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This is now live and nearing 1.0 at http://stackexchange.com/newsletters

We've noticed that a lot of users (ourselves included) have a bunch of sites that they're interested in, but don't necessarily check in that often. While power-users can set up filters on stackexchange.com, the average user isn't going to figure that out.

So we're planning to introduce a weekly newsletter for each site. You can see an example for each site at http://stackexchange.com/newsletters, or look at this example (Jin hasn't taken his pass at this yet):

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These emails will of course be opt-in. There will be an occasional sidebar ad if you haven't signed up yet:

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It will also always appear on the profile edit page:

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Features

  • Hot questions for the week
  • Random unanswered questions more than a few hours old and >0 score
  • Ability for site mods to pick hot questions and add important announcements (v2)

Your Feedback Wanted!

  1. Would you sign up for this?
  2. Any ideas for more / different content? We're intentionally keeping it simple so that it doesn't feel like your typical spam newsletter, but we're open to ideas.
  3. Questions / comments?
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"Would you sign up for this?" Being active in the sites I'm interested in, no. I don't find any added value for this given my participation (since this is more of a personal preference, I comment instead of answering) –  jmfsg Jun 28 '11 at 20:44
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Instead of sending me a newsletter, why not give my StackExchange feeds some more love :P –  Ivo Flipse Jun 28 '11 at 21:20
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@Ivo sounds like a separate feature request! Signing up for a newsletter is easier for non-techies, and we're trying to appeal to the masses. –  David Fullerton Jun 28 '11 at 21:24
    
Is this going to be tag-based? –  Pëkka Jun 28 '11 at 21:36
    
I guess a hottest question feed to subscribe to would still be too geeky, even though its more dynamic and easier to customize. –  Ivo Flipse Jun 28 '11 at 21:41
    
Just to clarify, would this be one newsletter for all your SE sites you opt to receive a newsletter from, or would you receive an email for each site? –  nhinkle Jun 29 '11 at 4:55
1  
@nhinkle this would be per-site –  Jeff Atwood Jun 29 '11 at 6:46
    
@Jeff I realize that would be for v2.0, but a network-wide newsletter, aggregating the feeds from every site I have more than x rep on, mightbe really great - a way to stay up to date with those sites one doesn't check daily. –  Pëkka Jun 30 '11 at 22:13
    
@pekka that already exists as blog.stackoverflow.com/2011/04/improved-tag-sets –  Jeff Atwood Jun 30 '11 at 22:34
    
@Jeff but will those contain the mod picks, the Meta digest, hot unanswered questions and all that? (Have never tried out the filters though, need to do that some time) –  Pëkka Jun 30 '11 at 23:24

9 Answers 9

Over at How-To Geek, we've got 135,000 daily email newsletter subscribers, and we've definitely found it to be a superior way to bring casual users back to the site on a regular basis. So an email newsletter is a MUST for casual people, who don't care about RSS. There's no substitute. I've also found that the type of users that subscribe to an email newsletter are VERY likely to interact on the site, leaving comments or answering reader questions.

That said, this particular newsletter looks rather boring. Why do I, the casual user, care about some random user that I don't know, and whether they answered a question? That's irrelevant information, clutter, and visually unappealing.

What I'd propose is listing out the top 5 questions for the week, along with a short excerpt. If you used some icons in there to visually break up the text, it would be even better (maybe the avatar from the question-asker). You could do the same thing with the "Can you answer these?" section - I like the idea of listing those, but I think you have to show an excerpt of the text. You could even show the vote count similar to the site display.

Allowing the site mods to "feature" something interesting would also work well - putting a tip directly in the newsletter would be pretty useful for the reader.

Finally, the last critique is that you need a better header image on the newsletter.

share|improve this answer
    
Thanks! This is extremely helpful. We're taking another look at the content / design. –  David Fullerton Jun 29 '11 at 20:23
    
Awesome tips. Thanks! –  Robert Cartaino Jun 29 '11 at 20:39

No, I wouldn't sign up.

The newsletters have what appears to be random questions and answers in them. Considering how easy it is to favorite tags, the newsletter would be clearly inferior to just visiting the site.

To do something along this line, time could be better spent adding the ability for users to have a customized RSS/Atom feed that uses a similar algorithm to the one StackOverflow's Interesting tab uses... it would (IMHO) be better than a newsletter in every conceivable way.

share|improve this answer
    
It's showing questions from the week tab right now: stackoverflow.com/?tab=week Customizing it per-user is something we might do in the future. –  David Fullerton Jun 28 '11 at 21:27
    
Surely you don't expect me to pick favorite tags on every site? That feels like so much work (on 40+ sites), but then again I guess this feature is not aimed at me. –  Ivo Flipse Jun 28 '11 at 21:41
    
@Ivo if it worked like the SO interesting tab, it would probably have the same behavior: use your favorite tags, and your implied favorites (based on what you look at). –  David Fullerton Jun 28 '11 at 21:46
    
Casual users don't bother with RSS. Even as a geek, I don't ever use RSS anymore - Twitter has taken over that role for me. –  The How-To Geek Jun 29 '11 at 4:31

Yes, I'd sign up.

