Chip MacGregor

July 6, 2015

What's the difference between a website, a blog, and a web newsletter?


Someone recently sent in a question about websites and blogs… “Practically speaking, what is the real difference between a website and a blog, or between a blog and an online newsletter? And does an author need one of each?” 


Practically speaking, there really isn’t any different between them – they are all simply information shared via digital means. But in common parlance, a website is most often a static site that introduces readers to a person or organization, and a blog is an active commentary about topics of interest to the writer(s).pen and ink

Think about it this way: a blog provides more commentary than a website, and is updated regularly, whereas a website often presents some basic information that tends to remain the same for a long time. For that reason, we generally see websites as one-way communication, whereas a blog is more interactive and has multiple communication pathways. Media commentator Jeff Korhan has said that a website is a digital storefront, and a blog is a digital magazine — an image I’ve long found helpful.

A newsletter is similar to a blog, but often is used as a device that is sent out (rather than waiting for people to come visit), and shares information about upcoming events of interest to the regular members or readers of the newsletter. I once heard a speaker say that a newsletter is a “push” device (because you push it into people’s email boxes to get noticed) while a blog is a “pull” device (because you offer writing and ideas that pulls people in).

Does a writer need all of these? Well… no. There’s no “one right method” for every writer. But I think most writers these days have some sort of website, so that new or potential readers can go and research them. For whatever reason, readers enjoy seeing photos of the writer, reading a bio, hearing him or her say a few personal things in their own words. And, of course, it’s also a great place to cross-sell your various books. So some type of introduction via a website (a “store,” if you will) is pretty much assumed in today’s publishing world. But a blog, which requires constant updating and attention, is a lot more work — and some authors feel it’s unnecessary because it simply pulls them away from writing their book in order to write something more ephemeral. Research has shown that a blog that is not updated regularly simply doesn’t garner much of a readership. And the fact is, a blog is a monster that has to be fed. It needs words, on a regular basis, and that takes a lot of writing effort.

I’d love to hear from the writers — How important is your website? What sort of effort do you put into a blog or newsletter? What tips would you offer other writers? 


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  • David Todd says:

    I have pondered whether to start a newsletter, as the wisest voices in the industry say this is the best way to get the news out about your books. The time commitment scares me, however, even just for a quarterly newsletter. It’s hard enough to find time for regular blogging. I’m currently evaluating the newsletter idea again, and may do one. Meanwhile, my static website desperately needs a content update. And my blog needs to be fed in this busy summer

  • Nick Kording says:

    I couldn’t agree more with the blog versus website. I want to write and be available but blogging on a regular schedule is not something I enjoy as a writer.

  • Good distinction. I often feel the weight to feed the monster. As soon as one post is up, it’s old news!

  • I think another key distinction is that a blog allows for two way conversations (like this comment function) where a website and newsletter are more broadcast conversations.
    I learn lots of great stuff from the comments on my blog and others. Great way to connect.

  • Danika Cooley says:

    These are apt descriptions, Chip. I host static pages on my blog which have separate URLS directed to them, and I send RSS newsletters to my subscribers. Once in a while I send a direct newsletter (akakkak “the push”).

    I think that a blog is a big investment of resources, especially initially. It can really feel counter-intuitive to spend time on, but I’ve found blogging to be a powerful vehicle, and another means for content creation and distribution.

    I like the idea of writing in several mediums, which is something I learned here on your blog. Also, I think that sometimes we need to earn the right to push by first doing a little pulling. There’s nothing more powerful than a direct push from a trusted source, and nothing more compelling than a pull through content marketing (give good stuff!). That’s my take on it all.

    • Danika Cooley says:

      That should say *aka. My auto-correct isn’t quite the tool it’s billed as.

  • Daisy Rain Martin says:

    My website and blog are exactly as you describe. I “feed” my blog once a week. I’ve thought about doing a newsletter, but I didn’t quite see how it would be different from my blog, so I haven’t done it. This article is pretty helpful in that regard, so thanks for that! I have tinkered with an online magazine for two years. That’s been fun. Once my next book is out, I’m going to relinquish the magazine and focus on my blog — I’m thinking about learning how to monetize it for 2016. You know, Chip, I would love an article on how to monetize a blog! What say you?

  • Lisa McKay says:

    I’m probably not a great person to weigh in on this because if I were throwing all my effort into earning real money as an author I would be doing things differently on my personal website (I would be writing to a brand, posting at least once a week on topic with that brand, etc).

