observers. Nonetheless, their readership testifies to the function they serve.

COPYRIGHT 2001 Campaigns & Elections, Inc.

COPYRIGHT 2001 Gale Group

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