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Text-Only Newsletters: Advantages and Disadvantages for Subscribers

Should you choose the text-only version of your favorite newsletter?

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HTML newsletters look fancy while text-only mailings promise to be pure and compatible. Should you choose a newsletter format by its cover? What benefits do text-only newsletters have, what is the price to pay?

Text-Only Newsletters

Using the older and native email format, plain-text newsletters look a bit archaic compared to their rich-text, rich-color, rich-media HTML counterparts.

Advantages of Text-Only Newsletters

  • Smaller Size. Text-only newsletters are typically smaller than HTML newsletters. They are faster to download and consume less hard disk space if you store them on your computer.
  • Better Security. HTML introduces a number of security issues. JavaScript as well as Java or ActiveX objects can all bring malicious code to your system through HTML email. Text-only newsletters do not carry these risks. The most risky part they can contain is attachments.
  • Better Privacy. HTML newsletters often include hidden images that tell the newsletter's sender when you have opened the message. These images can even set a cookie and make you identifiable to the newsletter's sender. Text-only newsletters protect your privacy, at least until you follow a link from within the newsletter. These links often include a means for the linked Web site to tell them who clicked.
  • Control over Formatting. With text-only newsletters, you can control what font at which size is used to display text.
  • Works Anywhere. Because the format is very simple, text-only newsletters require no special capabilities of the email client. They can easily be read even with old software or on portable devices. Text-only newsletters do not require color display either.

Disadvantages of Text-Only Newsletters

  • Difficult to Read. Text-only newsletters are often difficult to read. The lack of structure makes it difficult to spot interesting headlines or content. The lack of white space (not only and not always a failure of the format) makes text-only newsletters difficult to read.
  • Missing Images, Audio, Video,.... Text-only newsletters cannot include images, videos, or HTML features like forms. All of these, while essential for some kinds of newsletters, can only be reached via links to Web pages.
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