    What I’ve done instead, is blogged because I wanted to on a personal level, not because I knew it would build readership.

    When we moved to Laos, when I had my first child, when Mike had cancer, blogging became a forum for me to work through my stuff and to stay connected to friends all over the world. The blog became my way of staying disciplined and writing new material when I was way too tired during early parenthood to think about tackling a new book.

    The tricky thing for me has been during seasons when I’m not posting as much trying to battle back those inner “shoulds” that tell me that I SHOULD be posting all the time. When I’m only writing a blog post because I feel I SHOULD, that’s when I feel I’m wasting time or procrastinating.

  • Lynn Chandler-Willis says:

    I have all three—websaite, blog, and newsletter. My biggest issue is with the blog. I write mainly in the crime fiction/mystery genre but 99% of my blog posts focus on the day-to-day misadventures of being the granny nanny to eight of my grandkids. Funny, touching, full of shake your head moments. I score well with those type blogs and most of my followers comment. It’s hard to find a good balance between writing about killing people in dastardly ways and poopy diapers.

  • Steven Hutson says:

    I say, do as much as you can handle. Either yourself, or by hiring someone (probably the youngest person in your household).

  • Tanya Dennis says:

    I agree with all that you’ve said here. A website is important, and a blog needs to be fed.

    I used to blog very regularly (3x/week). The purpose was to “build my platform.” Experts in traditional publishing all repeated the same line to me: Great writing, nice ideas, but no one knows you. So, I switched my focus from writing books to blogging and social media. What I learned is that (1) people are most likely to follow if you’re giving stuff away and (2) I had less to give when I wasn’t “really” writing. Writing solely for the purpose of gaining followers tends to be rather shallow. And therefore attracts shallow connections.

    I have since recalibrated my approach. I still do social media (it’s fun and easy), but I now only blog 2-4x/month. I have added an email newsletter that goes out about once a quarter. I focus less on numbers and trends and more on what interests me and stirs my passions. My platform is still relatively inconsequential, but I feel more confident in my path. My ROI seems more balanced. I feel less like I’m spinning my wheels.

    • Jane Daly says:

      Did you begin by sending your newsletter out to everyone whose emails you had? Did you offer them the opportunity to opt out? I have a hundred or more business cards with emails, but I’m hesitant to push out a newsletter when I haven’t been invited to send them something.

    • Tanya Dennis says:

      NO. I only send it to those who have subscribed via my website. When I initially started my newsletter, I did invite subscriptions and make a few announcements of what it would be, but I didn’t assume anyone would want it. 🙂 Everyone chose to join and everyone has the option to unsubscribe at any time.

      I use and highly recommend Mailchimp ( It’s a mass mailing service that allows you to manage your mailing lists, create professional newsletter templates, and track subscriptions, clicks, and more. It’s also free if you have fewer than 12,000 emails/month. If you have more than that, you’re asked to submit a monthly fee or purchase email credits.

      As someone else mentioned, the difficulty is finding a unique purpose for all three of these methods of communication. Here’s how I’ve divided mine:

      – Website: Static; Bio, Products and Services
      – Blog: On my website, but updated 2-4x/month with new articles about faith, current events, and how to find and follow God “In the Dailies”
      – Newsletter: Emailed; Personal news and updates on published items; prayer. I consider this my “inner circle” of influencers and supporters.

  • Cindy Thomson says:

    I decided to combine my blog and web site to one WordPress site. If you never update your website (or rarely) why have both?

  • Linda Chaffee Taylor says:

    In my Platform Building class at Taylor U, I make the students create a website–simple one with just a blog page and an “About” page. Then they have to blog every other week during the semester. I’m trying to get them into the habit of being “out there” so that once they leave the cocoon of school, they already have found and communicated with others in their “tribe.” It’s a good exercise, I think, but I also try to make them learn to be strategic about it–joining the conversation that’s going on in their genre, offering helpful info, sharing parts of their process, etc. It does take work, but if they want to build a platform, they need to start thinking this way. This blog of yours is so helpful! Thanks!

  • mulelady says:

    I had not thought about this, but that is a great explanation of the differences, and was spot on. I have a website for my business and it does not get all. Doing much more business on FB. Blogs are indeed time eaters. I thought, “For whatever reason, readers enjoy seeing photos of the writer………” was funny. Don’t you want to know all that? Ha, ha! Good as always, Chip!

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