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e-Newsletter Formats in Email Marketing

Email marketing offers two email formats: plain text and rich format ("HTML"); the format to choose isn't always clear. This tutorial will examine the technical limitations and advantages of these two formats. Ultimately, you should take into consideration the demographics of the group to whom you market your products or services. Equipped with the knowledge gained from this tutorial, settling for an email format will become easier.

Email Newsletters in Plain Text Format

Email was originally designed to work with text only (no images, font colors or sizes); with time, email programs and webmail services have adopted "MIME", which allows embedding into emails binary data (like images); today, the majority of email services and applications support rich emails. In spite of the wide support for rich format emails, plain text emails still abound, for the reasons outlined below.

Geo-Targeted Marketing and Plain Text Emails

Plain text emails travel and download much faster, since they contain virtually no "meta data" outside the email headers: meta data describes how the information should be presented, and plain text emails contain little formatting information aside from new lines characters. In 2021, most of the western world connects to the Internet using high-speed broadband connections (DSL or cable, typically).

Other parts of the world, however, do not yet have the infrastructure to support widespread high-speed Internet. As a result, your email marketing campaign should take into account the geographical diversity of its subscribers.

Moreover, countries without well established high-speed Internet service providers are likely to operate on lower end, or older, hardware. Your email newsletter subscribers might well use antiquated computer hardware and software, by our standards. Older email programs may not be well equipped to dealing with the complexity of rich format emails, let alone high-color output exceeding the capacity of early CRT monitors.

Security, Privacy, and Plain Text Emails

Unfortunately, spam and junk mail problems have arisen from the growing popularity of email. Setting up an illegitimate email marketing base is simple, fast, and inexpensive: the success of some spam campaigns relies on the ability of email clients to download and display images from a remote server. This server can be -and often is- used to determine if an email address is active: reselling lists of active email addresses is a profitable business amongst spammers.

As a result, many potential subscribers will want to subscribe to email newsletters in plain text; plain text emails can be used for spam, but without risk of detecting if an email address is active. Most modern email programs can be customized to display text only: in this case, a rich format email newsletter will appear as gibberish (namely, HTML code).

If your subscriber base has any interest or concern with online security, plain text newsletters might be the best choice: many nerds despise the idea of rich format emails, regretting the days of GUI-less computing.

Email Newsletters in "Rich Text" Format (HTML)

Any marketer knows that image plays an equally, if not more important role than pure content. Plain text email newsletter only allow for very limited branding, since any kind of formatting or images are excluded.

While comparatively much larger to download, nicely designed email newsletters are feasible for anyone using a high-speed Internet connection. The advantages

The Compromise: User-Chosen Email Format

Marketing newsletter: choosing an email formatIf the email marketing tools you use support this option, you should ideally offer potential subscribers the choice between HTML or plain text emails. Considering that most email programs support rich format emails, it would also make sense to have HTML the default choice on your signup page, leaving the plain text option for those who really want it.

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