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Marketing for Publishers: How to Boost Newsletter Engagement

Marketing for Publishers_ How to Boost Newsletter Engagement

Digital subscribers are the most valuable currency for publishers today, and also the most difficult one to accommodate. However, while growing reader revenue is a crucial part of this economic model, so is the retention of subscribers and members. As such, publishers need to evaluate what they’re currently doing and pay attention to the newsletter content they create so that can discover new opportunities to convince their audience to stay long-term, one of which involves growing their newsletter subscribers.

Subscribers are opt-in audiences with which brands can build direct relationships. They provide a wealth of first-party data that is critical for targeting and understanding consumers, especially since the third-party cookie is going away. As a result, according to Reuters, growing and maintaining a subscriber list is now a top priority for publishers, with email becoming a go-to platform for engagement

Emails, and in particular newsletters, provide a great medium for customized and targeted messages that can be sent at the right time to reach the right people. They are a valuable asset for any business, digital publishers included, looking to foster strong relationships with subscribers who are eager to listen to them. Hence why it’s so important to enrich your newsletter with content that is meaningful to your readers, encouraging them to look forward to receiving it.

To create valuable newsletter content, publishers have to plan smartly and use the right strategies. In this article, we will be sharing some tips on how to refresh your newsletters and grow your subscriber list.

1. Segment and Clean Your Subscriber List

Segmenting your subscribers’ list is an essential step in every marketing strategy. It is the practice of grouping your audience into smaller segments based on their activity or interest. This way you can ensure that your readers are getting personalized and relevant content, with which you can increase engagement, open, click-through, and conversion rates.

How to Segment Your Subscribers_

The longer your subscriber list is, the more opportunities there are to segment it. Traditional categories such as location, gender, and interests are still relevant, however, you shouldn’t limit yourself only to them and instead give your audience the chance to supply you with relevant segmentation information.

For a digital publisher relevant categories can include:

  • Geolocation
  • Education
  • Occupation
  • Technology
  • Demographics
  • Level of Engagement

The more personalized your content is, the better your engagement will be. According to Mailchimp, globally segmented campaigns receive 100.95% more clicks and 14.31% more opens compared to non-segmented ones. So, by segmenting your subscriber list you can fine-tune your message and provide a valuable user experience.

Additionally, it’s important that you keep your list clean so you can guarantee that you’re only reaching the highest quality audience. Make sure to look for spam accounts, duplicate email addresses, active and inactive subscribers.

Read also: The STP Model of Marketing Segmentation, Targeting, and Positioning

2. Foster First-Party Relationships

Once you have segmented your subscribers and have grown your list to a certain point you’ll be able to spot differences in how readers interact with your email newsletter. These present the opportunity to form direct relationships with users so you can continuously give them meaningful reasons to stay subscribed.

But how is this different from user segmentation? Well, it takes it a step further.

The content your subscribers consume provides you with valuable first-party data about their interests, preferences, and behavior. This will allow you to enrich your content and ensure it is closely aligned with your readers, which in turn will increase the value they find in it. Highly engaged users are more likely to keep their subscriptions.

Additionally, if you’re looking to attract paying newsletter subscribers, customizing your newsletter paywalls is the way to go. According to Upland, offering flexible subscription paywalls that adapt to the audience is the key to maximize conversions. For example, if your audience frequently interacts with a particular content category you can use this information to align your paywall messaging with that particular category.

Here is an example of a paid newsletter subscription value proposition by For The Record:

3. Curate Your Newsletters

According to Statista, there are approximately 4 billion global email users, sending and receiving as many as 306 billion emails every day. This means that over half of Earth’s population is directly paired up with content they want, in a private space, which allows them to directly see what you have to offer. Unless you have problems with getting those emails delivered, your message will safely arrive at its destination.

Emails are a great tool for nurturing readers to subscribe to newsletters and then keeping them engaged. They offer a direct link to users, engaging audiences more than any other medium out there.

With email newsletters, a long-form copy can be curated into different newsletter products – blog posts, webinars, case studies, etc., giving users the freedom to self-select the content they’re most interested in. Moreover, because these are delivered on a recurring basis, they create a reading habit, thus engaging users long-term.

There are various ways to promote sign-ups for your newsletter, including:

  • On your website. Using lightboxes, pop-up forms, an opt-in field, etc.
  • In your emails. As part of your email signature.
  • Via social media. Making regular updates or ads on your accounts
  • At online events. At the end of webinars, presentations, interviews, etc.
  • As an outbound link. In guest posts, mentions or shares.

