Monday, September 19, 2011

Who CARES about Your Newsletter?

The title to this post is based on what I think to be the greatest exercise in futility for the cause of equality in picture books. Well maybe not THE greatest, because there are books like this one that are pretty much terrifying... upon further review, the second edition is all right, but the first edition featured Shelley hooked up to a machine with what can only be assumed to be a shaved head (if turtles had hair) and smiling like a drugged up doofus. I wish I could find the art for the original but it looks like it's been whitewashed.Which sucks because I love laughing at things that are unintentionally extremely offensive, and would love to share my joy with all of you.

Like how the kid in the wheelchair is petting an on-duty service dog, because, well, screw the blind. I mean, they wear colors that don't even match in the worst way. Also note he kid in the back is laughing, He clearly doesn't care about disabled people, unless he has that one disability where you just sit and laugh for no reason.

ANYWAY, this post was supposed to be about newsletters. Right.

This idea came about because a recent post by my wonderful supervisor was featured in the latest e-newsletter by ALA. Her link is the eleventh from the bottom.
Eleventh. Not eleventh in line, but eleventh from the bottom.

If you're wondering how many links a Constant Contact newsletter will allow you have, that answer is, according to the one linked above, at least 24 in a single section of a five-section newsletter (side bar not included). One of the posts linked discusses FIFTY TWO TYPES OF BLOG POSTS that are "proven to work." The fact that a blog post delineating 52 separate things does not at all work except in the category of "boring as hell" or "TL;DR" obviously never occurred to anyone.

Also, if you're wondering if Constant Contact will allow you to fit 100 links in a single newsletter, your perspective of  "newsletter" may be skewed.

It's true that the Internet lets you do things with newsletters that print could never allow. We've taken advantage of quite a few of these:
MSPaint: Helping me pretend I have Camtasia since 1995. To you who suffer a similar fate, please take a look at Jing. I use it everywhere except for work, where no one is trusted to download things because apparently it's 2003.
We recently added a youtube channel so we could add some spunk to our marketing via Xtranormal. We don't have too many views yet, but for around 10 bucks we can make 12 movies. Which is pretty cheap as far as marketing is concerned, and so far we've financed it with money found around the stacks. We keep them under 2 minutes and they're an entertaining way to get across a lot of info in a short amount of time; plus, having two characters helps to correct misconceptions, which as I've discussed before is crucial to audience buy-in. The second video we made, which was created to remind kids of the very different summer reading program we were launching, had one robot ask the other if there's anything at the library besides books. Our latest, Epic Autumn, continues along this path by asking if stuff still happens at the library after summer is done (Yeah, I have horrible syntax/grammar and I teach your kids literacy. I have been known to occassionally use the word "tooken". Life is hard).

We also have added links on the newsletters to blog posts, since the actual direct links are ugly to look at. It also keeps wording down on the newsletter itself. We actually have since traded in many of our flyers for business cards with links to PDF files.

Mainly, one thing that strikes me about so many "professional" e-newsletters is something that I assumed was common sense, but I realize now that it might be something I simply always had to remember as an educator: by prioritizing everything, you're actually placing importance on nothing.

If every single thing in this paragraph is bolded, how much of it is actually important? Everything starts to look the same after awhile because this is just a new font. Why even bother reading this? Might as well just skip over it. Bolded fonts was an experimental psychologist who later became one of the first historians of psychology. Fonts was born in and grew up in a family dominated by women; he was the youngest and only son in a family of four. From an early age bolded's attitude was shaped by emphasis on academic success and he suffered from feelings of inadequacy throughout his life.

For those of you who are rejoining the blog entry, most of the last paragraph was taken from the Wikipedia entry for Edwin Boring, edited to removed capital letters that your brain scans for to make sure you're not missing Anything Remotely Important. Because it just doesn't matter.

That's the point, though. and looking back to the ALA newsletter, is your eye drawn to anything? Mine personally was not. Though I was amazed at how long it took me to scroll down just to find the bottom of the e-mail, which made me want to read the content even less.

Here's my latest attempt at a newsletter. Even if nothing catches your eye, it's short enough that you'd feel lazy not to at least look at it.

And don't blame technology for "decreasing attention spans"... you're just not as interesting as you think you are. Don't take it personally; no one is.

Here is the most entertaining 21 minutes I have seen in the last 24 hours. You might be bored, but it's not at all that entertainment is subjective and instead totally because you wouldn't know awesomeness if it hit you in the face with a 17-pounder.

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