Welcome to Press This, the WordPress community podcast from WMR. Each episode features guests from around the community and discussions of the largest issues facing WordPress developers. The following is a transcription of the original recording.
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Doc Pop: You’re listening to Press This, a WordPress Community Podcast on WMR. Each week we spotlight members of the WordPress community. I’m your host, Doc Pop. I support the WordPress community through my role at WP Engine, and my contributions over on TorqueMag.Io where I get to do podcasts and draw cartoons and tutorial videos. Check that out.
I’m going to tell you a quick secret. I love signing up for newsletters. I think I’m a bit of an anomaly here, but if we aren’t close personal friends, I’m probably not going to follow you on Mastodon or Instagram or Facebook, but I won’t think twice before I sign up for your newsletter.
If you have a restaurant, here’s my email. You got advice for game design? Sign me up. Weekly WordPress news roundups in my inbox? Don’t mind if I do. So I’m already sold on the advantages of communicating to your customers directly through email. But I thought some of you listeners might need some encouragement to explore the newsletter space.
So I’m happy to say that today’s guest is Lesley Sim. The co-founder of Newsletter Glue, a plugin that turns your WordPress site into a powerful newsletter CMS. And we’re going to talk about why you should be getting into newsletters.
Lesley, let’s kick things off with just telling us how you got into WordPress.
Lesley Sim: Hey, Doc. Thanks so much for having me on. I always love coming on these podcasts and live streams. My WordPress origin story, wow. I think my first exposure with WordPress was in 2016. I was trying to build a site for a craft beer business that I had just started and given where I am now, you can tell that that didn’t work out.
As it turns out, craft beer breweries are hard to run. so we were looking for a cheap way to build our site and that’s kind of the first time I stumbled upon WordPress. And craft beer didn’t work out and I ended up going deeper down the WordPress hole, starting a digital agency where I did marketing and build sites for clients.
And then just before the pandemic hit, I kind of got sick of that. I’d been doing it for a few years at that point and dealing with clients. Sometimes it’s really fun and fulfilling and sometimes it can be really frustrating. And I was like, Okay, I’ve given this services thing a good go, maybe it’s time to try my hand at products.
And since I’ve been working in WordPress for a while now, I was like, okay, maybe I’ll try building a WordPress plugin. And that’s very, very briefly kind of how I got started and how Newsletter Glue came to be because the WordPress plugin that after some trial and error, I decided to build was Newsletter Glue.
Doc Pop: I don’t know if I knew that you were a craft brewery business owner before this. That’s really cool. I always love hearing these extra little stories at the beginning of the show. So, is the craft brewery, how you got into, I need to make a newsletter plugin, or was that, after you already kind of dived into WordPress, you saw this need for that?
Lesley Sim: After I’d already kind of dived into WordPress, so I’ve been doing WordPress for a while and newsletters started getting more and more popular. I think as RSS kind of faded into the background a little bit, which I’m personally really sad about because I always loved RSS, I think people needed a way to stay updated and newsletters were it.
So I think around 2019, 2020 was when Substack started becoming really popular. And yeah, so I kind of wanted to do my own newsletter and then that’s kind of how I got the idea for Newsletter Glue.
Doc Pop: Yeah, definitely pouring out some craft beer for RSS and I was a heavy RSS user, so that might explain why switching to newsletters where it was basically my email now is the RSS aggregator. Right. That’s kind of how it probably works. It’s like something like that.
I mean, I’m sharing my personal information where with RSS I didn’t have to do that, but that’s maybe what you and I have in common with why we got into newsletters. Can you tell us about what is Newsletter Glue and what gap does it fill in the market?
Lesley Sim: Newsletter Glue works with publishers, media companies, and newsrooms, and we help them connect their email service provider, like MailChimp, Campaign Monitor, ActiveCampaign to WordPress. That lets them build their newsletters inside of WordPress, the way they’re already writing their articles. So the way I think about it is, if you have a team of editors and writers who are already spending all their time in WordPress writing their articles it’s kind of a pain for them to then switch brains.
To log into MailChimp, for example, and fiddle around with that editor and write their emails in there, and historically that’s always taken a long time and it’s less intuitive because you have to write in a separate pane than what you’re seeing. So we do a bit of all of that. Writers can instead just log into WordPress or they’re probably already logged into WordPress and just spin up a new post or a new newsletter inside of WordPress and start writing. And that experience is a lot faster. There’s no onboarding needed if you have new writers, because everybody, most professional writers, freelance writers already know how to use WordPress.
And the other side benefit of that is that now all of your newsletters are really deeply integrated into your WordPress site, so that means if you want to do paywall stuff or SEO stuff with your newsletters, you now can. Whereas previously, all of your newsletter archives were inside of MailChimp and it’s a different URL and you don’t really have much control over that.