There are a lot of sites I'm interested but just don't have the time to hang around them.

Big per-site-Meta decisions could also be mentioned.

Maybe a summary of how the site is doing, a Meta summary of the week.

And definitely tell us about any feature changes on the site.

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I have made request for inclusion of meta posts in the newsletter meta.stackexchange.com/questions/121622/… –  N.N. Feb 8 '12 at 11:58

I still find the linking of the last couple of words only for questions to be weird/awkward. Other than that, good job.

While I wouldn't use this personally, being quite accustomed to customized feeds in my RSS reader of choice, I know many people who would use it (none of whom, to my knowledge, participate on MSO) especially from our less technology-related sites like cooking, parenting, and writers.

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I would probably sign up if

  • The filtering were largely based on my tags, with the occasional highlight from some other tags

  • It were an aggregated Stack Exchange newsletter, allowing me to keep up to date on all sites at once, especially those that I don't regularly visit. A per-site newsletter would be too much I think

In general, I like it. A platform for publishing important news and events is great to have, and seeing some top questions might make for interesting (yet also easy to discard) reading.

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Two thoughts -- yep, I'm a statistician. Bias stated, here's my stats answer:

  1. There is clearly a pretty broad distribution of people who visit SO/SE.

    • Visit once, never to return. Would probably consider newsletter junk mail.
    • Visit once a month. See below
    • Visit once a week. Yeah, a newsletter would help me feed my addiction - something to read while in office on my blackberry while I visit the loo. Go for it.
    • Visit daily. (like me) Nope. I'm already addicted a newsletter is junk mail.

    So that, 'visit once a month' crowd is going to be hard to target, from a marketing perspective. If you pick from the hottest questions, you're implicitly assuming that these individuals are like everyone else on SO/SE (but they don't visit it as much / aren't addicted yet). However, they might have only come here for one or two topics -- hence, the newsletter might be a lot of noise and very little signal. If you try to pick a narrow set of topics, alternating weeks with interesting tags or something, this might be more aptly received, but it might also drive them away because of a perception that the sites really cares about only a few subject areas?

  2. That said, my second thought only applies to that upper echelon of SO/SE junkies who come here every hour. It would be nice, since I tend to only focus on SO/SE and miss many important things on Meta to have the option to sign up for a Meta-newsletter. If you're thinking of doing a newsletter (even-auto generated) for each site including the metas, then I'll be first in line to sign up for newsletters from those ''less visited, but intriguing alleyways.''

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1  
My thoughts exactly. As a user who visits the site multiple times throughout the day, I can see myself getting little use out of this. However, I often forget to visit the meta sites as well, so a meta newsletter would be useful. –  Wipqozn Jun 29 '11 at 12:45
    
I have made request for inclusion of meta posts in the newsletter meta.stackexchange.com/questions/121622/… –  N.N. Feb 8 '12 at 11:58

On Super User we vote for a Top Question of the Week, which goes up on our blog every Monday. This is another thing that would be great to include in the newsletter. It would be really nice if there were some built-in nomination/voting system for the QotW applied to all sites (or at least with the site's moderators' approval), which could be automatically included in the newsletter. It's been a great way for us to highlight high-quality questions and answers as an example to the community and to reward those who've done a good job.

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I think it's a great idea, and I just subscribed to a few sites that I'm interested in but where I'm not a frequent visitor.

However, I would really prefer if the all the newsletters were aggregated into one e-mail. If I'm marginally interested in 10 different topics, that means 10 different e-mails, which is a clutter. Just send it all together and make sure the formatting shows a clear distinction between the separate sites.

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I think it'd be helpful to pull this out into its own feature-request so people can vote on it since it's a little buried here. –  David Fullerton Jul 28 '11 at 15:07
    
@David done. –  Oak Jul 28 '11 at 21:19

Yes, I'd sign up, but not for all sites I'm registered at. For example:

  1. I probably won't sign up for the SO newsletter permanently (although I just have done so to test), since I visit SO on an almost daily basis.
  2. I probably would sign up for other sites, becasue most other sites I only visit once in a while. In a way that would be a reminder of where I'm registered but haven't visited in a longer period of time. Also, for most of those sites, the provided list of "interesting" or even "random" questions will in some cases provide a trigger to go back and have a look again.
share|improve this answer
    
By "SE", do you actually mean Stack Overflow? –  Cody Gray Jul 21 '11 at 10:15
    
@Cody, Yes, I meant SO, sorry. Edited ... –  takrl Jul 21 '11 at 10:26

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