5 Steps To Building An Automated Newsletter

In today’s day and age of short attention spans and abundance of information, our readers look to us to provide the most relevant data and only the relevant data. There are 2 vital questions that pop up:

  1. Which part of this information deluge is relevant?
  2. Which of the relevant data is relevant to your audience?

As such, it is very important to understand that the days of building content and hoping your audience will like it is behind us. There are Natural Language Processing (NLP) websites and tools which can automatically detect the strength of the keywords, the density and proximity of the keywords in articles and as such determine the relevance of articles without you having to read through hundreds of articles.

In fact, Natural Language Generation, which is the next logical step after NLP, has progressed to the point where language is automatically being generated on request if you input a few keywords. These articles are not just unique, they are highly optimized for Search engines. One of the best examples of this is Articoolo which generates articles on demand. Google’s AI on your phone generates awesome content when it is talking to you as well.

Given the above, how exactly do you make sure that you do not end up as Fred Flintstone in a crossover with the Jetsons? Chances are that you do not have the kind of manpower that CrunchbaseCB InsightsTraxcn has. It is not easy to engage your audience without having a proper strategy in place. In my experience, I have tried writing normal content, automated content, used different media to promote the same and everything else possible within my limited resources.

I will list down the most fundamental steps to building automated content below. Feel free to comment or let me know by email if you have discovered other methods that are equally useful to generate content.

  1. Data, data, data….
    Make sure that you know your audience well. Make sure you know the macro trends that they follow, their demographics, their usage patterns, etc. This does not happen on the first day. You need to build a culture of scrupulously collecting every bit of data about your audience and use tools readily available to monitor their usage patterns. This will narrow the search parameters and enable you to focus.
  2. Sources of information
    It is unlikely that you are the only one building content on your topic. There are plenty of others out there doing a great job. It helps to know what they are doing. The best way to get started is to set up Google Alerts for your topic. This gives you the most widely read sources. You may also tinker around with your keywords and settings to get better results. Once you have the basic results, start checking for lesser read blogs and journals using blog search on Google. For journals, you will need access to databases that you may not have. Keep updating your sources over time.
  3. Macro Data
    Sources of macro level data are super useful in building various sections of your newsletter. People love well crafted charts and tables that present complex data in a very succinct manner. Some of the most relevant macro economic data is present with the World Trade Organisation. United Nations Comtrade has an API for their trade data across countries that I have often used to good effect. You will also find relevant data with national databases if you search for it.
  4. Building the Sections of your Newsletter
    If you know what your audience is looking for, this is the easy part. In case you do not have a good idea, it is best to have several different formats and share t among your audience for feedback. You may use a simple Google sheet, or a survey tool. I use Zoho Surveys which is free for up to 150 response a month or Qualitrics which has some excellent layouts. Once the results are in, finalise the layout. Remember to match the layout with the sources of data. If your sources are going to be refreshed only once a month, your layout cannot have the sub section more than once a month.
  5. Generating the content
    This is where it can get very technical in nature. You may use Articoolo to generate one time articles, but that will not be very useful for newsletters. You need good coding skills to be able to generate content automatically. I had help from Anirban Sengupta who designed and built the code for the newsletter. This involves building a scraper which will regularly check for updates in content in your source websites, an abstraction/extraction tool built on NLP to summarise the content effectively. If done correctly, you will have the relevant content on your topic.
  6. Continuous feedback
    Build in a feedback mechanism in your newsletter to know why your audience liked your newsletter or why they did not. This is going to be very important to make sure that your layout, content and information is always relevant to your audience. While newsletters pander only to the majority, it is possible to build in small sections which appear in regular intervals and pander to the more discerning audience over a period of time. Over time this feedback might be used to build into a platform that will generate content customized for each user.