Thanks to their ability to create a direct relationship with readers, newsletters have continued their rebirth. At a time where publishers are working to build more first party data, these relationships built by newsletters are becoming even more important.
Niche newsletters becoming strong brands
Niche newsletters have taken off for news publishers. They enable them to deep dive into specific topic areas and build a brand within an already established brand.
The Salt Lake Tribune have found success with their niche newsletter “Morman Land”. Being based in the heavily Mormon state of Utah, The Salt Lake Tribune are party to much of what goes on in the Mormon world. Mormon Land shines a light on the latest news and debates in the Mormon community. The newsletter serves a niche audience based around the world. Despite the nature of the newsletter, not all of the audience are Mormons. Some come purely to be informed about a different culture. The Salt Lake Tribune use their newsletters to convert readers at every stage of the funnel. But Morman Land is different as we heard at WAN-IFRA’s niche newsletter webinar.
Many Mormon readers of the newsletter are unwilling to support the newspaper for political reasons. But, positively for The Salt Lake Tribune, they are willing to support the Mormon Land newsletter financially. Therefore, the Tribune advertise the donations as being for a Mormon Land and Patreon function. Through their donations, Patreons are able to access exclusive content and receive priority access to certain releases. The newsletter is a great way of building up a separate revenue and data stream for The Salt Lake Tribune. With over 8000 subscribers, the newsletter has become a niche hit for the US publisher. With in-house expertise at most publishers, finding a gap and starting a niche newsletter could be a way to bring in a different audience.
A chance to be more relatable with readers
Newsletters are a more personal channel of communication with readers and offer a greater opportunity to build a relationship. Le Parisien does this through their “Ça me rapporte” (Buying power) newsletter.
Ça me rapporte is a free newsletter aimed at their core readership, traditionally the lower to middle class, and helps to address issues they face. When addressing issues, the newsletter features short summaries of articles telling readers what they read to know, and being conscious of their reader’s backgrounds, Le Parisien offer these newsletter subscribers to purchase the full, individual articles when they click through.
To reinforce the bond between Le Parisien and their readers, each newsletter also features an editorial from the Head of the relevant department, and a goodbye message. This human touch adds personality to the newsletter and gives it a voice. For Le Parisien, it works. As we heard in a recent WAN-IFRA webinar, Ça me rapporte consistently has the highest open rate of Le Parisien’s 19 newsletters. Le Parisien’s number one tip for this success? Listen to your community and understand what they want.
Digiday recently spoke with The New Yorker who have also chosen to adopt more “voice” to build relationships. Their most popular newsletter, “The Daily”, now has the day’s biggest story and a brief from their editors at the top, followed by links to other content throughout. The hope is that the newsletter will give the readers an understanding of the biggest story of the day and encourage them to read more.
The editors read the majority of the day’s content so can provide a great guide to the day’s content. The New Yorker’s newsletter subscribers are twice as likely to subscribe than ordinary site visitors. The success of their ‘new voice’ will be one to watch.
Hyperlocal newsletters rebuilding local news love
Publishers have leveraged newsletters to bring in new audiences. Hyperlocal newsletters have been particularly successful for this. By providing local news relevant to communities, local newsletters have re-sparked an interest in local journalism. In the USA, 6AM City is one of the fastest growing newsletter-first local media companies. The start-up aim to be in 50 cities by the end of 2022. In the UK, the trend has seen the creation of local journalism companies like “The Mill” in Manchester and “Sheffield Tribune”. Following their first-year success, The Mill celebrated by distributing a print edition to their 1000 subscribers. As a pandemic startup, their growth is noteworthy and a great story for local news lovers.
Spotting the success of these local newsletters in bringing in a new audience, Reach have launched their Google-backed “Email Innovation Lab”. The project aims to build on Reach’s audience and generate a deeper relationship with readers. Their local newsletters will provide subscribers with information on local news like events in their local councils and court cases. Whether they are able to co-habit the news space already populated by the local newsletter startups will be worth monitoring.
Gen Z love newsletters
Gen Z news lovers told us that newsletters were one of their favourite formats to consume the news. One of our interviewees valued that her newsletter arrives in her inbox every morning from The New York Times. When she wakes up, she is prompted to read her newsletter via push notification. From this, she can consume her need to know news and be prepared for the day.
Gen Z are also interested in the idea of personalised newsletters. We heard from our interviewees that personalisation can guide them in their further reading. It also helps them to remain engaged and interested with the news they choose to consume.
In a 2021 study, Jeeng found that over 50% of millennials and Gen Z would subscribe to multiple, topic-focused newsletters from a single publisher if they were personalised. They also found that nearly 80% are okay with publishers tracking their online behaviour if it means that they will get a more personalised experience. Personalisation tools have become more accessible for publishers, so now could be a great time to build your Gen Z audience.
Publishers building habits with JAMES Personalisation
Newsletters remain a powerful tool in a publisher’s arsenal. Their finite nature helps them to fit into the lives of subscribers. Personalised triggers created by JAMES newsletters help to build these habits. In our year long email personalisation experiment as part of the JAMES project with The Times, we explored 5 models of sending time optimisation of newsletters and how this related to habit formation. Despite the work done by our AI and Data team, we found that the best performance came from the baseline fixed time model of 7am. By keeping sending time consistent, readers subconsciously plan newsletter reading time into their everyday lives and slowly develop a daily news reading habit.
At our next webinar on 10th May, we will speak with Mediatolo Keskisuomalainen, Finland’s leading local and regional media group who send personalised emails across 11 of their titles with JAMES. Sign-up now to join us there and hear more about the success of personalised newsletters.