Increasingly, content creators have been looking to email newsletters as a pathway to audience ownership. It’s not surprising; not only do newsletters increase web traffic, they also help drive paid subscriptions, affiliate revenue, e-commerce transactions, and other meaningful business outcomes.
But running a successful newsletter program requires more than just great content; it requires smart user acquisition, engagement, and retention strategies. To help publishers develop those strategies, we recently partnered with Trendline Interactive (an end-to-end email marketing consulting firm) to host a webinar, where we discussed how top storytellers are finding qualified email subscribers, along with time-tested strategies for increasing audience engagement and maintaining a healthy newsletter program.
Here are 6 tips we suggest publishers consider for their newsletter subscriber acquisition efforts.
1. Use content to acquire new subscribers
There are many ways to acquire new subscribers including direct response ads, sweepstakes, and on-site pop-ups. But the method that we’ve found to work best is using content to acquire new subscribers.
The idea is to expose potential subscribers to your content, and ask them to give you their email to continue reading more. This type of campaign achieves lower CPAs than traditional direct response and allows readers to engage with your content before subscribing, which leads to better email retention rates. Because these ads can use many pieces of content, the method is very scalable and conducive to A/B testing (and therefore great optimization).
2. Segment your newsletters
Large publishers like The New York Times, The Washington Post, and Buzzfeed have dozens of newsletters focused on specific topics like running, politics, or even Game of Thrones. This helps make sure that readers are receiving the content that’s most interesting to them (driving higher engagement rates) and preventing them from getting content they see as irrelevant (preventing unnecessary unsubscribes). In general, setting expectations for the type of content a user will receive and how often they’ll receive it is always a good practice.
3. Think about the user experience
Newsletter subscriber acquisition campaigns are often the first touchpoint of a long relationship with a user. For this reason, it’s key to make a good first impression by maintaining a great user experience. You should make sure that the content you send them to isn’t gated, and even consider a “thank you” page or special onsite experience for new subscribers. It’s also important to send a welcome email as soon as possible and set expectations early.
4. Utilize insights from other channels
While email is a great channel, it doesn’t stand alone in a publisher’s content distribution strategy. We suggest that all of our partners look for insights across their channels. For example, if a story is performing well with your core audience on site, you should consider using it as part of an email acquisition campaign. If you notice certain creatives working best for an article on social, consider using that post text as an email subject line. And if you see stories with great CTR within your emails, you should consider distributing them through other paid means (such as search and social) as well.
5. Leverage newsletters for other business goals
Similarly, publishers typically have many other revenue streams in addition to newsletters. While acquiring a new email subscriber is the end of one funnel, in many cases, it can be the first step of a new funnel. Because newsletter subscribers are often your most loyal users, newsletters are a great way to feed the top of the funnel for paid subscriptions, e-commerce transactions, and many other long-term business goals.
6. Keep lifetime value in mind (even if it’s not perfect)
When running paid acquisition campaigns, it’s important to know how much you’re willing to pay for a new email subscriber. However, this is easier said than done – 85% of publishers we asked on the webinar did not know the lifetime value of one of their subscribers.
85% of publishers did not have a general idea of their newsletter subscribers’ lifetime value
It can be very difficult to come to an exact lifetime value number, but having at least an estimated number is key to running a successful campaign.
As a first step, you can look at all of your existing newsletter subscribers, and understand the average number of sessions your newsletter is driving. Multiply that by the average session value, and you have an idea of the on-site revenue your newsletter is driving.
If you monetize your newsletter in any way, you should consider that revenue as well. You can multiply the monetization per email by the average number of email opens, and add that to your lifetime value estimate.
Finally, if you have additional paid products, you can consider the impact your newsletter has on that as well by multiplying the value of those products by the conversion rate of your email subscribers. (This step may require some more advanced attribution models).
by Nicki Kornbluth