Subscribe By Email: NOT Just A 90s Throwback

I posed the question yesterday on Twitter of WHY bloggers so often do not have a subscribe by email option.  It was more a rhetorical question to prompt people to think “Do I have that?  No, I don’t.  I should add one.”  And if it had that effect on someone, awesome.  You might just gain readers.  Anyway, someone popped up to offer her reasons for not offering it.

1. It’s very 1990’s. 2. Many email subs send the entire post. I don’t want that. I want people to come to my site. 3. RSS.

Let’s take this one at a time.

It’s very 1990s.  Well who the hell cares?  People so often equate blogging to a popularity contest, so by not offering an email option for your content, you’re missing out on people who are either a) stuck in a decade of the technological past or b) have over reasons for wanting content by email (like that they like to read a post in their email on their phone and can’t or don’t want to click through).

Many email subs send the entire post. I don’t want that. I want people to come to my site.  Okay fair enough.  There are subscribe by email options that allow you to send a partial that forces a click through.  As a subscribe by email person, this is going to annoy me, but if that partial is interesting enough to prove that clicking through is worth my time, I’ll do it.  But here’s the thing: I’m not likely to interact on your site.  I almost never comment (I don’t even do that on my own blog often–I know, I suck on that point, but that’s not what’s under discussion), and I definitely don’t have the time to READ other people’s comments and engage in the community that you’re trying to build.  I don’t click around if I go to a blog.  I read the post, and then I leave.  So how is this gaining you anything by forcing me to come there except one more tick on your metaphorical interwebz bedpost?  And if I DO happen to get a full post by email?  If it’s awesome enough to make me want to say something back, THEN I will actually click through and DO something.

This reminds me of the same kinds of arguments as traditional publishers who resisted putting a book out in ebook because they wanted people to buy the hardback.  They’re two different groups of people.  Ebook readers won’t buy the hardback.  If the book isn’t in e, they simply won’t buy it, period.  By the same token, people who want posts by email are not going to suddenly change their behavior and be willing to spend valuable time out of their day clicking over to your blog to see if you updated or switch to using RSS feed readers.  They simply won’t read your blog.

RSS.  Oh, how I used to be a fan of the RSS.  It was such a nice, easy way to keep up with stuff.  Any time any of the oodles of interesting people posted something, it would get queued up and let me know what I needed to read.  And I kept adding and adding.  And people kept posting and posting.  And my time got shorter and shorter, until there were suddenly hundreds, then THOUSANDS of posts I needed to read.  DEAR FREAKING GOD, THE PRESSURE.  And then Bloglines got bought out by somebody whose format/interface I didn’t like and I decided it was time to cut myself free of the insanity.  I deleted my entire account.  And then I subscribed by email to only those half dozen I deemed MOST important, most worthy of spending my time on.  Am I saying RSS is bad? No.  You should definitely have that option.  It just isn’t for me.

There have been other blogs I wanted to read.  One I signed up for in 2011 and NEVER GOT A POST even though I knew she was posting every day.  I finally figured out this morning that I signed up for her NEWSLETTER, not her blog content (it wasn’t clear from the button).   There was no means of subscribing to her blog content.  So I miss out.  Because I’m not going to take the time to remember to go somewhere every day.  Don’t make the mistake of thinking that because people want something by email that they’re only interested in your books or products.  That’s not always the case.  The blog I was talking about?  I don’t actually want to read her books.  It’s not my genre.  But her blog content is top notch.  So the newsletter didn’t do me any good at all.

It’s been suggested that a blog is a cold call.  And maybe sometimes it is.  Certainly there have been posts by people I would never have known existed if not for Twitter.  Somebody says it’s worth reading or it has an interesting title, and I’ll click over and read.  And if I think it’s interesting enough, I might click around to see if there’s other equally interesting content.  And if I make it past THAT, then I’ll look for a subscribe by email button…and most of the time not finding one.  Meaning you’ve just lost me as a reader.  And unless somebody brings you to my attention again for awesome, you’ve probably lost me permanently.

