Keeping a healthy database of active e-mail recipients remains a challenge for media companies.
Reed trims inactive subscribers from its lists regularly, Young said, while at the same time looking for ways to add subscribers. The company last year implemented new Web site registration technology. “It allows us greater flexibility to make it easier for users to sign up,” she said. “But it also allows us to do progressive registrations.”
Previously, visitors who wanted to subscribe to a newsletter had to register with a user name and password on a signup page. Now, they can sign up from the home page simply with an e-mail address. At the same time, Reed can require more detailed information for access to other site features, such as white papers.
“We collect that information at another point in time and then add it to the user's record later,” Young said. So far, the company has seen a dramatic increase in signups on some of its sites, she said.
Penton Media has also updated its list-building efforts, recently adding subscription management technology across the majority of its Web sites, said Sandi Brown, director of online audience development. The technology enables the company to require Web site visitors to register once they've been to a site a certain number of times—usually between five and seven visits within a 30-day period (individual publications can set their thresholds).
“We're gathering e-mail addresses through that initiative, and we're in the process of building an integrated database, which should give us a universal vision of all of our readers to find out what touch points we have,” Brown said.
List health is closely tied to e-mail frequency, Cutitta said. “There's a euphoria that goes along with generating leads, but it can lead to abusing the list,” he said. “The challenge is finding an acceptable amount of e-mailing without creating list fatigue.”
Sending too little or too much e-mail can lead to unsubscribes, he said. “We've found if you don't send enough e-mail, they'll unsubscribe because it's too casual a relationship. If you send too much, they think you're a spammer.”
The key is to test frequently, Cutitta said. “The market responds harshly and quickly if you send too much,” he said. “If you send too little, it tends to be more of a drip effect [in terms of unsubscribes].”
The ability to tweak and improve content is what makes the Web, and newsletters, so powerful, said Jim Spanfeller, president-CEO of Forbes.com. “You've got an instant response mechanism,” he said. “You're constantly getting feedback about what people are looking at. We take that feedback and make changes that we feel are necessary. If we get the changes wrong, we'll know about that. If you get them right, you'll know about that and can move forward with a better product.”