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Case Study: how AllThingsConsidered.biz turned a free text e-newsletter into a paid content site & online newsletter tool

Wordbiz Report
Aimee Kessler Evans

Summary: Exactly two years ago we published a case study about a text-only e-newsletter created by three Aussie financial consultants.

"Pitch-perfect writing, an easy-to-read format, plus some extras" was how we described All Things Considered.

The e-newsletter was created to support the company's fledgling consultancy. It was a weekly text email sent out by hand to prospects and clients. The company didn't even have a Web site at the time.

Two years later, AllThingsConsidered.biz is a streamlined, successful Web-based business selling customized newsletters and content to an eager audience of financial planners.

We spoke to Sydney-based co-founder Tony Negline to find out how they did it.

Background: An eye on the future

When the three partners behind the ATC newsletter - all with strong backgrounds in finance, having worked for different fund managers - began their newsletter in 2002, they kept an eye on the future. "It had always been in the back our minds that we should build an archive of our articles," says Negline.

"Our audience is Financial Planners, who are notoriously bad about staying in touch with their client base. When they do make the effort to keep in contact they like to use newsletters."

The idea, from the start, was to create a content library that they could resell to the financial planning community. The Planners could then put the articles into their own newsletters and distribute them to their client base.

The newsletter had humble beginnings. It was initially produced in text-only format and manually distributed to the partners' combined client database of approximately 4,000 names.

But it did have timely, useful content that its readers absolutely loved.

And even though the newsletter was "opt-out" instead of opt-in, which was already the industry standard, most subscribers loved the excellent content in each issue and stayed on board.

To this day, while circulation hasn't grown significantly, it also hasn't dropped off - which is encouraging, considering the poor market conditions the industry has experienced in recent years.

The Archive - and a full-service newsletter tool - are born

A few months into publication, the AllThingsConsidered.biz Web site was launched to archive the newsletter.

At the same time, the partners began to automate their email distribution process - and converted to an opt-in protocol.

By streamlining the processes (including their bounces, which are unsubscribed after 3 undelivered emails) the team was able to focus almost exclusively on creating content for their library.

With 50 issues of the newsletter in their archive (roughly 150 articles), AllThingsConsidered.biz was ready to begin selling its content. The question was how to do it.

What was the best way to maximize the value of their library?

Says Negline, "We realized that our market, more than just needing content for their client communications, required an easy way to create newsletters. We had the good fortune of having an excellent IT guy, and we were able to create a program via our Web site that automated the process for them."

The AllThingsConsidered.biz site became a portal for Financial Planners to not only find current industry information, but also to design, create and distribute their client newsletters.

As for the content itself, "We have to alter it slightly," says Negline. "Initially, it's written for the Financial Planners themselves to read in our weekly newsletter. Each article needs to be changed a little because the audience changes - it's now going to the clients and not the planners themselves."

The newsletter service, which currently boasts sixty clients, is reasonably priced - about $220AU for a year's worth of emails. Customers can choose from ATC's original content (most do), add articles of their own, or purchase content from other sources.

It all fits into a template which can be either a text email or a PDF, which customers can either email or print. (The company also offers mailingservices for both email and post.)

Articles from the archives are sold on a "per eyeball" basis. The site automatically prices library access based on how many newsletter issues will be printed and how large the subscriber base it.

And word about the newsletter service has spread beyond the industry. "Our biggest client," says Negline, "is actually a reseller."

New for-fee newsletter creates premium content for archives

So what's next for this growing company? "We've just started a premium content newsletter," says Negline. The new publication, which sells for $200/year (10 issues) is in PDF format. It features longer articles, some written by contributing authors.

Additionally, the ATC Digest, as it's called, doesn't run ads or any "advertorial" content.

The premium content newsletter is not yet available for sale via the AllThingsConsidered.biz Web site, but it can be purchased by calling the company.

Bonus Tip: Make it an easy sale

It never hurts to make it as easy as possible for your clients to buy what they want.

The AllThingsConsidered.biz site features three large buttons on the home page: The first is a "subscribe" link for their free newsletter. The second, "Client Solutions" (brilliantly) hooks visitors in with a very short questionnaire that determines which newsletter product is right for them.

Once the survey points the customer to their ideal product, they can buy it instantly.

The third button takes visitors right into the content catalogue for easy purchase of material.

While it's not the prettiest site we've ever seen, it serves its purpose beautifully.

It sells product, just like it's meant to. There isn't too much copy - just enough. And there are no "learn more" buttons. All the information is right on the first page, along with a "buy now" link.

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