Finnish publisher Mediatalo Keskisuomalainen realised newsletters were an underutilised strategic tool. So, they decided to reinvent their newsletter strategy with automation and personalisation. In our latest Future of News webinar, we heard from Mediatalo Keskisuomalainen’s Data Manager Johannes Niemeläinen about their refreshed newsletter strategy.
1. Why automated and personalised newsletters
Newsletters were used across the 25+ Mediatalo Keskisuomalainen titles, but there was a lack of strategy. As a result, newsletters only reached a small number of subscribers and were sent from an Email Service Provider which did not support personalisation. The strong habit-forming power of newsletters offered the publisher a solution to the issue of subscriber churn faced by many publishers.
To ensure that they launched newsletters in the best way to engage their subscribers, personalisation was key as it allowed Mediatalo Keskisuomalainen’s newsletters to provide highly relevant content to boost engagement and develop habitual reading.
Ensuring that this personalisation could be easily implemented across their multiple regional newsrooms was crucial, so the automated solution had to be able to function well and be easily scaleable. To achieve this, Mediatalo Keskisuomalainen chose JAMES.
JAMES’ plug and play nature meant it could be easily implemented across the publisher’s titles. Mediatalo Keskisuomalainen chose to put their largest title, Keskisuomalainen, live first in October 2021 to appease any worries from about the impacts of personalisation. Since then, 9 more titles have gone live.
2. JAMES emails drive high levels of engagement
Mediatalo Keskisuomalainen now send over 250,000 personalised emails a week to 10 titles. When looking at the engagement with these emails, JAMES automated and personalised emails drive significantly higher open and click rates than Keskisuomalainen’s average across all newsletters and also the industry averages.
With open rates at 35%, JAMES emails at Mediatalo Keskisuomalainen are currently performing 5% better than the Mediatalo Keskisuomalainen email average. One factor that has helped with this is the personalisation of email subject lines. JAMES personalised emails have the title of the first personalised article as their subject line. The top article in JAMES Newsletters is always that which receives the highest individual personalisation score for each subscriber.
This placement within the email matters and has also helped to push a higher click rate. 35% of clicks within JAMES emails come from this high scoring first article. At Mediatalo Keskisuomalainen, we have observed a 6% click rate from JAMES emails, significantly higher than the 1.5% average.
These early results are promising but there is more work to be done. JAMES’ average open rate across all customers is at 47% with a click rate at 8%.
3. JAMES emails drive habitual reading
Open and Click Rates represent an industry standard engagement metric, but the goal of JAMES is to drive an increase in habitual reading. Reading habits mean that people add news reading time into their daily routines. This focus is therefore a natural and more telling engagement measure.
After analysing our cohort of readers exposed to JAMES emails from Mediatalo Keskisuomalainen, there was an 11.2% increase in habitual reading for exposed cohorts vs. non exposed cohorts. These readers engaged with news at least 10 times over 30 days, showing a clear recurring and returning pattern. At Mediatalo Keskisuomalainen, this figure of 11.2% represents an equivalent of 435 readers.
From this we can clearly see that JAMES is working to develop habits amongst news readers, and with the launch partner programme still ongoing this can be further improved, with other partners like NRC witnessing a 26% increase.
4. Zombie readers are activated with JAMES
Beyond developing reader habits, JAMES has been able to activate “Zombie” readers. These readers have shown no reading behaviour over a period of 30 days. In the early findings we have seen a 6% activation rate of readers exposed to JAMES, compared to a 4% deactivation rate of readers not exposed to JAMES. 396 readers have therefore avoided Zombie status. This increased engagement is a positive for the publisher as it activates their customers and helps them to avoid churn.
5. Mediatalo Keskisuomalainen’s Onboarding Experiment
The number 1 goal for the project was to reduce the number of churning subscribers and retain 2403 customers in 12 months with JAMES newsletters. So, Mediatalo Keskisuomalainen recently launched a new experiment to see if JAMES could increase engagement amongst newly onboarded subscribers.
To do this, newly onboarded subscribers on their trial rate are split into 2 groups: 1 exposed to JAMES and 1 not. Whilst the experiment is in its early stages, the first results have been promising. Over a trial period of 3 months, subscribers exposed to JAMES newsletters have shown a median average of 70 active days, which is significantly larger than that of the 43 median active days for non-exposed subscribers.
JAMES has boosted engagement with these readers, but retention is the all-important goal. So, their largest title Keskisuomalainen ran a virtual experiment to explore retention data. Subscribers who started a 2 month trial in November weren’t exposed to JAMES emails but December subscribers were. Interestingly, retention was 5% higher for the group exposed to JAMES emails.
Early projections predict that Mediatalo Keskisuomalainen are on track to reach 91% of their goal so will retain 2203 subscribers. These preliminary results are extremely rewarding, and we look forward to seeing more concrete data as JAMES continues to be used amongst new subscribers.
We dare to dream and believe that Mediatalo Keskisuomalainen’s engagement can become even greater. With our agile development partnership we hope to improve these already impressive results further.