You’re not able to have subscription forms on your newsletter archives because they’re sitting in MailChimp and on and on and on. So just having that deep integration is really huge for growth and branding and all of that stuff.
Doc Pop: Yeah, I think there’s a lot to be said about the integration in your site. You’re talking about using the SEO from the newsletters as a benefit to your site, and that’s interesting. But you briefly touched on one thing I just kind of want to address here is MailChimp and Substack. If they go away, which we’ve seen very similar services go away recently, if they go away, then you’re maybe at a difficult position, right?
Because Substack hosts your newsletter and MailChimp has hosted versions and then the version in the email box, but there’s not going to be that archived version where if you’re using something like Newsletter Glue, you can, depending, I guess, on the privacy settings, the public settings that you’ve allotted to each post, you can kind of keep those hosted and people can still find them later, right?
Lesley Sim: Yeah, that’s exactly it. And if you wanna migrate email service providers, then again, same thing, right? You don’t have to manually migrate ’cause everything’s already on your WordPress site.
Doc Pop: You’re talking about email service providers. I feel like we’re near the end of the first section here, but let’s try to get into that. If I’m using Newsletter Glue and I’m going to have to have a host for my site, which I would have to have anyway, am I also going to have to pay big money for an email server of some sort?
I don’t know how that works.
Lesley Sim: Yeah. So, all of the customers that we work with already have MailChimp accounts or ActiveCampaign accounts, and at the size that they’re at, it’s typically really, really hard for them to move off it. They might have a whole bunch of segments, tags, automation set up in there already.
But at the same time, they don’t like the day to day work, doing the day to day work inside of those platforms because they’re not really built for easy writing. And so that’s kind where we come in and help with that day to day newsletter operations.
Doc Pop: So, if I have a site, a WordPress site, again, you don’t have to pay hosting for that, but I would also have something like a MailChimp just to handle the newsletter serving. And what’s the integration like for that?
Lesley Sim: On our end, it’s super easy. So they just need an API key and key that in, and then we connect everything for them behind the scenes.
Doc Pop: Okay. And you probably do that like in the dashboard, in the WordPress dashboard, right?
Lesley Sim: Yes.
Doc Pop: Yeah, I love it. Okay, that totally makes sense. I haven’t used Newsletter Glue yet, but I can totally kind of imagine what it’s like there, because I’ve used several other WordPress plugins. When we come back, we’re gonna take a quick break, but when we come back, I’m gonna continue talking to Lesley Sim, the co-founder of Newsletter Glue.
We’re gonna talk about why you need a newsletter in the age of social media. And we’re going to talk also a little more deeply about how this is going to integrate with your WordPress site and kind of questions about new features that are coming to Newsletter Glue. So stay tuned for more after the short break.
Doc Pop: Welcome back to Press This, a WordPress Community Podcast. I’m your host, Doc Pop. Today, I’m talking to Lesley Sim, the co-founder of Newsletter Glue, a wonderful newsletter plugin that turns your WordPress website into basically, I don’t know, Lesley, what do you call it? A newsletter CMS?
Lesley Sim: Yeah, I would say it’s a newsletter builder, but newsletter CMS sounds good too.
Doc Pop: We talked about my love for newsletters, and I definitely think there’s a place for newsletters. I’m hoping maybe, Lesley, you could try to tell some of our listeners who might be putting a lot of energy into Instagram posts or TikTok videos, and they’re putting all their energy into there.
And maybe they think newsletters and email are kind of dead. What would you tell them? What statistics do you have saying, saying, actually, these are still really common? Or, you know, what would you try to tell someone to kind of convince them that they need to be in the newsletter business?
Lesley Sim: Wow, that’s hard. They’re just slightly different marketing channels. With social media platforms, that tends to be kind of where you go if you don’t have your own audience. So you’re going on a different platform to try to get found in the first place, but once you’ve grown an audience for yourself, you really want to bring them into your world, your universe, your Marvel cinematic universe. And that’s kind of where newsletters come in.
Because again, when you’re on a social media platform and you’re trying to get discovered, you’re at the mercy of the algorithms. Once your subscribers or your loyal customers or loyal followers know about you, they do want to know about if you’re a donut shop your Friday, you know, donut special. Or if you’re a hairdresser, there are monthly discounts. If you come in every month, you get a 20 percent discount or something like that.
They don’t want to have missed it because the algorithm didn’t show it to them. And so that’s where newsletters come in really handy. So you bring in, let’s say, something like 10 percent of your social media following into your newsletters and they’re your most avid fans. You can ensure that whenever you have a promotion or a discount or even just a story or an update to share, those people are going to get it. And that’s kind of the best way to build rapport with them, build a deeper relationship in a way that you just can’t on social media.