Ultimately, it DOESN’T MATTER why some people would rather get your content by email.  You can think that’s dated and stupid or whatever the hell, but the point is, THERE ARE PEOPLE WHO WANT IT.  It costs you no more than five minutes of time to add the option.  You don’t have to interact with those people like you would on social media, so it’s not a time suck for you.  You are not probably going to convert the email subscriber people to those happy little ideal visitors who comment and glom and interact with your site.  Which means by not having the option, you’re simply losing them as readers entirely.  And it’s the content that is the important part of potentially converting someone to a reader of your other work.

8 thoughts on “Subscribe By Email: NOT Just A 90s Throwback

  1. …and then, when you DO write something awesome, there is one less person in your readership who will spread it around their network and bring you more readers, some of whom might become a part of your community.

    Sorry to put too fine a point on it, but it’s like saying that, because you’re not the exact kind of visitor I want, I don’t care if you ever come back and, as a matter of fact, don’t want you. Wow. (I mean, yeah, it’s a good attitude toward trolls, but not really for the population at large.)

    I understand why someone would want to encourage readers to come to their site and interact, but I think this attitude that people should/could/would if it was their only option shows a really skewed perspective, as though everyone has time and interest in being equally active in the blogosphere. I don’t even have time for communities around stuff that really interested in.

    And there’s also a matter of purpose. It’s like that thing where you say that the purpose of the blog you put so much time into is to sell your fiction. And then you only blog about writing and attract only writers, many of whom are too busy writing their own fiction, reading what everyone else is reading to see why it’s selling, aren’t even interested in your fictional genre. If building a community is a primary goal, it does make some sense to try to structure things in a way that promotes that, though excluding people who can’t participate or aren’t YET at a level of interest to do so doesn’t really. But if the goal is to promote books (and I’m kind of assuming that’s who you tweet with), then this my way or the highway attitude just seems further and further from the point.

  2. I get REALLY annoyed if I want to subscribe to a blog and there’s no email option. REALLY annoyed. I tried subscribing through Google Reader for awhile. The problem? I never go to Google Reader. I don’t think about it. I want the emails. If a blogger refuses to give me that option, I feel like they’re thumbing their noses at me and saying I’m not important if that’s the way I want to subscribe.

    There are some instances where people just don’t think about it. There was one blogger I liked to follow, but he didn’t have the email option. I mentioned it to him, and he immediately fixed it. I really, really hope if something about my blog annoys people, SOMEONE will tell me. 🙂

    Now if people using Blogspot would just stop making us key in a Captcha code that we can’t even read….

  3. I’m one of those people who like getting posts by email. And yeah, I forget to check for new blog posts. Great post! And thank you for saying what I’ve been thinking!

  4. I can’t keep up with the RSS feed. There are a few blogs that I can’t email subscribe to and it drives me crazy when I realize that I missed 10 posts because they’re on RSS. Give me the email subscribe option already. Why limit the way people can follow your blog?

    Of course, as I write this, I’m realizing that I don’t have an RSS subscription option on my blog. Ooops! Going to fix that right now.

  5. I’m the same way with RSS – if there’s no feed, I’m gone. I don’t want email; I have too much already. But you bet I offer email subs on my blog, because everyone has different preferences, and I want as many readers as possible. I’m with you 100% on putting the whole post in the feed too – if it’s interesting, I’ll click through anyway; I’m more likely to just skip a summary. (Note to self: fix email sub, as I think mine just sends a summary, Lol)

  6. Kevin

    I have an RSS feed set up for my blog, but no email option. I’d like to do both. I notice that you’re using WordPress, Kait (so am I) – how can I most easily set things up so the blog takes email addresses and sends out my new blog posts to that list?
    Thanks!

  7. I have the wordpress.com version, just with domain forwarding, so I use their subscribe by email option (it’s the Follow Blog widget under their built in widgets). If you’re using self hosted, then you should be able to set something up with whoever does your RSS feed. Most of them have an email option available. Or I’m sure there is some kind of plug in in can install.

    • If you are self-hosted, then Jetpack has a lot of great options, including a follow by email option.

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