Audience Engagement Digital Publishing
3 mins read

Publishers tweak email newsletter strategies to find the sweet spot

A firm fixture in modern publishing lineups, email newsletters have become a key driver for audience engagement and reader-revenue development. Publishers are now starting to move beyond simple brand-extension initiatives and are finessing their email newsletter strategies to suit their own, unique objectives.

Takeaways

  • The London-based Telegraph is thinning out its newsletter list in a bid to increase its subscriber conversion rates. The publisher hopes that by offering readers a slimmed-down menu featuring fewer, more focused newsletters, more will make the move to subscribe.
  • Across the Pond, The Atlantic magazine is heading in a different direction, offering existing newsletter creators the opportunity to join its team. One of its objectives is to convert independent newsletter subscribers into Atlantic subscribers.
  • US news publisher Axios has introduced a membership programme for some of its local newsletters. City-specific membership payments are voluntary, with suggested annual contributions ranging from $50 to $500. Donors are encouraged to join ‘to support the work’ of local newsrooms.

Less is more

  • The Telegraph grew its paid digital subscriber base by 30% this year, topping half a million this month. A portfolio of over 40 newsletters has been central to its growth strategy, but rather than push out more to bring in new subscribers it is killing off under-performing newsletters with low engagement rates.
  • Monitoring reader’s habits also led the Telegraph team to consolidate newsletters with an overlapping readership. Seeing commonalities in the audiences, foreign dispatch newsletters Letter from the USA and Letter from the Middle East were brought together as one global newsletter called The Dispatches.
  • Dan Silver, The Telegraph’s director of email and newsroom innovation, said:

Newsletters can have a shelf life. It’s fine to unsubscribe to one newsletter and sign up for another newsletter. We have a very fluid attitude to these editorial properties.

Bringing in talent

  • The Atlantic is planning to bolster its own subscriber-only newsletter offering by bringing established writers under its umbrella. It is expected to announce a lineup of newsletter writers by the end of the year. The newsletters they produce will only be available to Atlantic subscribers.
  • Where the magazine on-boards writers who already have their own, paid, following, it will try to convert those readers to become Atlantic subscribers. The pitch will be that readers paying $5 a month for one newsletter can get all the Atlantic’s newsletters, plus the magazine for $50 a year.
  • The plus for newsletter creators is that they will get a regular payment, plus the opportunity to grow their income as their subscriber numbers grow. And they will get to keep their existing subscriber list so that if they ever decide to leave the Atlantic newsletter programme, they can set up elsewhere easily.

Support the work

  • Axios first got into the local newsletter space at the end of 2020 through its acquisition of the Charlotte Agenda. The free newsletter had 1,700 paying supporters at the time of acquisition. Renamed Axios Charlotte, it is still free to access, but has close to 2,000 paying members and will generate more than $100,000 in membership revenue in 2021.
  • Axios Local now has almost 400,000 daily newsletter subscribers across 14 cities. The company hopes to launch in 11 more cities in the first half of next year. Newsletters typically launch with two reporters, but the plan is to reinvest membership contributions directly into each newsroom to hire additional staff.
  • Axios CEO Jim VandeHei said that is the business can replicate the success it has had with Axios Charlotte:

We will grow a huge, profitable division and help revitalize local coverage.

This piece was originally published in Spiny Trends and is re-published with permission. Spiny Trends delivers updates and analysis on the industry news you need to stay on top of if you’re running a media and publishing business. Subscribe to a weekly email roundup here.