The digital landscape is constantly changing, and publishers are taking note. A few years ago, publishers got a lot of mileage out of social media posts and digital ads, but digital dollars don’t go as far as they used to.
Facebook is now prioritizing user content above all else. That means a post promoting your latest article won’t reach as many readers as it once did. New privacy regulations, known as GDPR, which recently went into effect, make it harder for publishers to get to know their readers and send targeted messages. Consumers are tired of digital ads—just 9% of ads are viewed for more than a second and just 4% were viewed for more than two seconds, according to Marketing Week.
All of these seemingly small changes are forcing publishers to shift their focus (and budgets) to more reliable channels like email marketing. Email gives you a direct line of communication to readers, and you can use automated email marketing tools to deliver the kind of relevant, targeted messages your subscribers want.
Try these four tactics that leverage email marketing to increase audience engagement.
1. Curate and send a newsletter with a “news feed” look
People flock to social feeds to get instant information. Users scroll through a list of messages, scan the content, and read posts of interest.
You can accomplish the same goal with an email newsletter. Curate your best posts and put them together in a newsletter. To mimic a news feed, pick a template that gives you an organized list design. You can use a drag and drop designer to customize the design, but make sure you create one that’s clean and easy for readers to digest.
For example, Rolling Stone uses this newsletter design:
It looks like a news feed, right? Each article has an image, title, and description. The template keeps all of the elements in a tidy design. All of the images are the same size and left justified, the titles are all one-line and in a bold font, and the descriptions are brief yet informative.
Using automated email marketing, you can create newsletters in advance and schedule them to send on a specific date. By scheduling newsletters, you make sure they’re delivered with regularity, which is important for continued engagement.
2. Send attention-grabbing content
To increase engagement, you have to deliver attention-grabbing messages to every inbox. But what qualifies as attention-grabbing? Of course, short and snappy headlines are a good start. Stunning images play a vital role too.
We suggest taking a lesson from Fashion Magazine. Fashion Magazine sends a regular newsletter, but their content is instantly noticeable. Take a look at a recent newsletter. What stands out?
This publisher uses GIFs as a way to draw readers in. After seeing these moving images, readers can’t help but read a title or two and start clicking on content they want to read.
GIFs are more attractive than images, but not as costly or as time-consuming as video creation. There are a lot of do-it-yourself tools out there that can help you create them too, like Giphy and Ezgif.com.
While GIFs are effective, the takeaway is to create stunning content that forces readers to pay attention. You can always experiment with different kinds of visual elements. It’s estimated that 87% of communication is now visual, so adding GIFs, mini-slideshows, or short videos to your email can help you drive engagement.
3. Give subscribers more control with a preference center
Digital and social advertising platforms give marketers the ability to select targeted audiences to show their ads to, but consumers are getting tired of ads. Mounting research shows ad-fatigue is spreading rapidly.
Fortunately, publishers can send hyper-targeted messages through email. With email, readers can actually tell you what kind of messages they want to receive.
By setting up an email preference center, subscribers can self-select the kind of content they want from your publication.
Penguin Random House has its readers select their favorite book genres from this preference center.
You can use your preference center to segment your contacts. Penguin Random House could create a segment for each book genre, for example, and send relevant messages to each group.
Using automated email marketing, when a reader joins a specific segment, like Mystery and Suspense, it can trigger an email delivery to that subscriber. The new subscriber, who loves Mystery and Suspense, gets a welcome email that features several books they might enjoy.
Publishers can also use automated email marketing to schedule a newsletter to send on a certain date. At the beginning of each month, Penguin Random House uses automated email marketing to send suggested book titles to readers based on the genres that readers select. Here’s an example:
4. Form relationships directly with advertisers
Since digital ads aren’t returning the ROI that many publishers desire, some are creating relationships directly with advertisers.
You’ve spent time cultivating a list of niche subscribers, collecting subscriber data, and tracking your email response rates. By teaming up with an advertiser, you can align their needs with your own.
Of course, there’s a lot to consider here. You’ll need to examine your data privacy protocol, decide what kind of advertisements your audience will respond to, and figure out how to include ads in your emails tastefully.
Apartment Therapy shows ads inside its newsletter. Here’s a look at one of their newsletters with a simple banner ad at the top:
Sometimes, Apartment Therapy also includes ads inside the newsletter. Rather than an image and an article title, the content block will showcase an advertisement instead.
Working with advertisers gives publishers a revenue stream and a way to add engaging content to email in an organic way.
While many digital marketing channels are making it increasingly difficult to attract and retain customers, email marketing remains a proven, cost-effective communication tool. When you combine best email practices with automated email marketing options, you can create personalized, scalable messages that your subscribers engage with now and in the future.