Make sure that the process of subscribing has as few clicks and fields to complete as possible, with clear and noticeable CTAs.

4. Provide Exclusive Content

Which content is exclusive_

In addition to curated newsletter content, you should also consider offering email-exclusive newsletter content. Recurring email can be a product of its own. But to leverage this you need to see the inbox as a valuable one-on-one communication channel that complements the high-quality media content you already produce. This means you need to set a more personal tone in your newsletters so you can build a deeper relationship with your readers and ensure they renew their subscriptions.

To be successful, email newsletters have to provide value to the subscribers that go beyond recapping your blog content.

Here are a few ideas to make your newsletter content more exclusive:

  • Include content that is not on your blog.
  • Have a special newsletter reserved for long-term and paid subscribers.
  • Promotional content and code to a webinar.
  • Prepare more technical content for professional purposes.

By creating unique and personable content, you can not only retain but also upsell and grow subscribers. Exclusive newsletters can set you apart in the minds of your audience, thus incentivizing them to choose you over your competition.

5. Don’t Forget Mobile Subscribers

Mobile Subscribers are Important

Source: NN group

People are increasingly using their phones to read emails and newsletters. In fact, Campaign Monitor has found that over 70% of users read their emails on a mobile app, making mobile subscribers an essential target audience for publishers.

When it comes to email marketing mobile design plays a main role. Over half of the emails in the world are opened on mobile devices, hence your email newsletter design needs to be both attractive and functional so it can successfully catch and retain the reader’s attention. This is easier said than done, especially considering that the word count and the number of characters that can be seen on smaller screens are shrinking.

According to a study by the NN group, the best technique to use when it comes to adapting newsletters to mobile is providing a responsive design. The study found that in 93% of cases, people may open a newsletter on their phone then read it on a desktop, meaning that only 7% of newsletters are actually read on mobile. In some of the cases, users just want to complete an action or reread the content on a bigger screen.

Because of this dual-platform reading, publishers should allow subscribers to seamlessly switch between devices. This means using responsive design and not limiting the subscription option to desktop or mobile-only. The goal is to create an email newsletter that can adapt to various platforms and screen sizes in terms of design, links and media included.

6. Test it Out

To ensure everything works smoothly, you need to conduct regular testing. Creating, distributing, and analyzing the performance of email newsletters is a lengthy process. You want to ensure your efforts don’t go in vain, so you have to monitor user engagement and interactions.

It’s important to understand how newsletters influence users. As reported by a newsletter usability study the main reasons why users continue to subscribe to newsletters are that they are:

  • Informative and keep readers posted on things they may pass over.
  • Effortless, coming to users without them having to do anything but signing up.
  • Easy to prioritize because people can add them to their ‘read later’ list.
  • Act as a fast-medium to consume.
  • Can be used as a reminder.
  • Very easy to share.

The final super benefit is that newsletters are always available on any device. Such availability fosters a better bond between users and publishers, creating a stronger emotional impact. Hence, it’s essential that before you send your newsletters out to your subscribers, you test samples of them to find what works best for your audience.

Test it Out

To help you choose the right combination of design, content, and features, use A/B testing.

While you test, concentrate on:

  • The subject line. See if your audience prefers something catchy or standard.
  • Add a straightforward “from” line. Include your name or your brand, just don’t make it misleading.
  • Length of a copy. Testing different variations of headlines and short summaries.
  • A number of articles are linked. Check if your users prefer a set amount of links or like to be surprised.
  • The tone of copy. You can experiment with using the same tone as on your website or tweak it.
    Design and Layout. Make sure it’s easy on the eyes, easy to navigate, and easy to enjoy.
    Sending time. Decide when will be the best time to send it depending on the audience.

Make sure to conduct a thorough test. You don’t want to waste your time crafting the perfect newsletter only for it to fall short in opens and conversions.


Creating an outstanding newsletter is a tricky task for any publisher, but with the right strategies, you can accomplish it with flying colors. Creating an impactful reader experience starts with segmentation, followed by building strong first-party relationships and curating your newsletter content accordingly.

Additionally, to keep your subscribers engaged you need to provide them with unique value. This means providing exclusive content made specially for them, and ensuring they can interact with it at any time on any device.

Finally, test, test and test again. The best way to really lockdown the perfect mix of copy, media and features, is by testing, iterating and testing once more.

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