Online Newspapers Turn to E-Mail to Boost Readership

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The online divisions of newspapers are increasingly turning to e-mail to help boost readership and retain customers.


Washingtonpost.com, the online division of The Washington Post, expanded its e-mail newsletter program by adding four offerings in an effort to broaden its reach beyond the nation's capital. The company hopes the program will allow it to disseminate its news and other features nationally and internationally.


The company started sending four newsletters this month to more than 20,000 users who previously opted in to a political newsletter it tested last summer. The newsletters include News Headlines, which covers politics, business, local, national and international news; News Alerts, which delivers breaking news from Washington Post staff writers and wire services; Sports Updates, delivering local and national sports and scores; and Entertainment Best Bets, a weekly e-mail featuring movie and restaurant reviews and happenings around the Washington area.


"We launched the political newsletter last summer to get our foot in the door on e-mail products," said Don Marshall, a spokesman for Washington Post/Newsweek Interactive, the division that runs washingtonpost.com. "These new newsletters are an extension of that."


The first newsletter, launched in June 2000 and called OnPolitics Daily Report, reached a circulation of 20,000 after seven months.


"We didn't do much marketing around it," he said. "But we used some of our company assets."


He said the new newsletters were pitched to the company's list of 20,000 who received OnPolitics Daily Report.


"The newsier ones will have a big response," he said.


Marshall said washingtonpost.com is working with Bigfoot Interactive in sending the new newsletters. The company also used Bigfoot for the political newsletter it initiated last summer.


With the addition of the four newsletters and OnPolitics Daily Report, washingtonpost.com produces seven newsletters. One of them is OnPolitics Alert, an update that notifies subscribers when major political news breaks. The company also provides e-mail alerts for job seekers, notifying them of job openings that match their criteria.


The company obtains names from those who sign up at its Web site and does not buy or rent lists. Subscribers can opt in to receive other washingtonpost.com services and e-mail from selected advertisers.


"We'll probably offer some additional e-mail products in the coming months," he said. "We hope to be of value to people beyond the Washington area."


MediaNews Group Interactive, Boulder, CO, has also embarked on an e-mail program and is using PublishMail LLC, which is also based in Boulder.


The interactive division of Media News Group -- which owns 49 daily newspapers and 90 weekly newspapers, including its flagship Denver Post -- delivers several news, sports and entertainment newsletters in HTML format to 25,000 subscribers. A 90 percent retention rate has been reported with this program.


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