Subscribers respond to focused email newsletters

Apr 08, 2024 at 05:45 pm by admin

Hyper-local newsletters from Swedish local media conglomerate NTM may be very niche and relatively small, but they have proved significant for subscribers.

In an INMA ‘satisfying audiences’ blog, head of editorial development Jens Pettersson tells how the newsletters have achieved high open rates and engagement.

“The revival of the old school email distribution of news hasn’t been missed by anyone in editorial development the last couple of years,” he says, “from sending out onboarding information to new subscribers to delivering regular newsletters of ‘this week’s top stories’ delivering articles straight into email inboxes. Just like a digital paperboy.

“At NTM, we have done that for a while. And we also tried personalising mail content based upon subscribers’ recent reading habits. But in autumn of last year, we decided to put more effort into setting up more specified and sharper packaging in this area.

“We wanted to create something even more engaging by narrowing the actual content down to more specific interests on a local basis.”

The primary goal of the hyper-local newsletter was to increase engagement by offering readers a higher level of value and the ability to customise their news experience. A secondary goal was to evaluate subscribers’ interests in specific topics so that, in the future, successful topics could be scaled to other titles within the organisation.

Pettersson says the format for all newsletters was automated compilation, based on meta-data such as articles topic tags and geographical boundaries. “For instance, Södermanlands nyheters weekly newsletter covering dining and entertainment gathers all articles published in the past six days about the region’s central city, Nyköping. This includes tags such as restaurant, café, bar, concert, revue, theatre, music theatre, art exhibition, stand-up comedy, entertainment events, nightlife, show and music.

“In this way, we can run numerous different topic-specific letters without human work time.”

In addition to being topic-specific, NTM also experimented with creating newsletters tied to a specific geographical area. In such cases, these are areas with reduced distribution of the daily print newspaper.

To ensure a positive customer experience for subscribers, they receive a newsletter containing the most important news from their local area. This often involves smaller locations struggling to gain visibility on the front pages of newspapers. “These newsletters are a way to highlight journalism for those who are genuinely interested in local news,” he says.

The names and topics of the first hyper-local newsletters were:

-Norran: Get closer to Skellefteå AIK (sports);

-SN: Get closer to Nyköping (dining and entertainment);

-NT: Get closer to IFK Norrköping (sports);

-NSD: Crime newsletter (the latest news on crime and punishment);

-NK: Get closer to Luleå – this is going on in the city (the local news);

-UNT: Latest news: Tierp (geographical);

-EK: Get closer to Eskilstuna – what’s going on in the city (dining and entertainment);

-Corren – Get closer to Mjölby (geographical).

“Our hypothesis for the launch of these eight newsletters was that, even though these distributions are very niche and relatively small, they are significant for those who have chosen to subscribe to them,” Pettersson says. “By being present in our readers’ inboxes with topics they actively choose to learn more about, we hope to deliver great value, become important for the customer on a regular basis, and, in the long run, strengthen our relationship with the customer and, thereby, our reader revenue.”

NTM has also experimented with different days of the week for distribution to determine the optimal schedule.

“Is this the way to do it,” he asks. “It seems like they are doing their job quite fine. These eight newsletters have an average open rate of 66%, with the best-performing among them exceeding 70%. This indicates a high level of interest among those who have subscribed to the content.

Many of those who open and read the newsletters also click through to the websites to read the articles. The click-through rate (CTR) averages at 16 per cent, with the best-performing newsletter achieving over 25 per cent CTR. “We managed to get 5,630 people to sign up within just one month; altogether we had 102,000 digital subscribers at that time,” says Pettersson. “Since then, we have seen an additional increase of ten per cent. As of today, 6,169 people subscribe to the newsletters out of 110,000 digital subscribers as a whole.

“The topic that engages the most people is NSD’s newsletter, Krimbrevet, which compiles the most important news regarding crime and punishment that the newspaper has published in the past week. Therefore, we have now decided to roll out that concept to most of our newsrooms around Sweden.”

Pettersson says that thanks to the technical infrastructure created, with a high degree of automatisation, it is now easy to generate new newsletters. “This enables us to consistently keep creating and testing new topics.

“It seems that our hypothesis on the effect of hyper-local topics on engagement was pretty correct. And, supported by the results, we plan to send out at least 30 niched hyper-local newsletters every week in 2024.”


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