Audience Engagement Digital Publishing
3 mins read

The increasing value of standalone newsletters

Publishers are seeing newsletters as distinct products, driving engagement and revenue

Newsletter strategy used to be focused exclusively on driving traffic to publishers’ websites with click-through rates the all-important metric. Increasingly, however, publishers are seeing newsletters as more than traffic drivers, developing them as distinct, standalone products that will cement audience engagement and even generate ecommerce revenue.

Takeaways

  • Newsletters should be treated as ‘valuable standalone products’, according to the members of a panel at the Newsrewired conference held in London this May. Representatives of The Guardian, the FT and the Economist agreed that the form can now stand by itself.
  • To deliver on their full potential, publishers are seeking to bring both personality and utility to newsletters. Direct feedback channels are important to building a sense of community and click throughs and open rates, once a key metric, have become secondary to retention and engagement through feedback and survey responses.
  • The depreciation of third-party cookies has spotlighted the potential role of newsletters in helping with audience segmentation. And for some time, the focus on subscription revenues has highlighted the part newsletters can play in conversion and retention. The FT’s head of newsletters Sarah Ebner said:

People on a trial are 134% more likely to subscribe if they are signed up to a newsletter – so newsletters are absolutely essential to any type of businesses that has a subscriptions or membership offering.

Original content

  • Across a portfolio of 50+ newsletters, The Guardian claims over a million subscribers. Over the past year, the paper moved away from curated content linking to web articles. Instead it has launched 10 in-depth newsletters in subject areas ranging from technology and gaming to women’s football and the environment.
  • Guardian head of newsletters Toby Moses described them as the closest thing in the digital space to a newspaper. Unlike the rolling content updates of websites or the constant refresh of social streams, newsletters are a finite product that readers have opted in to receive.
  • This presents an ideal opportunity to engage audiences with original content. Archie Bland, Editor of the Guardian’s First Edition newsletter told Press Gazette standalone newsletters should have the kind of information readers would want to pass on when talking with friends in the pub.

Newsletters feel like they offer an opportunity for a way to talk to readers quite directly that is distinct from what you can do on the website.

Shopping newsletters

  • Camilla Cho, svp of ecommerce at Vox Media is working with titles across the company to incorporate ecommerce into their newsletters, adding shopping content to existing offerings where appropriate or creating separate ecommerce sends.
  • She told Digiday that her team was reviewing all of the company’s brands to see if they can identify a ‘shopping-focused’ audience that would welcome shopping-related content, either incorporated into an existing newsletter, or as a separate weekly.
  • Brands with existing experience in ecommerce content are best suited for shopping newsletters. Data insights can help identify product categories and retailers that audiences have an interest in. It also helps with price points, indicating whether the audience is likely to be high-end shoppers or deal seekers.

Those are all good signals that we could get from ecommerce articles. Having that as a starting point to be able to create relevant newsletters will be important.

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.