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Really Just Sending SharePoint News in an Email
Whover wrote MC671563 (29 Aug 2023) titled “SharePoint News in Outlook” needs some help composing headlines. Microsoft 365 roadmap item 124803 has nothing whatsoever to do with Outlook. Reading the headline, I anticipated something like a new OWA control (available also in the Monarch client, and for Outlook desktop via OPX) that allowed users to browse news items posted to their favorite SharePoint Online sites.
Instead, it’s simply a way to send news items from SharePoint Online via email to allow recipients to read the news using whatever email client they like. Although sending news via email is functional, it’s a bit of a damp squib when you consider that people have exchanged news via email since the dawn of messaging. Something more adventurous would have been nice.
Rollout to targeted release tenants has already happened. Standard release tenants will start to see the new feature in mid-September with full deployment due by late September 2023.
New Emailable News Templates
Essentially what’s happened is that SharePoint Online has six new templates to compose news items that are both posted to their host SharePoint site and emailed (Figure 1).
The templates intended for both posting and email support a limited set of web parts. With that exception, creating a new item is as before (Figure 2).
SharePoint News in Outlook Messages
After the content is ready, click Post and send. SharePoint posts the item to the site and displays a screen to allow the user to add the email addresses to receive the post (Figure 3).
The message that arrives in a user inbox gives the recipient the option to read the information in their favorite email client or in SharePoint (Figure 4). The link to SharePoint Online only works if the recipient can access the host site.
The mechanism used by SharePoint Online is rather like the Teams Share to Outlook feature and shouldn’t cause anyone to kill too many brain cells to master the feature. Some points worth noting are:
- To make sure that the information stays within the tenant, SharePoint Online doesn’t allow external addresses to receive the post. All addresses added to the message must belong to the tenant and include user accounts, Microsoft 365 groups, and distribution lists.
- The feature connects to the mailbox of the author of the news item and creates and sends the message from there (you can do the same thing using Graph APIs or the Graph SDK). A copy of the outbound message is in the Sent Items folder. Using this mechanism ensures that the message travels through the Exchange Online transport pipeline. Exchange Online can then apply any transport rules or DLP policies that match the message. The full path of the message is available through message trace, including any transport events that happen such as the application of transport rules.
One exception exists to the rule that limits transmission to internal recipients. If you operate in a Microsoft 365 multi-tenant organization (MTO), user accounts from other tenants in the MTO synchronize to your tenant as member accounts. SharePoint Online allows news items to be emailed to MTO synchronized accounts from other tenants. It might be that the SharePoint developers decided to support MTO accounts because they are deemed trustworthy because they come from a tenant that has a cross-tenant synchronization arrangement with your tenant. Or they simply didn’t realize that MTO accounts exist. I fear that the latter is the true reason.
Analytics for SharePoint News in Outlook
Page analytics are available for each news item. Microsoft says that the analytics reflect total page reads sourced from SharePoint Online and Outlook (email). News sent by email can be reported in terms of page views but SharePoint can’t capture how long people spend reading news items received by email.
A Feature Seeking a Problem
As I played with sending SharePoint news items via email, the question crossed my mind about what demand exists for such functionality. It’s easy to copy and paste interesting news snippets into regular email if you want to. No analytics are available, but again you wonder if this is important. Perhaps organizations exist that place great importance on SharePoint news items and insist on the ability to email the latest information. If so, I haven’t met them.
Microsoft’s blog on the topic isn’t particularly illuminating until you read the comments from real people who know more about SharePoint news than I do. Those comments are worth reviewing before you decide to dedicate any effort to deploying this feature.
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