Your newsletter subscribers are trying to tell you something, but are you tracking the right metrics to hear them? Learning from and iterating upon even the simplest elements of your newsletter can lead to powerful insights and improvements for your newsletter and audience, as we discussed in Designing a Data-Driven Newsletter. Curators traditionally rely on three standard metrics to gauge newsletter effectiveness: open rate, click-thru rate and subscription rate. Yet these alone don’t provide a complete picture of newsletter health. Conversely, collecting every possible data point does not guarantee fitness. Too many curators waste time collecting data simply for the sake of collecting, rather than using analytics to diagnose and improve.
The greatest barrier to being data-driven isn’t capacity or expertise, but discipline. Being data-driven is as much a habit as it is a business model, and collecting data you don’t use isn’t just bad business sense, it’s also bad for morale. At a time when newsrooms across the country are downsizing and streamlining to make the most of their resources, collecting data can either be a tool to increase efficiency and impact or it can be an enormous waste of time. The difference is in learning from and iterating based on that data. Testing, measuring and analyzing even the simplest elements of your newsletter — such as send time or placement of visuals — can lead to powerful insight on your audience and what they want from you.
If you operate a nonprofit newsroom, email appeals have likely become an essential fundraising tool. Yet while recommendations for how to grow your mailing lists are readily available, it’s much harder to find good information about retaining subscribers and engaging them as active community members. As a result, many successful efforts to gain subscribers are followed swiftly by flurries of unsubscribes or high spam ratings. Through a fellowship with the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute, I’ve set out to explore ways that nonprofit news outlets can turn fly-by readers into email subscribers and, further, into supporting members.