Audience Development

Newsletter launches underline email’s expanding role in publisher portfolios

Newsletter launches
Via Unsplash

Social media was supposed to kill off email. Instead email newsletters have become a firm fixture in modern publishing lineups. Primarily supporting reader-revenue development, newsletter launches are being deployed increasingly as a growth driver.

  • Business news publisher Quartz is adding four weekly email newsletters to its membership package. The Forecast, focused on emerging industries and technologies; The Company, giving context on innovative businesses; How To, offering solutions to workplace problems; and The Weekend Brief, taking a longer look at the biggest news story of the week.
  • The independent news brand has focused on the development of membership revenue since its 2020 MBO from Japanese intelligence firm Uzabase. Paying subscribers previously benefited from member-only access to reporting and analysis, and now exclusive emails. In a launch announcement, Editor in chief Katharine Bell wrote, “We’re putting weekly emails at the center of membership.”
  • Quartz members will be able to read the newsletters articles on and in the Quartz app, but the newsletter launches make sense because most readers already come to Quartz content from email. “We realized that our emails were the best container we’d found so far for insights the size and shape and speed our readers needed most,” Bell explained.
Building reader revenue
  • Writing in The Fix, David Tvrdon says, “In the past few years, wherever I have looked for insights on building sustainable reader revenue, emails and newsletters have almost always been in the top three things to focus on.”
  • In a regularly updated list, Tvrdon documents the various ways that publishers are leveraging newsletters to grow paying members and subscribers. Second on his list is the Quartz tactic of offering paying subscribers extra content, especially the bonus weekend edition.
  • Other reader-revenue focused newsletter tactics include providing access to member-only online communities, described as “safe spaces” for members and subscribers to interact with journalists and each other. This approach enhances the retention value that newsletters bring, with engagement reducing churn.
Planning for growth

For publishers with established newsletters, growth is still an option. Funke Mediengruppe, one of Germany’s largest digital publishers producing 13 regional dailies, increased its newsletter subscribers by five times in a year. From December 2019 to December 2020 the Funke newsletter increased its subscriber base from 56,000 to 250,000 while also increasing newsletter open rates to 50%.

  • Key to the growth was collaboration between editorial, sales, tech, distribution and a dedicated newsletter team. But, although the newsletter project team was cross-functional, it was not a big team. Funke newsletter was launched by a group of five people.
  • Design was also important, especially around interactive elements like surveys, that would increase audience engagement. Promotion was also a major factor in growing subscribers; the websites for Funke media group’s daily titles feature a separate newsletter tab on the main navigation. Targeted Facebook promotion was also effective.
  • Interpreting metrics to reflect objectives also supported success at Funke. For example the open rate metric helped determine the efficiency of targeting strategies, personalization, subject lines and overall user experience. Click rates helped engagement tracking, but also informed decisions around content, design, internal linking and call-to-action elements.

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