How to create, grow & make money from newsletters: Register for Knight Center’s new free online course for journalists

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They arrive in our inboxes like clockwork. Some sound like they’re coming from lifelong friends, others are more straightforward and serious. No matter the style, newsletters have become a vital part of journalism for news producers and consumers alike.

“Newsletters have gotten more popular and there are more of them than ever, but they still remain one of the best ways to directly reach audiences,” said course instructor Joseph Lichterman, head of editorial and digital strategy for The Lenfest Institute for Journalism and author of the Solution Set newsletter on journalism innovation.

If you’ve been thinking about starting a newsletter, need help growing one you’ve already launched or just want to understand the phenomenal success of this medium, register today for the new Knight Center massive open online course (MOOC), “Newsletter Strategies for Journalists: How to Create, Grow and Monetize Newsletters.”

The course runs from Feb. 22 to March 21, 2021, so click here for more information and step-by-step instructions on how to register!

Banner for MOOC on newsletters

“We touch on everything from how to do the audience research and know even if a newsletter is right for you, [and] how to figure out what type of newsletter to launch,” said Lichterman. “From there, there are best practices to sustain it, to make sure it’s actually being delivered to your readers’ inboxes. What you need to know about privacy and data. How to re-engage people who maybe have fallen off your list. And also how to make money from it, whether it’s a standalone product, you’re an individual journalist, or you’re working at a news organization and you’re using newsletters as a key part of the funnel to turn occasional readers into regular readers who will hopefully become subscribers or members.”

Joining Lichterman as instructors are Emily Roseman, research director for the Institute for Nonprofit News, and Caroline Porter, media strategist and researcher. Roseman and Porter are also co-authors of the newsletter Unpacking.

The course will be divided into four weekly modules.

In week one, Roseman will walk students through choosing the right newsletter. She’ll cover defining the audience, researching your audience and choosing a newsletter structure.

“This step is extremely important. Newsletters aren’t always the solution — sometimes it might be best to reach your audiences another way (like over text messaging, or through an email list serve, or via slack, or with a live blog product),” Roseman said. “And, even when you do think newsletters are a good tool to reach and engage your audiences, you’ll need to narrow down the type, format and tone of your newsletter to match your audience needs. This all means that smart newsletter [creators] will conduct audience research early on in their newslettering journeys, to get some data that can guide key early decisions.”

In week two, Lichterman will talk about launching a newsletter, including key infrastructure, privacy and data security and creating a minimally viable product.

In week three, Porter looks at growing readership and how to make money from your newsletter venture. She will cover assessing engagement levels and ways to monetize. She’ll also show how newsletter creators have successfully grown their business, giving as examples Annemarie Dooling, engagement lead at The Wall Street Journal, and Delia Cai, founder of Deez Links.

“As you’ll see in the course, the path to monetization is one full of tiny bets that can grow over time to become big bets,” Porter said. “Taking leaps of any size can be challenging, whether due to an organization’s bureaucracy or to plain ol’ fear of failing. And, a related and important component to monetization is having a pulse on the value of your services to your readers.”

In week four, Lichterman will teach how to maintain your new project and optimize workflows. He’ll cover retaining audience members, segmenting lists and how to tell when it’s time to call it quits.

During the course, students will have access to video lectures, as well as readings and handouts. They will also participate in discussion forums and take weekly quizzes.

Those who successfully complete the weekly quizzes and participate in discussion forums are eligible to earn a certificate of participation at the end of the course. The administrative fee for the certificate is US $30. It is awarded by the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas and attests to participation in the course. No formal course credit of any kind is associated with the certificate.

Like all Knight Center courses, this MOOC is asynchronous, meaning you can complete the activities at your own pace and at the times that best suit your schedule. There are recommended deadlines, however, so you don’t fall behind.

“It is incredible how email, a technology created decades ago, has suddenly become so successful as a medium for journalists through the proliferation of newsletters of all kinds throughout the world,” said professor Rosental Alves, founder and director of the Knight Center. “We are pleased to have recruited three great experts to teach this amazing course on newsletters for journalists. And we are grateful to Knight Foundation for their support of our distance learning program that helps thousands of journalists with free or low-cost training.”

Click here for more details about this new program and step-by-step instructions on how to register!

About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

The Knight Foundation is a national foundation with strong local roots that invests in journalism, the arts and in the success of cities where brothers John S. and James L. Knight once published newspapers. Its goal is to foster informed and engaged communities, which it believes are essential for a healthy democracy. For more, visit kf.org.

About the Knight Center

The Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas was created in 2002 by Professor Rosental Alves, Knight Chair in Journalism and UNESCO Chair in Communication at the Moody College of Communication at the University of Texas at Austin, thanks to the generous donations of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. The Knight Center’s distance learning program began in 2003 and since then has been funded in part by the Knight Foundation. Over the past eight years, the Knight Center MOOCs have reached more than 240,000 people in 200 countries and territories.