Relevant Viewpoint: Real World E-mail Marketing


How Offering Niche Newsletters Doubled New York Times E-Mail List to 13 Million and how a local Danish media increased their efficiency

In three years the New York Times has doubled their list of newsletter subscribers accumulating to an impressive 13 million, according to an internal memo. Part of their success is due to their strategic approach to e-mail which includes a range of niche newsletters such as local news as well as more frequent publications.

Two years ago the New York Times was sending out 33 regular newsletter and today it sends out more than 50 different editorial e-mails on a weekly basis. On top of that they have seven marketing focused newsletters that depends on flows. The number of subscribers on each newsletter ranges from tens of thousands to several millions.

They have highly focused niche publications such as local news (NYT Australia and California Today), service focused e-mails (Cooking and Smarter Living) and history focused (Vietnam ‘67). These are all just a few examples of the different types of e-mails they send out on a regular basis.

Newsletter Subscribers are Twice as Likely to Become Paying Subscribers

The internal memo sent out by the Times reveals that newsletter subscribers are twice as likely as regular NYT readers to become subscribers, and read twice as many stories per month compared to the average Times reader. As this is a primary area of focus, it is not just fancy numbers but also an important business objective.

Director of Editorial Products, Nicole Breskin, told Digiday that their success can’t be traced down to just one single event but rather a range of different efforts. She points to the contribution of the entire newsroom for topics and ideas. Editor of Newsroom Newsletters, Elisabeth Goodridge, work together with different audiences and agencies to get new ideas for the newspaper’s different niches.

One-Size No Longer Fits-All

The New York Times used to base their newsletters on their newspaper sections but realized that people don’t necessarily consume e-mail the same way they do newspapers. That’s why they moved from focusing on existing sections to focusing on different lifestyles and themes while narrowing their approach to their audience. This has resulted in not only the impressive e-mail list, but they’ve also managed to engage their subscribers with open rates of more than 80% in one of their most niche newsletter (Vietnam ‘67 that launched in May). Their average gross open rate is reported at at least 50%.

Niche based newsletters also make room for variations in form and format. Some are conversational while others are interactive and some are service oriented. This works because the New York Times are giving their users what they want. These users read twice as many stories per month compared to the average Times reader. The Times target each e-mail to their coherent niche specifically, but all e-mails have one thing in common according to Goodridge – the finality of a newspaper, which is appealing in digital media.

While the New York Times sees the main benefit as audience development, there’s another incentive that drives them too. They sell ads in their newsletters, which is becoming an increasingly more profitable for publishers.

Interview: Insights from “Vores Villa”

Picture3‘Vores Villa’ is a niche based printed magazine that is published and distributed six times a year to more than a million households in Denmark. Their content revolves around the house and garden and their target group is house owners. Digital Director Allan Schou is sharing insights and some of their secrets to why publishers should optimize how they monetise their newsletters.

In 2014 they started their digital journey but quickly realised that competing on search terms would be an impossible and expensive road to venture down with a long list of categories and keywords. Therefore they made the decision to keep their website as a secondary presence rather than a primary driver of income. Instead they focused on e-mail as their main source of online revenue. They had already built a sound base of subscribers of their newsletter through their magazine.

“By sending e-mails we are able to put something in people’s inbox just like we do in their physical mailbox” – Allan Schou, VoresVilla. VoresVilla sells ads that are 100% performance based. Their advertisers only pay for opened e-mails rather than sendouts. Their most effective ads are so called “native” ads, and even though they chose to go e-mail first, they sell ads cross media – that is, you can both be featured in their newsletters and on their website (as well as in the magazine).

Make Things Easier for Your Marketing Team

You want your marketing team to be as effective as possible and spend their time on what is important to increase revenue. By saving time in one area, you can utilize this time in other areas. Instead of using a range of different systems, you can control all your ads from fx the email ad server Passendo. You’re able to place a tag in your newsletter and on your website and this way you no longer have to shift from one system to the other to get an overview of your clients’ ads.

“It’s become much easier to control our campaigns and know where to push more or less. We sell ads based on seasons and it’s important for us to know whether we’re ahead or behind.”

Allan also tells that while he was able to get an overview of which placements worked best before, it’s become a lot easier now. He believes that large publishers would be able to reduce their marketing team if they wanted to. For Vores Villa, optimization means that he can avoid additional employee cost in 2017 as he’d originally planned.

Create an Income Using Your Newsletter

According to Allan he’s baffled by the lack of publishers utilizing their newsletters to increase earnings. Instead of focusing on the views you can achieve by sending traffic from your newsletter to your website, you need to realise that you can earn money on your newsletter itself. Moreover you can earn more on people opening your e-mail compared to the pageviews you’ll get on your website since time of engagement is much higher in e-mail and thereby more valuable for your clients.

It’s easy to implement with your current ESP. Passendo supports all e-mail providers including Mailchimp, Marketo and Compost which is what Allan uses for VoresVilla. Passendo has made it equally easy to place ads in your e-mail as it is on your website.

You Can Optimise Your E-mail Earnings Too

It’s not difficult to earn money on your newsletter – in fact most newsletters with a fair amount of subscribers can earn money on advertisements. It’s highly profitable and more effective compared to display advertising for example. That’s why the Times and other publishers are looking back and reintroducing e-mail in their tool box.

The challenge for most publishers, however, is to utilize their inventory and thereby optimise their earnings. For years there were no ad servers for e-mail, until a group of digital pioneers chose to close that gap in the market with Passendo. Passendo makes it easy for you to insert and control ads in your newsletters. This way you never have to worry about whether you under or over deliver on your CPC and the reporting is done automatically. It saves you and your employees a lot of manual copy/paste work.

If you’re interested in learning more about Passendo to help you with the commercialisation of your newsletter, you can find their contact details here: Passendo.

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