Automattic Promotes WordPress.com as a Platform for Email Newsletters (and provides improved support)
Just as Twitter is killing off it’s Revue newsletter service, Automattic is promoting their hosted WordPress.com service for newsletters - and providing some new tools to make that easier. In their announcement blog post, they note that WordPress.com has already had the features to email posts out automatically. This “newsletter” functionality has been there for quite some time. What they’ve done now, though, is to bring those newsletter features together in a new theme - and they’ve also simplified the process of setting up a newsletter site.
[NOTE - this feature is part of the WordPress.*COM* hosted service, not part of the WordPress software (sometimes referred to as "WordPress.ORG”) that you can install on your own servers. However, they indicate that the theme used for this newsletter feature will be made more widely available in the future.]
In the announcement, they mention these features:
- Add unlimited email subscribers
- Import subscribers from other platforms
- Launch with a beautiful, ready-made theme or customize every detail with a myriad of Block Patterns
- Stylize your newsletter with a background image, site icon, and accent color
- Schedule email publishing
- Monetize your site (stay tuned for more paid subscription features)
- Use a free .blog subdomain or connect a custom domain with one of our paid plans
- Publish on the go with Post by Email – making writing a newsletter as simple as sending an email
They also mention that you can start up a new newsletter or add the features to an existing hosted blog.
Giving It A Try
Naturally, I had to try it out. 😀 I started by going to the newsletter page and simply choosing the link “Start building your newsletter”. I logged in with my existing WordPress.com account and was brought to a page to set up my newsletter:
This was simple and easy. After I took the screenshot I added a logo, which needed to be circular.
Here is one place Automattic will monetize - the “Favorite color” allowed me to use blue for free. Several other colors are available as part of a premium upgrade.
Next they prompt you to set up a custom domain, and offer you some options while allowing for more. You can, of course, skip this (I did in my test) and just use the free default domain they give you.
As I noted, I skipped this part and just moved on to the new screen where I was asked to choose a plan - or start with a free plan.
I chose for the moment to stick with the free plan for this test. After clicking that link, I had one more screen where I could add some initial email addresses and then… ta da… I was at a screen to start publishing
What Do I Think?
First, to be clear, there is not really any dramatically new functionality here. This is how WordPress has worked for quite some time. Even the field for someone to subscribe has been there as part of the “Subscribe Block”.
All that’s really new is this “Newsletter” theme and some of the onboarding screens.
Having said that… I think it can be a great way to get started with a newsletter!
You have all the power of WordPress editing. You can run it on your own domain. You can use it on your laptop or mobile device.
Now, it’s not clear to me that you will get the kind of statistics that you will get from a Substack, Revue or other newsletter platform. I couldn’t see any way to find, for instance, the open rate, or to know how many people clicked which links. Maybe it’s there and I’ve just missed it. Or maybe there is the expectation that you might use Google Analytics for that as part of a paid plan.
I don’t know… and it doesn’t really matter for me, personally. But I could see people who want to use this as a newsletter platform wanting that kind of information.
My one criticism was with the information about the plans. I couldn’t find any easy matrix showing what I get on the free plan versus the paid plans. I could see the features across all the paid plans… but not how that compared to the free plan. It would be helpful to understand as it might cause me to jump into a paid plan.
All in all I think it is a very useful reminder that WordPress can support these kind of interactions over email.
I may consider moving an older newsletter over to this platform and trying it out in 2023.
What do you think about this news?