Audience Engagement Digital Publishing
4 mins read

The Newsletter Era: Growing your newsletters starts with knowing your audience

Experts share tips on making your newsletter a success

Newsletters were one of the fastest growing media distribution and marketing solutions of 2020. Publishers used the tool to quickly build an audience and convert people into paying subscribers within months.

#MediaRevolution’s second session provides a deep-dive into launching a newsletter, understanding your subscribers and turning them into paying members.

The Fix compiled the key insights from the evening. The single most important one – never stop reminding your readers about your newsletter.

Ruth Betz, head of the digital transformation at Funke Mediengruppe. “How we achieved fivefold newsletter growth in just one year”:

  • Newsletters are good indicators of audiences willingness to pay for content. For example, New York Times has 14 million newsletter subscribers compared to 2.9 million digital users. 
  • It takes a media newsletter 3 to 4 months on average to start funneling subscribers to paid subscriptions.
  • Funke used a project approach to newsletter development. Creating an interdisciplinary team of technical staff, editorial specialists, and project managers helped create new editorial concepts and spend the budget wisely. 
  • Funke‘s newsletter production is divided into the following functions: 
  1. product management (internal communication and cooperation); 
  2. project management (tool support, data protection, customer analysis, sales, and surveys); 
  3. marketing (marketing campaigns, analysis and reporting);
  4. editorial (concepts of new formats, optimization, review, target group analysis).
  • Funke Mediengruppe launched newsletters in 2019 and reached 250,000 subscribers by December 2020. Growth was heavily supported by demand for COVID-19 thematic newsletters. These allowed Funke to gain some 65,000 subscribers within a short time.
  • According to Funke‘s analysis, newsletters generate 44% more page views per session compared to social referrals. Newsletter customers stay around 40-60% longer as paying subscribers.

Catherin Anne Hiller, Strategic Marketing Lead at Funke: “Newsletter as retention lever for paid content subscriptions”

  • Data disciplines help create a positive customer experience. They include data science, data profiling and automation, data intelligence, and data collection and research.
  • Profiling customers provides a full picture on the user newsletter experience and enables automated audience engagement.
  • The overall churn rate of customers in a media organization without newsletters is usually higher than the retention rate. According to Funke‘s data, customers in the churn zone can reach 25%, while the number of loyal users varies between 12-24%. Newsletters reduced Funke‘s churn rate by 50% and increased the loyalty segment to 30%.  

Caroline Porter, media strategist and researcher. “How to build an engaged subscriber list that generates revenue”:

  • If media outlets want to build an audience, they need to know the values of the people they target and how readers use newsletter content. That provides an opportunity to experiment with formats and make the content more personalised. It is also important to be familiar with the way audiences move from web traffic to subscription. 
  • To start building the core audience for your newsletter use your website and email, referrals (cross promotion, subscription, newsletter classified), social media, and fresh media content. 
  • There are three ways that can help monetize newsletter content. One of them is business streams which include classifieds, advertising and sponsorship. Classifieds are the easiest way to get revenue and grow your audience. Both advertising and sponsorship are also great options.

Recommendations for growing your newsletter audience

Caroline Porter: 

  • Experiment with referrals. It allows you to see how audiences share newsletter content. For example, the media can take newsletters as individual products and promote them through social media.
  • Use a personal communication approach. Leverage photos, signatures to make your user feel like they are talking to a real person.
  • Pay attention to analytics and feedback. Offering newsletters on the home page can be a way to catch readers’ attention, but make sure it’s not too damaging in terms of user experience.
  • Use stories, images or funny messages to engage the audience. Work hard to make them scroll to the end of the newsletter.

Ruth Betz:

  • Use different formats of headlines, share insights from your work and communicate via newsletter to catch readers attention. 
  • If views start going down, try to optimize formats, use different time of the day for sending newsletters, conduct surveys on this issue. Media can also try to send similar newsletter products as an alternative. Make sure that your “unsubscribe” option is conveniently embedded.
  • Check-out campaigns are a good way to catch audience attention. For example, during online-shopping users usually check out a page with offers both for e-paper and newsletters. Promoting newsletter content on other media outlets is another great option.
  • Other newsletter promo options: put click links of newsletters on website pages, show newsletter teasers above articles, or “use call-to-actions” in articles.

Catherin Anne Hiller:

  • Research your audience and create customer profiles using data about your relationship history with a subscriber. Funke uses an automated standardized service to collect data about readers and then sends a newsletter on topics interesting to that demo.

Media Revolutions will be held until March 3rd. Join us!

This piece was originally published in The Fix and is re-published with permission. The Fix is a solutions-oriented publication focusing on the European media scene. Subscribe to its weekly newsletter here.