As email boxes continue to be overstuffed and spam filters get vastly overworked, audience developers have an increasingly difficult time making sure their email newsletters get in front of the right eyeballs.
Whether used to have more contact with an existing audience or increase audience-building and revenue, e-newsletters are still important tools for many b-to-b publishers. However, they don’t have the same kind of pressure on them as they did a few years ago.
“Two years ago, there was a big push on products and services going electronic-only,” said Emelda Barea, VP-circulation and distribution at Jobson Healthcare Information. “I think that push has lessened a bit now that we know that procuring email addresses is not as easy as we thought.”
Jobson’s core e-newsletter list comes from the circ lists of its seven optical publications. Because those email addresses come directly from the subscribers, the company doesn’t have a huge problem with spam filters—but still remains cognizant of their potential damage. In order to avoid those filters, the company limits the number of emails it sends each day.
McGraw-Hill Cos. simply removes an email address from an e-newsletter’s list if it hasn’t opened a communication over a three-month period to keep its open rates high, said Maurice Persiani, VP-business services at McGraw-Hill. He said that while it can be difficult to get new subscribers, one thing will keep them around. “If the content is good, they will use it,” he said, adding, “few people subscribe to newsletters because, for most, the last thing they want is to have more email.”
Brad Mitchell, director of e-media and audience development at Babcox Media also noted the importance of solid e-newsletter content in keeping subscribers around. “My advice for circulators is to work with publishers and editors to ensure that the content being generated is relevant to the audience and appropriate in frequency,” he said. “We need to make our emails like the first present unwrapped at Christmas—the one that is met with eager anticipation, ripped open and heartily enjoyed.”
McGraw-Hill builds its audience with a passive opt-in approach, regularly adding qualified new names to its newsletter lists from internal sources. The company also prominently displays subscription links on its website and in other newsletters.
High Plains Journal, a regional agricultural title published by High Plains Publishers, uses e-newsletters to provide added value to its current subscribers. “We are a weekly, [which] used to be considered timely; but now, with the Internet, we find we have to have more contact with our customers,” said Jeffrey Keeten, circulation manager with High Plains Journal. “To be considered the primary source of news for our customers, we have to do more.” So, HPJ sends out regionally focused newsletters during the week as well as breaking-news alerts.
Keeten said that he expects his email list to grow stronger in July, when HPJ begins to release a digital version of its publication. The brand plans to email subscribers a link to the new digital version the day before the printed version is set to arrive, as well as provide more issues of its specialty travel magazine, Journal GetAways, through the email list, which should help grow its database.
Jobson’s Barea noted that e-newsletters aren’t going anywhere and audience developers should continue to develop ways to battle the constant challenge of procuring the most relevant email addresses. Even so, she recommended that audience developers keep a clean list. She also said that audience developers should “make sure opt-outs are processed immediately, study metrics, execute targeted email blasts and review the lists frequently.”
That kind of diligence should pay off in solid open rates, some satisfied customers and good news for audience developers to take to the next staff meeting.