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Brian Alt

Interview with William Bontrager, Part I
By Brian Alt

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I recently had the pleasure to discuss ezine publishing with William Bontrager, publisher of WillMaster Possibilities, a weekly ezine exploring the ins and outs of programming for the Web. William is also the creator of a number of useful CGI scripts for ezine publishers, including the Master Subscriber scripts and the ProLinkz click through tracking script.

William's interview will be presented in two parts today and tomorrow. I hope you find it as helpful as I did :)

Brian Alt: Hi William. In your opinion, what makes WillMaster Possibilities successful? What makes it unique?

William Bontrager: I like to program, I like to provide tools people can use, and I like to talk. Probably those show through the content and could be a primary reason behind WillMaster Possibilities' success.

Success, of course, is subjective. The fact that thousands of people actually read my stuff with many unsolicited and positive responses every week is one way I measure success. The churn rate is low. And that makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

It is published by a programmer -- an ex-Amish programmer in fact -- and I try to write so those without a lot of technical training can still understand. Every week there is something new for webmasters to do, almost always something I create myself -- increasing site/visitor interaction, improving site maintenance, automating something, enhancing visitor experience, or learning a new skill.

BA: Your ezine is personalized, which allows you to address each of your subscribers by name within the ezine itself. What are some of the benefits you have realized from implementing personalization?

WB: Most people like it. The few who don't can opt for non-personalized delivery.

It is probably the ability to choose between personalized and non-personalized delivery that has the most positive benefit. Personalization is pleasing for most. From comments I have received, I've come to a tentative conclusion that the ability to choose has more positive effect than the actual personalization because the subscriber can be in control.

Subscriber trust is a dear asset. And letting the subscriber have some form of control is one way I might earn that trust.

BA: Do you utilize feedback from your ezine readers? If so, what are some of the ways that you use it? How does it create value for you as a publisher?

WB: Feedback is essential to me as a person and as a publisher. It is an acknowledgement that my work is noticed. It tells me whether or not my articles were clearly written. And it tells me what subjects could stand expansion and which other areas are of interest.

Subscriber feedback in no small part helps me decide what programs, functions, or tutorials to develop and present in the ezine. I measure click-throughs of many URLs, which helps gauge interest in specific subjects -- but subscriber feedback is worth more than click-through counts.

Ezine-Tips for February 08, 2001

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