by Eric Potter Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute October 31, 2018 When Tamara Power-Drutis worked at Crosscut Public Media, a nonprofit news site in Seattle, she was involved with the site’s email newsletter. She was absolutely sure they were doing it wrong. She just didn’t know in what way. “It went out twice a day, but we didn’t [...]
Some newspaper subscribers head to their mailboxes every morning to grab the paper. Others open their inboxes and scroll through email newsletters to find stories to read. In the age of the internet, email newsletters are yet another direct way for newsrooms to connect with their audiences. They create a more intimate relationship with subscribers, drive traffic to the main website and boost revenue. Although beneficial, it can be a challenge for newsrooms to set aside time and resources to craft an effective newsletter. That’s where the free tool Opt In can help.
So you heard that email newsletters are the hot new trend for news organizations looking to reach highly engaged audiences and now you’re thinking of starting one in your newsroom. But where should you start? A new tool out Monday from the Seattle-based Crosscut Public Media and Reynolds Journalism Institute hopes to help answer newsroom’s newsletter questions.
Crosscut is researching the most effective way to convert unique news readers into engaged email subscribers in partnership with the Reynolds Journalism Institute. Tamara Power-Drutis, former executive director at Crosscut and RJI fellow, served as the project leader. Later this year, Crosscut will release what Power-Drutis describes as a free “newsletter playbook tool” to serve as a guide for news organizations.
With no silver bullet or obvious funding solution for the future of journalism, our eyes are glued to the horizon for the next great idea. But what if some of those ideas aren’t on the horizon, but right in front of us? As Freek Staps wrote in his roadmap for media entrepreneurship, “Not every idea has to be a blockbuster. Small successes can also lead to new revenue streams (and a larger scaled transformation in the newsroom).” One of those nonblockbuster opportunities is likely sitting in your inbox right now: newsletters. If done well, newsletters can inform subscribers while also generating revenue. However, it’s important to know from the outset what the main purpose is. For curators interested in monetizing their newsletter, here are four possible methods to consider.
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.