And you own those relationships, right? Because people have opted in, they’ve actively given you your email address. They want to hear from you, which is a very different vibe from social media where they kind of are scrolling randomly happen upon you and follow you and then forget about you five minutes later.
So I would say that’s not an either or kind of thing. It’s not like you either do Instagram or you do newsletters. It’s more like a funnel where, Instagram and TikTok and social media in general is kind of at the top of the funnel where you are going out of your universe into someone else’s universe to find subscribers and followers and then you’re drawing them in deeper into your funnel via the newsletters and then you know at the end of the day to your shop whether that’s online or in person.
Doc Pop: I like that. It’s not either or I think that’s good. I have been stating things as if they’re binary, but like, yeah, Instagram is great for giving flavor to your business and communicating with your customers, maybe having a back and forth and giving them behind the scenes. But if I’m following an artist, I don’t want to find out about their Monday night art show on Tuesday morning. Because the algorithm messed things up.
And similarly, if I’m following an artist and they have a new album coming out, I can’t click on a link from Instagram, not super easy, but in an email, totally could. So I like that idea that maybe do both. It’s not one or the other, but it sounds like newsletters have a little bit more of an actionable kind of like, here’s a time dependent thing, or here’s a link we want you to click.
And that maybe is their benefit. Does that sound good?
Lesley Sim: Yeah and I think as your marketing operations grow then obviously you can do more. We’ve got lots of publications using us that publish multiple daily newsletters. And so that’s something that you can aspire to. So it’s not just last minute discounts and stuff like that.
Doc Pop: This is another thing too, I’m thinking very specifically about newsletters as a way to communicate to your customers, but there’s a whole generation of newsletters, post Substack, as you mentioned, there’s a whole generation of newsletter writers that are turning that maybe into income, like writing the newsletters isn’t a way to drive business, it is the business, and does Newsletter Glue support features like that?
Lesley Sim: Not directly, we do work well with a whole bunch of different paywall plugins and software. LeakyPaywall is one of them that we work really closely with, Memberful is another one that lots of our customers use, and so on.
Doc Pop: What about Patreon integration? Is there any kind of integration there?
Lesley Sim: Not right now, but that’s really interesting and I’ll have to look at it.
Doc Pop: Yeah, I’m a Patreon user so I’d love to talk to you about that afterwards.
So let’s talk about some of the features that somebody can get from Newsletter Glue that might be missing from other things. Like I’m assuming you have Gutenberg integration in Newsletter Glue?
Lesley Sim: Yep. So that’s actually one of the big things about us. We use the block editor. So if you’re still using the classic editor, you’ll find that when you use us, you are faced with something a little bit new, which is the block editor. And one of our core features is that we have a whole bunch of different blocks that really dramatically speed up your workflow.
So customers, on average, say that they save one to two hours per newsletter using us, or you could also say that we cut your publishing time in half. And that’s just because a lot of them, when they’re building email digests, for example, they’re sharing links to their website or to other websites. If they had to do that in an email service provider, they would have had to manually upload the image, type out the heading, type out the excerpt, turn it into a link, and do that five times or ten times, depending on how many links they’re sharing in their newsletter.
With us, you just need to paste in the URL or you can set a bunch of features and filters and it automatically pulls out the articles from your site. And so that takes seconds instead of 20 minutes or half an hour, depending on what you’re trying to achieve. Yeah, so that’s kind of one of our main features.
And then also, once you’ve got your newsletter all set up, it’s really easy to hit publish and send the newsletter out from WordPress instead of having to go into Mailchimp to do it.
Doc Pop: Is that how you also manage your subscribers and things too, is through the WordPress dashboard? Or is that something you’d be using the MailChimp side of things to do?
Lesley Sim: That would be on the Mailchimp side of things. So we focus really heavily on the building part, like that kind of the daily work that you have to do to send out the newsletter. So we’ve also got really powerful automation features, so it’s kind of like RSS emails, which if people aren’t familiar with, basically you can set an RSS feed to send out as email notifications every time a new article is published.
While that feature has existed for a long time, it’s kind of always given me anxiety because you don’t have any control over what that final newsletter looks like. And so we built an email automation feature where, while you can also send it out automatically based on a certain time that you’ve set, you can also set it to just save as a draft.
And so this lets you automate 90 percent of the work or 99 percent of the work, and then go in that 1 percent, check that draft, send yourself a test email, update the subject line, and if you’re happy with it, then send it out. It saves a lot of time, but also prevents you from being scared that you’ve accidentally sent out something that you didn’t want to send out.
