Chapter 10 - Email bulletins and creating your own RSS feed with Yahoo Pipes

Chapter 10 web version

In the book version of this chapter we will cover:

  • How to write an email bulletin
  • How to create and publish an email bulletin
  • How to automate the content gathering and publishing process
  • Using Yahoo Pipes to create an RSS feed for a bulletin.

At the end of the chapter are a range of exercises and projects to enable you to practise what you have learned.

Here we will look at:

  • Links to all the examples discussed in the book
  • Step-by-step tuition in creating your email bulletin
  • Video demonstrations of all the applications discussed in the book.

Always have the book version of Multimedia Journalism to hand while you use this website – the off- and on-line versions are designed to work together.

10B1 Introduction to email Bulletins

Find out more about email bulletins at these pages:

Jacob Nielsen:

Email newsletters – increasing usability:

Mobile email newsletters:

Nielsen newsletter signup:

10B3 Creating your email bulletin

book icon Find a detailed guide on how to write an email bulletin, the content to include in it and the various approaches you can take.

Here, we'll go step-by-step through the process of creating an email bulletin on MailChimp (

Using MailChimp

You can send 1200 emails a month under the free option.

MailChimp introductory video:

    Mailchimp takes you through the process of setting up your mailing list, naming your bulletin and so on, but here’s a run-through.

    Opening a MailChimp account

    See a video overview of opening an account here:

      Set up your mail list

      The procedure MailChimp takes you through in setting up your mailing list is a useful tutorial in how to make sure you are not spamming people – sending them communications they did not ask for. Follow the guidance there and you won’t go wrong.

      Next you add interest groups. This lets you target info at users who have expressed an interest in particular areas you cover. For now, keep it simple.

      MailChimp asks you to confirm that you have the approval of everyone on your mailing list before you send them your bulletin. Best to use your colleagues on the course for this to start with, unless you already have some willing subscribers.

      See a video of setting up your mailing list:

        Then you create an Excel document from your names list and cut and paste that into MailChimp.

        Next you can create your sign-up form.

        Create your signup form

        This is where readers can subscribe to your bulletins. You can ask for information about themselves as they do that. Keep what you ask to a minimum – just reasonable information that you need in order to send them the bulletin. Ask too much and you’ll put them off subscribing. Ask for their email and first and last names and/or a user name.

        When you've finished, take the code generated and embed the sign up form in your WordPress or other website. You could put it in a dedicated page, and then link to that page whenever you want to let people know you have an email bulletin, or you could put it in a sidebar.

        Adding a signup form to your WordPress site

        There is also a MailChimp plugin for WordPress which you can read about at

        or here if you are logged in to MailChimp:

        Creating the content for your newsletter: your campaign

        Once you have uploaded your list you move on to creating the content for the newsletter. MailChimp calls this your campaign.

        See a video overview of creating a campaign:

          You give your email campaign a name and set a subject line – this is what appears in the subject of your email so remember what we say in the book about getting the most out of this.

          MailChimp can track how many of your recipients open your bulletin, and what they click on once they have opened it. That gives you a clear indication of what items are popular.

          Next you select a layout. There are loads to choose from, and you can preview them to see how they would work for you. There are layouts designed for the web, tablets and mobiles, and responsive ones that adapt their layout depending on what sort of device users access them on. Pick something simple.

          You can simply drag and drop the elements – text boxes, images, social media share buttons – into your chosen template to create your layout. MailChimp looks at the colour palette on your website and applies those colours to the bulletin, but you can change them if you want to. The automatic version doesn't always work in my experience.

          Next, fill in the boxes on the template with the content you want to promote in the bulletin. Remember, the idea is to get readers to go through to your website – the bulletin is a promotional tool. So write sharp heads and sells and provide hypertext links to the full article or post in each case.

          Once you are done, click on next and you are asked to paste a plain text version of your bulletin in to a new template. You need this for those who don’t want your html version.

          Now you are ready to send your bulletin, but it’s a good idea to click the preview button first to check all is as it should be. As one final test, click on the ‘send a test’ button and send the bulletin to yourself, or someone who is prepared to check it over for you. You can also schedule your bulletin for distribution at a given time.

          Automating the creation of email bulletins

          MailChimp, and other email clients, give you the option of taking content automatically from an RSS feed. As your WordPress site generates one, you could just connect your RSS feed to MailChimp and set it to draw in and publish your new material at set periods.

          To do that, select RSS-driven campaign when you are creating your campaign, and follow the steps given.

          If you are writing a separate beat blog, either on WordPress, Blogger or somewhere else, you could link the RSS feed from that to a MailChimp campaign. Some sites offer you this service under their own branding., for example, where I curate two topics, lets me set up an automatic bulletin containing all the items I have curated over the past week.

          So, email bulletins, and the RSS feeds that we can use to fill them, are another useful way to distribute our content.

          Bulletins are quite a way up the pyramid of engagement that we have been using to measure how strong our connection is to a given member of the community we aim to serve with news and information. They help strengthen our connection with that person. To sign up for an email bulletin, a reader has to be pretty sure we can give them what they want, or need, to know.

          MailChimp lets us monitor signups and cancellations from our subscriber list. It tells us how many people open the bulletin, and how many read it. All this helps us to see if we are doing our job right.

          10B4 Creating an RSS feed with Yahoo Pipes