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Janet Roberts

Crucial Text-vs-HTML Issue: Why?
By Janet Roberts

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One issue I never see anybody talking about in the text-vs-HTML debate is this: What will you do with your HTML newsletter that you can't accomplish in plain text?

Okay, this seems like an obvious question. Yes, you can have colors, pictures and other graphics, itís more attractive, blah blah blah. But, if you don't try to exploit all the possibilities HTML offers you, then you basically have a text newsletter with makeup on.

Here's what I mean: An HTML newsletter allows you to pack a lot of different functions into a relatively small space. (Yes, you create a large data file, but that's beside the point for now.) Put the same amount of material into a text newsletter, and it could get unmanageable pretty quickly.

Two cases in point:

I get a daily-news newsletter from one of my local TV stations. The template has a nice navy blue background, which hides the return-path information well but mutes the station's logo.

The daily content is one big static text block - hard to read with white type on a royal-blue background that clashes with the navy-blue template - The few links on the page are inactive. How about a link to a previous day's video on a continuing story? A rebroadcast of a post-game interview or coach's talk show? Zippo. Send to a friend? Contact the news staff with a tip? No such luck. Not even a current weather report or links - other than to the home page - for more specific information.

In short, a big wasted opportunity.

Contrast that approach with a nicely done daily newsletter from Strong Financial Corp. Each StrongSignals has these functions:

  • Daily text - black type on white background, thank you - summing up Wall Street, economy and other business news

  • A box listing how the daily indexes performed

  • Brief summaries and links to key economic or market news from other sources

  • What's happening the next business day - earnings reports, government reports, end of quarter, tax filing deadlines, etc.

  • A toolbar linking to the Strong home page, the account log-in page and sources for stock quotes and research

  • A forward-to-a-friend link

  • Three house ads for Strong services

If I donít trip over a burning investment topic, I can rip through each issue in five minutes; so, I donít feel overwhelmed by too much information.

What's it missing? It could use a subscribe-here function for people whose friends forward the newsletter to them without using the forwarding form.

See a sample at the Web site.

Ezine-Tips for July 01, 2002

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