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Christopher Knight

Ezine-Tips Gets Nekkid: How It's Produced
By Christopher Knight

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Ezine-Tips has been published since July of 1998 and I've never stopped in one article to show or tell you how this ezine is produced from a behind-the-scenes perspective. If you don't mind turning up the heat (as it's a bit nippy in here), I'll reveal some of the secrets of how we produce the Ezine-Tips newsletter... Take a step into the Ezine-Tips lockerroom:

Step 1: Article Production

I keep a library of emails from list members and other sources for future issue ideas. One thing is for sure: There is never a shortage of ideas or topics to choose from.

Each article starts out in Microsoft Word where it's sculpted until it's ready for the "editorial once-over." Sometimes I do the 2nd review and other times our Associate staff Editor will give it a review. Always best to have a 2nd set of eyes review your work, even if the 2nd set is not an editor by trade.

Step 2: Article to HTML or Enhanced Code

Once it passes inspection, it then gets copy and pasted to a true text editor program called EditPLUS v2. EditPlus is where the document is altered from a MS Word .doc to a .txt file that has all of the HTML code added before it gets uploaded to the website.

Step 3: Article Uploaded To Website

I log in to our custom CMS (Content Management System) and copy and paste the article to be uploaded to the website. Our website CMS is based on LAMP technologies (LAMP stands for Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP)…but that's not important right now.

Once the article is uploaded, if there is audio or images to upload, I would do this now. If Shockwave AUDIO is going to be used, I can usually tack on an extra hour to 90 minutes of production time to this process.

[Side Note: Here's how I add AUDIO to my website: First, I open up my Audio recording studio software (Accoustica v3) and I plug my Samson S12 HyperCardioid Neodymium microphone into my TASCAM US-122 USB Preamp. The US-122 then plugs into my Dell notebook via a USB v2 port. Once I'm done recording my piece, I then edit the quality of the sound by adding some dynamic processing and removal of the edges on each side of the clip. The clip is then exported in .MP3 format. Lastly, I use a program called MP3SoundStream to convert the .MP3 to Shockwave format and upload to the website and test.]

Step 4: Prepare HTML template for Ezine

I log in to our dedicated email list server and grab a copy of the most recently used Ezine-Tips issue. That is my template. I copy and paste the template into an EditPLUS session where I update the template with the newest article and any additional sales copy for the marketplace section.

Step 5: Upload to Email List Server and Test

Once the Ezine-Tips issue is ready to be uploaded to the email list server, I log in to our Email List Server and tell it to create a new post to the Ezine-Tips list. I already have a template defined for the header/footer information and select that before uploading the completed issue from my EditPLUS session.

Next, I proceed to send myself test emails until I get it just right. This usually takes between 2 to 20 tests and a period of 10 to 40 minutes depending on how well I designed the issue before bringing it to the server for a test. Every single link within the issue is tested even if it's been tested every single time before. Think about it: How long has it been since you saw me send you an Ezine-Tips with a bad link in it? It's been quite a long while and this quality control step is the reason why.

Once I'm happy with the tests, I move to...

Step 6: Release or Schedule to Release

Most of the time, I schedule the final approved issue to be released at a pre-determined time. On a day like today where I began the issue an hour before it was released, I can only tell you that it was released the moment I was happy with my tests.

Step 7: Analyze, Track and Make Future Decisions

About an hour after Ezine-Tips is released, I then drill back to see the statistics to make sure that people are opening up the issues and clicking on the links. If it looks patternmatic I then investigate... Otherwise, I then ignore the process until I'm preparing the next issue. When the next issue is prepared, I study the previous issues performance from an open rate, click through and membership change perspective (how many members came or left during the period of the last mailing).

The Nekkid Ezine-Tips Conclusion

There is much more to this ezine publishing process than producing each issue... in fact, two weeks ago our email list server had a complete hard drive crash failure and we lost a few days of data. Even today before Ezine-Tips was released, our tech team worked feverishly to figure out why CTR (Click Through Tracking) was not working right since the last time we mailed. Turns out we had a corruption in our tracking database and it's fixed now, but there are always little tech blips like this that happen from time to time. If all goes right, you'll never know about the mistakes and problems that go on behind the scenes at Ezine-Tips.

The process that works for me is not what I'd recommend for ezine producing newbies as I've been doing this for so long that I skip certain steps along the way. One thought that you might want to do for your next email newsletter is to share with your audience a small piece of your behind-the-scenes process. It's like taking a locker-room stroll to meet the players that make the game….GREAT!

This Ezine-Tip was submitted By Christopher Knight -- Email List Marketing Expert, author and entrepreneur. Get your weekly dose of Email newsletter publishing, marketing, promotion, management, email-etiquette, email usability and deliverability tips by joining the free Ezine-Tips newsletter:

Ezine-Tips for February 23, 2005

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