In Celebration Of The 100th Edition Of The WordPress Big 3 Or How My Newsletter Evolved Over 3 Years
The number 100 represents a milestone. It’s a time to take stock and look back on where the WordPress Big 3 came from and where it’s going.
In The Beginning
On October 15, 2017, with no fanfare, I launched the Joy of WP newsletter. It featured 3 things about WordPress to help my readers with their web sites. I sent out Issue No. 1 to about 300 people I had met
at Pratt Institute and the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City. The list also included people who had attended my online classes.
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I’d tell my students – and anyone that would listen – that one day I’d have a newsletter. I’d collect email addresses just in case I’d ever make good on my idea.
The purpose was – and is – to continue to inform people about WordPress so they could get the most out of their web sites. That was the reason I told people I was doing it.
Here’s what the masthead of that first issue looked like. I referred to it as the Joy of WP Advisor which didn’t mean much to me.
What Were The 3 Subjects?
- Learn WordPress With My Free Video Course
- What’s A Great Way To Keep Up With WordPress?
- Three Tips for Setting Up and Running Your Own Affiliate Program
I was taking inspiration from my new friend BobWP, aka Bob Dunn, who had his own weekly newsletter which rolled in every Sunday morning. I liked that Sunday morning idea when people might have an extra second to read me or at least do that on Monday morning.
Now For The Truth
But I realized that, being an online worker, unless I did something on a regular basis I would be forgotten. I needed to remind people that I am alive and that I provide web site development and training services. Sure, a few people would remember me and I’d continue on, but a weekly newsletter was the most economical way to keep me and the Joy of WP in front of people.
I’d have to provide valuable information on how to use WordPress to grow their ideas. (I think, on most Sundays I do.) That’s something I still struggle with. I know most of my readers are new to WP, but many of them are advanced. How do I serve a diverse readership when what they need to know about WP – and the web in general – changes over time?
The Birth Of The WordPress Big 3
One morning, while listening to the radio, I heard a talk show host say, “Len, what are the big 3 of the day?” Right then I knew I had a name for my newsletter.
Just a few weeks after the inaugural issue, I changed my masthead to this.
I also started adding one image just after the first paragraph of each big 3 item. I was no graphic artist but I took delight – and still do – in composing (not designing) my 3 images for each newsletter.
Numbers Going Down
But in the weeks and months after the launch, my newsletter unsubscribe rate crept up and I was not adding new subscribers to replace them. I was starting to feel the ship was sinking and I had hardly left port.
How was I going to build a robust and relevant list of people who were new – and not so new – to WordPress? People I could convert into clients to work on their website and/or private training.
Enter A Radical Idea: I’d Give Away 2 WordPress Courses!
I figured I’d give away the cake and charge for any desired special toppings. It’s an idea that is still working and being refined all the time.
The kicker would be that the user would have to give me their email address to get access to over 50 videos. At first, I gave a Yes or No option to take the WordPress Big 3 Newsletter. I got about 40% of all people who wanted access to all videos to subscribe to the WordPress Big 3.
Then I realized – in a somewhat controversial and at first uncomfortable thought – I would compel people to sign up for the newsletter to gain full access. Yes, they’d be “paying” for the courses with their email address – and I’d get a 100% subscription rate! There were still some videos which did not required surrendering one’s email address, but my lead generator – the 2 free courses – would require one’s email address.
I believed that was a fair bargain. I detailed all of this in my post “What I’m Doing To Get People To Sign Up For My Newsletter.” I shared my successful experience on how I cracked the code.
That started a rapid increase in building my subscriber list. On February 17 of last year, the list had 357 subscribers. Today I’m at nearly 1,250. Yes, I do get some unsubscribes every time the WordPress Big 3 goes out (almost every Sunday) but that is ok. Most of the time people say they are no longer interested, if they say anything at all. I have never gotten a single complaint about being a spammer because I’m not.
My masthead was terrible as you’ve seen in the above images. I commissioned my future son-in-law to design something that conveyed what I could not design myself.
In late April 2019 the current masthead, after a few missteps, was revealed. If you’re a regular this will look familiar.
Almost Every Sunday
One other thing I’ve learned is that you have to deliver. If you tell people your newsletter goes out just about every Sunday with 3 ideas to make working with WP more efficient and fun…you’d better stick to it. If you are not committed to your newsletter, don’t bother publishing it. The last thing the world needs is another newsletter.
Just About Every Sunday?
When I saw how low the open and click-through rates were on any kind of holiday, I made it my habit not to issue a newsletter. Plus in the summer I usually slow down and give the keyboard a rest.
I’m not sure what’s in the future, but the newsletter will continue to be tightly integrated with my blog. I’ve recently gotten into interviewing WordPress notables.
The most important thing to me is that I continue to figure out what my readers want to know and what
they read and find useful in the newsletter. That means everything to me. I find myself fighting the temptation to write about things that interest me but I know would not be useful to my readers.
If you’ve read down to here, thank you for letting me share with you the history of the WordPress Big 3.
On to the next 100 issues!!
But before we move on, is there anything you’d like to see more of in the WordPress Big 3?