Determining an e-newsletter's success isn't as easy as it used to be, largely because open rates have become misleading. An e-mail open can be determined only when HTML renders, and many e-mail clients block images by default now.
“We try to guide the conversation [with advertisers] from open rates to successful delivery,” Bohi said. “Let's talk about the actual number of newsletters that made it to the inbox. Then we can dive deeper, if they want to get into it, into clicks within articles and clicks on the ads.”
Smith said one of the most interesting pieces of analytics information his e-mail system offers is an online representation of TechWeb's newsletters with a heat map that shows every link in every newsletter and how many clicks each link received.
“A lot of newsletter experts will tell you that a reader would read only the headlines at the top and then drop off,” he said. “But I can tell you from having spent a fair amount of time looking at what readers do when they get the newsletters, that's really not true, at least for products they really value. They will scroll all the way down to the very bottom, even if there's a lot of links, if they trust the product and they believe in it.”
TechWeb uses such analytics to make frequent revisions, Smith said. It also surveys readers on potential changes.
“It involves a lot of discussion, and a lot of focus and trying to make it better constantly,” he said. “A newsletter is a thing that is easy to let go on autopilot, and we're trying not to manage our newsletters that way.”
Those efforts have yielded a significant increase in click-through rates. Click-throughs for the InformationWeek daily e-newsletter, for instance, increased approximately 23% from August 2007 to August 2008, Smith said. M