email newsletters local publishers

How to Make Your Email Newsletters the Talk of the Town

Is your inbox full yet? Local news publishers in virtually every market are launching newsletters as a way to promote their content and bring in readers. As new tools are being developed to build email newsletters that readers will want to engage with, this is a strategy that publishers can’t afford to ignore.

Digital marketing trends are changing all the time, but email stands out from the pack thanks to its longevity and its effectiveness. Even as publishers interact with readers across newer social media platforms, email newsletters remain one of the most effective ways to get into people’s inboxes.

Still, with American workers receiving an average of 126 emails each day, and daily email traffic volume increasing by 5% each year, it’s getting harder to stand out.

From the publisher’s perspective, we’ve got two big challenges with email newsletters:

  1. How do you get people to sign up for newsletters?
  2. How do you get people to engage with your newsletters?

No publisher wants their newsletter to be grouped in with the 60 billion junk emails sent each day. How do you make sure your emails are the ones people click on first?

Major data research conducted by Northwestern University’s Spiegel Research Center gives us a good idea what people are looking for.

Just like we suspected, Northwestern University’s researchers identified newsletters as a “key way to build subscriber loyalty,” particularly as local news operations shift from advertising dollars to a customer revenue model. Newsletters drive loyalty even when they are stand-alone offerings, meaning the email is the product and the publisher isn’t aiming to send readers to a separate website or social media page.

Newsletters that work

Research tells us that the best emails are written like a person, not a robot. People can get aggregated lists of news articles from anywhere. That’s not what they’re looking for when they subscribe to a local news publisher’s email newsletter. Northwestern University’s research found that readers respond best to newsletters written in a conversational familiar style.

For an idea of what that might look like in the real world, check out theSkimm, a daily newsletter aimed at millennial women. What makes theSkimm work is that it’s both serious and fun.

Of course, not every newsletter is going to be the same. The tone of your publication will dictate how your newsletter is structured. You’ll also want to pay attention to your goals. A newsletter that’s meant to drive readers toward a website will be set up differently than a newsletter that’s a standalone destination.

What about length? One of the common problems publishers have is that their newsletters are too long. Readers don’t want to spend 20 or 30 minutes reading a newsletter. They want a 2 to 3 minute read, with links that they can use to find out more information when they have the time. The longer a newsletter is, the fewer people will make it to the end.

An exception to this rule is if your newsletter is subscriber-only. If you are charging people for your newsletter, then you will want to make it is more substantial and it includes content they can’t get anywhere else. Just be aware that if your newsletter is 5,000 words long, there’s a very good chance people won’t make it to the end, and you shouldn’t put any important information down where it’s unlikely to be seen.

If you’re struggling to make decisions on the length or tone of your email newsletter, do some A/B testing to find out what readers like. Which links are they clicking on most frequently? Are people more likely to click on articles with long introductions? When you let data be your guide, you can rest assured that you are developing the strongest possible email newsletter for your readership.

Let’s recap what the research tells us people are looking for in newsletters from news publishers:

  • Relatively short length
  • Personality in the tone and content
  • Attractive subject lines
  • Taking data into account

Revenue opportunities

Many publishers are looking at how to monetize their email newsletters. Selling ad space is the most common strategy here, but it’s certainly not the only option.

Increasingly, local news publishers are selling subscriptions or memberships and charging readers for access to their weekly newsletters. These newsletters aren’t just recaps of the week’s top stories. They are their own standalone products with exclusive content that people can’t access anywhere else.

If you do want to monetize your email newsletter through advertising, you can choose between display advertising and native advertising or sponsored content. You could also monetize your newsletter by integrating an ecommerce component, such as adding affiliate links and earning a commission on sales.

To learn more about the best ways to generate revenue from your newsletters, check out this guide to monetizing email from Web Publisher PRO.