We curate the Enterprise React Newsletter and distribute it to many software developers around the world. We made the Newsletter-o-matic spreadsheet tool to streamline the collection and formatting of content. You can download the Newsletter-o-matic for free and use it however you like. I’ll explain our process and how to use the tool.
My Newsletter Process
Every two weeks, I assemble articles for the newsletter and then format the content for each placement. Each placement is a certain riff on the content and I wanted to save time and be more consistent. The Newsletter-o-matic takes in article information and spits out the right format for each channel we support. The channels are:
- The Newsletter
- Scheduled Tweets
- Scheduled Facebook posts
- Our newsletter archive page
- A blog post (sometimes)
We use Mailchimp for the actual newsletter send. We love the service and recommend it to anyone who needs to manage newsletters. The newsletter template itself needs:
- An ordered list of articles
- The article link (Mailchimp automatically adds UTM parameters for me. You can modify the spreadsheet if your newsletter system doesn’t add them for you.
- The article title
- The article description
I schedule tweets using Tweetdeck. To schedule a tweet, I need at a minimum:
- The Tweet text
- The Link to the article with appropriate UTM parameters for Twitter
- The author’s Twitter handle so we can tag them
Scheduled Facebook posts
I schedule Facebook posts using the Facebook interface. To schedule a Facebook post, I need at a minimum:
- The text for the Facebook post
- The link to the article with appropriate UTM parameters for Facebook
- The author’s name
We sometimes do a roundup version of the newsletter with much longer descriptions. This tab is the material needed to start that blog post.
- The article title
- The article link
- The article long description
Newsletter Archive Page
Once a newsletter issue is published, I post the topics with a link on our newsletter subscription page. This is so web users can get an idea of the type of content in each issue. To post a new issue, I need the following:
- A link to the web version of the newsletter (Comes from Mailchimp)
- Specially formatted HTML to insert into our CMS.
My Newsletter Creation Process
To make a newsletter, I add rows to the spreadsheet using the Add Entry button at the top of the Data tab in the Newsletter-o-matic. I extract these elements from the article as I’m reading.
I’ll add descriptions to those items that aren’t self-evident:
- Sort Order: Used to drive the order of the items in the newsletter. The best things go first.
- Date: Automatically added, so I know which issue this item belongs to
- Article Link
- Author Name
- Author Twitter Handle
- Author Twitter URL
- Article Short Description: Used as the description in the newsletter
- Article Long Description: Used as the description for Facebook
- Is Must-Read?: We have a section at the top of the newsletter called Must Read. It’s no more than 2 articles.
- Submitted By: Used to credit the article submitter
Once I’ve added all of the articles, I open Mailchimp, navigate to my new campaign, tweak all the initial settings, then open the Excel spreadsheet. I then:
- Ensure the article rows on the Data spreadsheet are ordered how I like, paying attention to the Must Read, and the Sort Order columns. I make any adjustments, then re-sort.
- I navigate to the Newsletter Details tab in the Newsletter-o-matic, and then copy/paste the data into Mailchimp.
- I go to Tweetdeck (use whatever Twitter app you like), open the Tweets tab in the Newsletter-o-matic, then copy/paste the info into a scheduled tweet.
- I go to Facebook, open the Facebook tab in the Newsletter-o-matic, then copy/paste the info into a scheduled Facebook post.
- Once the newsletter is sent out, I go to our Newsletter page on our website, open the HTML – Archives tab in the Newsletter-o-matic, then copy/paste the HTML in the right place on the page.
How to use
- Set Config Options
- Enter Newsletter Items
- On the Data tab, Press “Add Entry”, then begin to enter the data items from your article.
- Sort them however you like
- It is important to add your UTM parameters on the Config tab. The Newsletter-o-matic will add UTMs to links for you.
- I use a clipboard manager that saves a history of my clips. That means I can copy 3 different items from one document, then paste them into a different document without having to switch back and forth. I use CopyQ, and there are many others, even ones built into Windows, and macOS.
- I also have the Newsletter-o-matic up on the left half of my monitor and the content destination on the right half. This helps me to keep my place and avoid window switching.
- You could automate more of these tasks, but we don’t need a super mar-tech solution at Digital Primates, thus, this is automated enough for the job.
- You can add more tabs if you have more content areas.
- It does help to enable Macros in Excel so that you can use the Add Entry button on the Data tab. You can still use the Newsletter-o-matic without Macros, but it is nicer.
Using a newsletter as part of your content pipeline is a good way to build an engaged audience and assert credibility in a particular space. That said, the number of content items and formats can lead to a lot of manual, and error-prone, work. By using the Newsletter-o-matic you can take in newsletter content and output the formatted content for your channel specifications with minimal manual effort. Download the Newsletter-o-matic for free and let us know how it helps you in your newsletter crafting process.