Running a Successful Weekly Newsletter

I umm’d and ahh’d about the title of this post for a while because I wasn’t sure I could call the responsive design newsletter successful. To me that seems a little big headed and it wasn’t until I had someone at a bar come up and tell me that they loved the newsletter that I let myself believe it qualified as a success.

Responsive Design Weekly started in April 2012 as a way that I could share all of the links that I found while researching Responsive Web Design (RWD) for a resource site I was, and still am, building.

Getting Started

The rationale behind starting the newsletter was

  1. I was already spending time collecting links because they helped me a lot when building and consulting on websites
  2. I thought it would only take a few more minutes each week to collate those links into a newsletter
  3. Mailchimp was free up to 2000 users so there was no costs involved

Since that first newsletter went out to 18 people the list has grown to 6874 at the time of writing this post. Over the 11 month period the process has been refined a few times and I wanted to share that process with you in case you were thinking about starting a newsletter of your own.

Before I get started on the how’s of putting together a newsletter I wanted to introduce you to what makes up the creation of newsletters.

Understanding the cost of newsletters

While my three step rationale seemed logical at the time it quickly became apparent that, just like transformers, there was more than meets the eye.

The basic steps are still the same: Collect & Curate links, add to newsletter, send newsletter; however the time it takes to go through those steps became much more than I originally anticipated.

Lets break those costs down…


  • Estimated Cost: Free
  • Actual Cost: $75 p/m

Mailchimp is great and is free for the first 2000 subscribers and up to 10000 emails per month. I was sending the email weekly so there was never any chance that I would reach the monthly sending limit.

You should take into account that if you’re going to be successful with your newsletter then the number of subscribers are going to grow over the 2000 mark at which point you will need to start paying for that out of your own money.

I found that the growth from 0 – 2000 was slow, but once I hit 2000 the growth to 5000 (the next pay point) was much faster. Fortunately Mailchimp provided me with a ‘not-for-profit’ discount so I got 15% off the costs, however I have now got to the point where I’ve introduced advertising within the newsletter to cover the Mailchimp list and website hosting costs.


  • Estimated Cost: $0 (never considered)
  • Actual Cost: a portion of $700 design + ~15 hours learning html emails.

You have templates that you can choose from within Mailchimp and Campaign Monitor but you don’t really want to look like every other newsletter – do you? I partnered up with a designer to do some work on my responsive resource site and included a newsletter design as part of that scope of works.

Along with the actual cost of the designer you also need to put time into developing that template. Don’t be fooled, it’s a lot easier to build a HTML web page than it is to put together a HTML email.


  • Estimated Cost: 2 hours p/w
  • Actual Cost: 7 hours p/w + $4.95p/m

This is all your time. You are probably reading a lot anyway but when it comes to the newsletter what you’re doing is separating the wheat from the chaff. I use a few tools to try and catch most of the content including:

  • RSS Feeds – a series of feeds from sites that I know produce good content
  • ZITE – an iPad application that pulls through content related to topics I like. I can

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