The Story Behind DanylkoWeb Digest, The Weekly Newsletter
In a previous job, I didn't realize I was building a newsletter. Today, I discuss how I started the newsletter and how I create it every week.
I get commissions for purchases made through links in this post.
I was talking with a former colleague and thinking back to when I posted my "first" newsletter.
Looking back on it, it's amazing how things evolve when you introduce ideas to your friends and co-workers.
With that said, I thought I would answer some newsletter questions with the 5 W's in journalism: What, When, Why, Where, and Who (and maybe throw in a "How")
What is DanylkoWeb Wire Digest?
UPDATE: It used to be called the DanylkoWeb Wire, but it was mostly a summary of full-stack news and techniques for developers and designers.
In short, DanylkoWeb Digest is a weekly newsletter containing curated links around the web about full-stack development with a focus on Microsoft technologies and, recently, a move towards mobile and responsive development and design techniques as we go into the new year (2018).
The newsletter is like a newswire even though I'm not a news agency, but I send curated content to my readers to make them aware of industry ideas, tips, and techniques with a little bit of humor thrown in.
So I decided to go with DanylkoWeb Digest
Who writes DanylkoWeb Digest?
Just me...Danylko. Jonathan Danylko.
Yes, I'm the only one publishing DanylkoWeb Digest.
When is it published?
I publish the newsletter every Friday morning around 6:30a EST.
Where Is It Located?
As mentioned, it's on MailChimp and is archived so you can view previous newsletters.
Why Did You Start the Newsletter?
This is a loaded question.
Some time ago, I was working at a company where every week, I would send links of interest around to my co-workers.
Everyone has done this from time to time. You find something interesting and want to send it to those people in your group.
Naturally, this would take a split second, but each link I sent would focus on one of four things:
- Improve the group's skill set with a cool technique in .NET.
- Notify the group of a new gadget
- How to advance your career
- Send a entertaining post around (like a Dilbert or technology comic)
After sending out links for the week, I thought it was too sporadic and some people wanted a list of them for later in case they missed them.
I decided to write them up and present them on a Friday every week. I called them "Friday Links."
I would pass around this collection of links to my own "subscriber list." I kept track of it through an email list I had on my PC. If someone wanted to receive the links, I would add them to my list and they would receive the Friday Links every Friday.
Sounds like a newsletter, doesn't it?
Once I left that company, I was told by a couple of individuals they missed the Friday Links.
So being a developer and since I have a blog, I created a way to send out multiple emails through GoDaddy.
After a month of building this custom, automated process into my blog, I started writing my newsletter and sending it out to my subscribers.
It didn't take long to find out I didn't have enough email relays.
After the first month, I only had 250 email relays, but I had more than 250 subscribers. I would have to purchase more relays and add that onto my monthly bill for GoDaddy.
Yeah...not gonna happen.
I started looking for a third-party service.
Looking around, I saw developers using MailChimp for their newsletters. The first 2,000 subscribers were free.
Boom! I immediately started using MailChimp.
Every since August of last year (2017), I've been pushing out a newsletter every Friday to my subscribers to help them with their career as a full-stack developer.
Something so small became something bigger.
How Did I Build It?
The whole idea with creating this newsletter is to automate as much as possible so I don't waste four hours creating a newsletter.
My normal process is like this:
- Curation (automatic)
Every week, I receive links from across the web from RSS feeds I've grabbed in the past from newsworthy sites. I place the RSS feeds into Feedly.
- Selection Process (10-20 minutes)
As I scour my feeds, I find these links and drag their URLs into a section folder on my bookmark bar for when I need them on Thursday evening. The bookmark folders are labeled with categories such as Design, Programming, Database, etc. I try to find the most compelling, informative, and entertaining stories of the week in each category for my readers.
- Transformation (10 minutes)
Once I have my list, I use Google Sheets to take URL's and transform them into a format I can use for MailChimp. The only reason I have Google Sheets is to speed up the conversion of links into an HTML format. Once I copy the links into Google Sheets, it uses an ImportXML to retrieve the title, images, and descriptions from a live HTML document and creates an HTML format in another cell for me. The ImportXML function alone is worth using Google's spreadsheets.
- Transfer (15 minutes)
Once I have the cells with the formatted HTML for each section, I open MailChimp and copy the HTML over to it's related section. There are times when I want to comment on numerous links. Depending on the amount of links, this gives me a chance to explain why I selected this link and how it could affect my readers.
- Finishing Touches (10-20 minutes)
I change the date of the newsletter, write up a title, share some weekly news, and highlight posts I think are of interest to my readers from the weekly list.
As you can see, it takes a little over an hour to create the newsletter every week.
Recently, I've received feedback from my readers about too many links, so I'm going to cut back.
I'll be adding 2-4 links for each section every week instead of almost 10.
If you have any suggestions, want to comment on the newsletter, or even help promote a blog post you wrote, don't hesitate to contact me.
Good or bad, I love to hear from my readers.
I always try to produce a newsletter to my audience every week along with my Morning Coffee Links.
If there's something of interest, I try to "share the wealth" so my readers are up-to-date and have a pulse on the IT industry instead of falling behind.
Thanks to my existing subscribers and I look forward to new ones in the future.
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