Doc Pop: I guess just one more question on that when you’re filling out this post or this newsletter form, is there also kind of like Yoast SEO integration if you have Yoast SEO so that it works later on down the line or is that kind of a separate thing?
Lesley Sim: Yeah, so because it’s just in the block editor, you can also use Yoast and do all of the keyword stuff and make it search engine optimized.
Doc Pop: Well, that’s a good spot for us to take a quick break. And when we come back, we’re going to wrap up our conversation with Leslie Sim about Newsletter Glue, and I guess we’ll just talk about the state of the industry, so stay tuned for more after this short break.
Doc Pop: Welcome back to Press This, a WordPress community podcast. I’m your host and Email Newsletter Addict, Doc Pop, I am talking to Lesley Sim, the co-founder of Newsletter Glue. And I think one of the things I want to talk about, kind of like changing gears a little bit, we talked about social media and websites, SEO, email newsletters.
We haven’t talked about podcasting, which is a thing that Lesley, I don’t know if you know I’m into, and you had just started a new podcast called Sticky. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
Lesley Sim: Yeah, we recently moved to focus on media companies and newsrooms, like I mentioned earlier. Before that, we were kind of targeting anyone with a newsletter, which is kind of a classic business mistake. And so once we moved to focus on media companies and newsrooms, I quickly realized, oh, we need a new way of marketing to them.
And I wanted to provide really high quality content that would help people who are already professionals in the business and not just kind of, me for example, in my room studying my own newsletter for the first time. If I was like an amateur newsletter writer, I would need very different content from someone who has been writing a newsletter for 10 years for a large publication, for example.
And so, I quickly realized, okay, I can’t interview myself or we can’t rely on really basic experience when we write newsletter type articles anymore. And that was when the idea for the podcast came about because I realized that the best people to interview to get really high quality expert level content were expert industry operators.
And so, I’ve been lucky enough to have a whole bunch of customers and friends who have been in the industry for a while, and I got in touch with them and set up a whole bunch of different interviews. The podcast launched this week, the first episode drops next week, and I’m really excited.
The quality is really high, and I feel like even if you’ve been in the newsletter publishing business for the past 10 to 15 years, you’re still going to learn valuable insight and advice from the episodes, so I’m really excited about it.
Doc Pop: Who’s your first guest?
Lesley Sim: My first guest is Alyssa Doin. She used to be head of deliverability at ConvertKit. I think now she’s head of audience growth, still at ConvertKit. She’s been working in deliverability for many years now and has dug into some narrowly deliverability issues. And so we kind of covered that in the podcast.
And I tried to keep it really, really actionable. So you really hear what you should do in this case? What should you do in that case? And I think I’ve already shared it with some people who are in the news industry and they’ve already found it really helpful.
Doc Pop: And speaking of actionable, if you are a marketer looking to get advanced advice on your email newsletter needs, you can go to sticky.fm to find out more or just look for Sticky on your podcasting app. Did I nail that?
Lesley Sim: Yes, that’s perfect.
Doc Pop: nailed it, And also, while we’re talking about call outs, you can follow Lesley on Twitter @lesley_pizza, or you can follow Newsletter Glue on Twitter as well. And I think on that, Lesley, I’m going to thank you so much for joining us today. It’s been great having you on. Is there anywhere else that you want to tell people to visit before we wrap up here?
Lesley Sim: Nope, that’s about it. NewsletterGlue.com is where you can find more about us.
Doc Pop: Right on. Well, thank you so much for joining us today, Lesley. It’s been really great chatting with you. This is Press This, a WordPress Community Podcast. Each week we have conversations with different folks in WordPress. Next week we’re going to be talking to Jeff Paul from 10Up about a new open source detector that he’s built so you can scan WordPress plugins and make sure they’re compliant for your needs. I’ll let him tell you more about it next week, but it’s gonna be a fun episode just about open source and business, and maybe what 10 Up is up to these days.
I’m also gonna be at WordCamp US, which will be already finished by the time you hear this podcast, but hopefully, if you were there, I got a chance to say hi to you.
Doc Pop: Thanks for listening to Press This, a WordPress community podcast on WMR. Once again, my name’s Doc and you can follow my adventures with Torque magazine over on Twitter @thetorquemag or you can go to torquemag.io where we contribute tutorials and videos and interviews like this every day. So check out torquemag.io or follow us on Twitter. You can subscribe to Press This on Red Circle, iTunes, Spotify, or you can download it directly at wmr.fm each week. I’m your host Doctor Popular I support the WordPress community through my role at WP Engine. And I love to spotlight members of the community each and every week on Press This.