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Newsletter Engagement Strategies for Local Publishers

More than half of Americans check their personal email at least once an hour, even when they’re at work, making email newsletters a valuable tool for publishers looking to get more eyeballs on their stories. The latest newsletter engagement strategies for local publishers are pushing the envelope and driving reader conversions to uncharted levels.

Email newsletters are not a new marketing tactic for local publishers. (Here at Web Publisher PRO, we’ve even talked about how to monetize email newsletters.) Some local publishers choose to send daily recaps of all the stories they publish, or roundups of the most popular articles on their websites, while others take a more targeted approach with newsletters that are based on reader interests. But the latest newsletter engagement strategies for local publishers are designed to cultivate stronger communities and increase readerships at the same time.

Here’s what we know:

1. Newsletters should engage readers outside of the inbox. One of the latest trends within the industry is to encourage one-on-one conversations with readers. We want newsletters to promote interactions between publishers and readers, with engaged audiences that want to support the publication by becoming paid subscribers or members. This sort of engagement happens when publishers use their newsletters as a place to ask subscribers to complete actions outside the inbox, like joining a Facebook Group or a subreddit.

2. Publish exclusive stories for subscribers. The vast majority of local publishers use their email newsletters as a repository for existing content. Those publishers are missing the real value. Adding value to a newsletter can be done in a number of ways, but the easiest strategy is to publish exclusive content for newsletter subscribers. This doesn’t have to be entirely new articles. Some publishers have found success by embedding exclusive videos and audio recordings into their newsletters. This makes subscribing to their newsletters a virtual requirement for loyal readers who want to stay updated on the latest news around town, and promotes a certain level of engagement that isn’t there with traditional newsletter formats.

3. Give readers the chance to reply. We’ve all seen email newsletters that come from no-reply@ email addresses. While there’s nothing wrong with using a generic email address to send newsletters, per se, the latest newsletter engagement strategies for local publishers encourage the use of real staff email addresses when sending newsletters. Asking subscribers to respond directly to certain questions moves the conversation forward, cultivates deeper connections between readers and the publication’s staff, and may even provide a source of content for future articles or newsletter editions.

4. Go in-depth on specific topics. Sure, most publishers use email newsletters as a place to recap the day’s top stories, but nobody says it has to be that way. One of the smartest newsletter engagement strategies for local publishers that we’ve seen is to publish single subject newsletters on a certain day each week. For example, rather than send daily article roundups on Tuesdays, a publisher might take a deep dive into a specific topic with links to all forms of relevant content. This makes the newsletter a must-read email, while also driving traffic back to stories that might have been missed over the past week or month.

5. Move beyond open rates. The vast majority of local publishers define success in their newsletter programs by what percentage of their emails were opened. Newer newsletter engagement strategies for local publishers place a greater emphasis on the purpose of the newsletter. For example, if a publisher is using an email newsletter to drive memberships, then how many email subscribers clicked on the link and became paying members? Or, how many subscribers clicked responded to the email with the requested feedback? The answers to these questions are far more useful than generic open rates and other metrics that local publishers have used in the past.

6. Reactive retired lists. Some publishers have gotten very specialized in their email newsletters, going as far as to let readers subscribe to certain topics or an article series. What happens when that series is through, or when the topic gets phased out over time? News outlets that follow the latest newsletter engagement strategies for local publishers are reactivating their retired lists. This does not mean spamming subscribers with content they didn’t ask for. It means sending targeted emails with links to where subscribers can sign up to receive related newsletters. This is a quick and seamless way to increase subscription rates on newsletters and bring lapsed readers back into the fold, as well.

If you’d like to learn even more about the latest newsletter engagement strategies for local publishers, please reach out to our team here at Web Publisher PRO.