Newspapers engage with e-mail

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Newspapers engage with e-mail
Newspapers engage with e-mail

For The Washington Times, which has been busy overhauling its Web site, e-mail is currently a key factor in expanding its digital efforts to reach people throughout the nation, increase page views and help monetize shrinking print ad dollars by selling ads within e-mail. While other newspapers across the country see dwindling subscriptions and ad dollars diminish, the daily broadsheet, founded in 1982, has actually seen an increase in print subscriptions over the past three to six months — thanks to e-mail.

"E-mail is an important driver for growing our audience and reaching more people, not just within our market, but throughout the nation," says Chuck DeFeo, GM of interactive and social media at The Washington Times. "We sell ad impressions around e-mail news alerts, and e-mail is also driving more consistent readers to our Web site. When we get a lift on the Web site, it create more page views and in turn, more ad impressions on the site."


The forecast for newspapers over the past couple of years has been filled with doom and gloom, including layoffs, closures and cutbacks in the amount of print produced. Falling subscription sales, print advertising cuts and demands from customers for free online content have all led to trouble for the print sector. But for papers such as The Washington Times and The New York Times, e-mail offers an important opportunity to monetize products online and drive content to a more engaged audience.


For newspapers, the e-mail channel is generally focused on e-mail newsletters, which, according to eMarketer, can increase online engagement by up to 70%.


"Publishers have hit a tipping point where a critical mass of their customer bases strictly consume their content from the Web site and e-mail newsletters," says Sean O'Neal, chief revenue officer at Datran Media, an e-mail provider that works The Washington Times. "The shift has happened."


While a Web site acts more like a newsstand, where a consumer can pass by to check for headlines, an e-mail is the digital equivalent to a newspaper subscription, says O'Neal. 


"The benefits of an e-mail newsletter over a home delivery is that e-mail can be highly personalized," he explains. "The value proposition for the consumer is more relevant content and for the advertiser it is the ability to match up those ads in a much more targeted way. Because the e-mail channel is database-driven, there is the unique opportunity to target those people on a personal basis based on who they are."


The New York Times offers about 20 different e-mail products. Readers can sign up to receive newsletters based on the topic at NYTimes.com, and can personalize these newsletters as well. 


NYTimes.com offers a number of sign-up points on the site that are contextually targeted to the content that a reader is viewing. For example, a reader looking at the travel section is offered the option to opt in for the Travel Dispatch E-Mail. 


"The strategy behind this is to be as utilitarian as possible in terms of e-mail on the site, so if you sign up to receive business news, you know that you will only get business news," says Mike Foley, product manager of news, sports, e-mail, RSS and registration at The New York Times.


While the primary goal of The New York Times' e-mails is to drive traffic back to the site, these e-mails are all monetized with ad impressions within the e-mail. The New York Times is always looking for new e-mail products that are popular with readers to use as part of its digital growth strategy.


"From a monetization point of view, the biggest opportunity that we see is really increasing the scope of the suite of products and therefore customers," adds Foley. "With most individual products you will see a maturation point in which a list will stay static in which you reach the saturation point with an audience. The idea is to get to this point of scale. The products that we see performing the best monetarily are the ones that have the largest number of impressions."


While bigger is often better, niche products also offer a benefit for The New York Times' e-mail program, Foley explains. 


"You get to a certain point where the list is small, but there is an incredible interaction with the e-mail," he says. "So we might have only 200,000 people subscribed to a certain e-mail, but we will see things like a 50% to 80% open rate, because these people are super-engaged with the content and with the personality behind the e-mail. Even if it is a smaller list, everyone that subscribes is highly engaged, which is good for an ad
sell-through." 


Like The New York Times, The Washington Times also offers a wide array of e-mail newsletters on popular topics including breaking news, sports and world affairs. Consumers can sign up at WashingtonTimes.com, as well as on TheConservatives.com, a blog dedicated to conservative politics. The brand sees about a 30% click-through rate on its e-mail products, and is using this engagement level to help monetize its Web site. 


"My goal with e-mail is to significantly grow the number of people reading our e-mails and bring revenues up online," says DeFeo. "We are also using e-mail to help better understand our audience and not only deeper our relationship with them in the online channels, but offline as well."


Since The Washington Times relaunched its site six months ago, traffic has grown by about 500%. The brand is also using e-mail to promote its mobile site, print, RSS feeds and radio shows. 


"It's not a secret that the newspaper industry is facing some unprecedented challenges," DeFeo points out. "But we are finding that by focusing on e-mail to deliver high quality original news, we are driving readership online —
and also reinvigorating our reader
base offline." l


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