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How to Keep Your Subscribers Happy

Have you ever heard of Grammar Girl?

It’s a pretty cool concept (with “cool” defined by English major and editorial standards) that doles out grammatical explanations.

For example, a recent post was titled, “Spoonerisms, Mondegreens, Eggcorns, and Malapropisms.” And, if like me, you’ve never heard the word “mondegreen” before, here’s a brief bit of the blog:

Mondegreens happen when you mishear something, usually a song lyric, and create a new meaning. The Creedence “There’s a bathroom on the right” mistake [instead of “There’s a bad moon on the rise”] is a mondegreen, as is when people listen to “Rudolph, the Red Nosed Reindeer” and hear “Olive, the other reindeer used to laugh and call him names” instead of “all of the other reindeer.”

Incidentally, the paragraph above isn’t an exact copy, cut and paste job for the simple reason that I found not one but two proofreading errors in there. Not grammatical ones – she still gets to keep that title – but still out-of-place words.

Even so, it really is an informative site, and one I subscribed to about a decade ago… only to unsubscribe from about four months later.

The reason I unsubscribed from Grammar Girl is because, at the time, it wasn’t relevant for me.

As a newly minted member of The Oxford Club’s editorial team, I was trying to strengthen my skills. So when one of my more experienced colleagues suggested Grammar Girl, I signed right up.

But it was too advanced a service for my exact level of editorial efficiency. It had long-since covered all the basic stuff, such as:

  • The difference between a clause and a phrase

  • When to use a colon vs. a semicolon vs. a comma vs. a dash

  • Why comma splices are so bad.

It was too busy catering to a more advanced reader base: the people who had been with it from the beginning.

That’s not a criticism, just a fact that made me subscribe to other newsletters instead.

If you have a longstanding e-letter or e-blast or some such thing, this is an important question to contemplate…

How much do you cater to your loyal subscribers vs. your latest subscribers.

If you write for your long-time readers, there’s a good chance you’ll overwhelm your newbies. But if you focus on your newbies, you’ll probably bore your long-time readers.

In Grammar Girl’s case – at least back in my day – she chose the first option. Other business bloggers and e-letter keepers decide to repeat a lot of content.

Yet I do believe you can often keep everyone happy. (Minus the psychos. Who will never be content one way or the other. So why bother with them?)

Here’s how it could work:

  1. Have a flashback Friday, where you provide past information you know will be relevant to less informed readers.

  2. Feature a two-segment style, with each issue featuring something old and something new.

  3. Do cycles, where you provide the same content on a two- or three- or five-year loop, adding in one or two new items or informational exchanges along the way.

Mixing and matching like that allows your readers to have the best of both worlds… and you to have as many subscribers – old and new alike – as possible.

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