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Janet Roberts

Making the Emotional Connection with Readers
By Janet Roberts

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In the previous Ezine-Tip, I highlighted some statistics from a new research project assessing the usability of email newsletters and factors that make them more or less desirable from a reader's point of view.

(If you missed that column, you can find it here)

The most important qualitative finding in that study, however, is the emotional connection readers have with newsletters, a connection that's missing from their Web interactions.

Where the Emotion Comes From

"Newsletters feel personal because they arrive in your inbox; you have an ongoing relationship with them," Web usability expert Jakob Nielsen wrote in his Alertbox newsletter. Nielsen is a member of the Nielsen Norman Group, which did the research and issued the report, "Email Newsletter Usability."

(His newsletter, coincidentally, is mainly a news alert to studies posted at his Web site. It always irritated me that he never put much into the newsletter but always forced me to go to his site to read the data. I was thinking about unsubscribing, until he posted this excellent study in the current issue.)

"In contrast, Web sites are things you glance at when you need to get something done or find the answer to a specific question," Nielsen wrote. "The positive emotional aspect of newsletters is that they can create much more of a bond between user and company than a Web site can. "The negative aspect is that usability problems have much stronger impact on the customer relationship than they normally do."

In other words, the close connection you can form with a reader is more valuable when it works and more problematic when it doesn't.

Another Explanation?

Nobody asked me, but I think another reason for that stronger emotional connection with readers results because readers had to invest something to get it. Web surfing is like browsing in a store; it doesn’t require much personal investment. You have to take an additional step to subscribe to a newsletter; that extra personal investment increases your attachment to it.

Sound Off!

Understanding your emotional connection to your readers is particularly important if you publish a newsletter that's mainly an alert to new content at your Web site. I don't know if you get that same emotional connection if you just list links. Do you agree or disagree?

Ezine-Tips for October 01, 2002

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