Increased Staff Boosts Scripps' E-Mail Deliverability

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Scripps Networks, which owns several television and related Internet brands, including Home & Garden TV and the Food Network, is so vigilant about deliverability of its e-newsletters that it tries to track down every e-mail that does not go through.


It also has raised e-mail deliverability about 5 percentage points this year by increasing resources for staff and software to combat the problem.


Executives at Scripps, Knoxville, TN, want to ensure every weekly or monthly e-newsletter reaches the subscribers who opted in for them. For example, when those who request to be on HGTV's e-newsletter list, which has about 3 million subscribers, do not get their e-newsletter, Scripps' employees e-mail the individuals, asking them to help the company determine why the e-mail did not go through.


"We ask them if they have a spam blocker they use, or virus scan," said Tammy Esser, vice president of viewer services for Scripps.


Employees monitor bouncebacks, looking at the e-mail verification codes and reviewing the spam blocker's reply message for directions on how to validate that the e-mails are not unsolicited.


Scripps boosted the number of people watching e-newsletter bouncebacks and communicating with subscribers from two to three. It added software from Lyris Technologies, Berkeley, CA, in December to increase its send rates "in proportion to our ever-growing lists," Esser said. "Now that we deal with such a huge critical mass from all these brands, we have had to go into more sophisticated technologies for handling the bouncebacks."


Scripps previously was limited in the number of e-mails it could send because it shared software resources for both inbound and outbound e-mails. Lyris software helped the company "push out as many e-mails as our resources could handle," Esser said.


As a result of the software upgrade, outbound send rates rose from less than 100,000 e-mails an hour to 450,000, letting Scripps deliver more e-mails and add e-newsletters. The Inside Fine Living e-newsletter is now sent twice a month instead of monthly, and the HGTV e-newsletter will add a Bath e-newsletter.


"We were very limited in what we could send because of the time it was taking to keep the list clean and get through the spam blockers," Esser said.


Delivery of the HGTV e-newsletter has improved from a range of 85 percent to 88 percent late last year to an average of 92 percent this spring.


Scripps' e-newsletter employees also spend much time building relationships with ISPs, discussing return and nondeliverability problems and staying on their white lists.


"We don't go out and buy lists," Esser said. "Everything is subscribed to by our viewers. We get a hold of the person's postmaster and explain who we are and that we are not spam."


In related news, Scripps Networks said it is launching several broadband channels over the next year, each featuring highly specific programming within its existing lifestyle categories, which will be delivered online.


"We will be leveraging the power of our lifestyle brands and their popular Web sites to 'super serve' audiences with specific passions related to our cable networks," said John Lansing, president of Scripps Networks. "For instance, under HGTV.com, we are developing a specific broadband channel programmed to be a deep and rich resource on developments in kitchen designs."


Scripps distributes its branded broadband content through MSN Video, Comcast.net and via its own sites.


Christine Blank covers online marketing and advertising, including e-mail marketing and paid search, for DM News and DMNews.com. To keep up with the latest developments in these areas, subscribe to our daily and weekly e-mail newsletters by visiting www.dmnews.com/newsletters


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