All giggling aside, let’s settle down and cover the real question at hand: is your newsletter too long? Are you not getting opens like you thought or expected? Does your newsletter look like a daunting wall-o-words? Is it just broken? If your newsletter is too long, you can discourage readership and even upset email rendering tools (gmail, yahoo, outlook, etc).
I have three pseudo-metrics (I like doing things in threes) I apply to reading any newsletter, whether it is from my email reader or a simple html view:
1. How small is that scroll bar on the right
2. Am I staring at a WALL of text
3. How many scrolls does it take for me to get down the page
Let us take a moment and address why and how I apply these to reading any email newsletter.
1. Itty-bitty scroll bar
Why: a really small bar means a whole lot of text.
How: eyes right and take a gander at that vertical scroll bar.
When I open any email, the second thing I typically notice is the scroll bar. If it is tiny, I will simply skip the email for now and save it for later (if at all). People like to digest information in small chunks. A tiny scroll bar means tons of content and a whole lot of material to digest. Big newsletters are left to read later - if and when someone has lots of time to read.
ASIDE: for the clever folks that caught my reference to this not being the first thing I notice. Typically, the first thing I notice on an email is graphic header, logo placement, or newsletter title. Personally, I don’t want or need excessive branding in my newsletters - I want great content, immediately, right in front of my face, like now.
Why: yikes, I’m not here to read a book, a thesis, or a diatribe.
How: take a quick gaze at the meat of the email to see if there negative/white space and clear delineations between pieces of content.
Email is not a medium for long content. Websites and books are. Using the proper tool and method to disseminate your information or message will help you better communicate to your peeps.
3. Scrolling fever (how many scrolls does it take -just like a tootsie roll pop)
Why: email readers will truncate long newsletters
How: start scrolling down and count
I won’t read anything with more than 5 scrolls. Typically, I prefer 3 or NONE. Email readers will truncate your message clipping HTML where ever they see fit. What happens if that is in the middle of a table tag? Whammo, bammo, broken newsletter.
Summary: short and sweet
Engage your subscribers with the juiciest tid-bit of information and knowledge and push them to your website. When the milk is free, nobody buys the cow (I can’t believe I just wrote that).
My rule of three in composing a newsletter:
1. 3 articles
2. No more than 3 short paragraphs per article (this is long-form)
3. 3 fonts and colors (gets into style issues but it is part of my rule set)
Coming soon: technical aspects of a really long newsletter