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Media companies and publishers are home to some of the savviest marketers around. They’re constantly looking for new ways to connect with readers and subscribers, and are often the first marketers to test out new channels.

We’ve seen media companies and publishers thrive with video, mobile, and a host of other arenas. When it comes to email marketing, we’ve seen publishers go above and beyond. They’re no longer sending automated emails based on RSS feeds. Instead, they’re developing email-specific strategies to drive audience engagement and increase audience ownership.

At a media company, teams want to earn the right to stay in the inbox, evolve and maintain a unique voice in an overly saturated landscape. These teams also want to identify, capture, and monetize their most loyal audience and drive consistent revenue from owned channels.

Today, we’re sharing an email marketing playbook that can be used by media companies and publishers to take engagement to the next level.

Making email personal: the challenge publishers face today

Email is a much more personal medium than a website.

“Newsletters are such an intimate medium, and they hold your attention in a way websites deliberately don’t,” wrote Noah Davis in excellent preference center.. “Websites are always trying to get you to click on this and reroute you to some other article.”

Unlike websites, email newsletters from media companies often exist in the same space as an email from your brother or your best friend. To earn the right to stay there, media companies need to create relationships that feel just as personal.

Despite the fact that publishers love newsletters, they continue to grapple with the underlying tech. After all, when you’re spending the majority of your time just trying to make the technology work, you wind up flooding inboxes with content that isn’t particularly engaging.

How do you produce a high quality, differentiated product in an oversaturated market when you’re spending the majority of your time just getting an email out the door?

Use your current content, strategy, and resources as an opportunity to monitor and optimize

Media companies and publishers are already publishing content. In fact, existing content is your biggest asset. Rather than trying to reinvent the wheel, leverage your most recent content for email campaigns.

Many begin by setting up automated emails based on RSS feeds, and this is a great place to start as there is an audience who’s got an appetite for this content. However, make sure the audience receiving it appreciates it. Often times, the content pulled from an RSS feed isn’t unique, and the audience is not particularly interested by content they’ve already seen.

Before diving into new strategies, you should look for weaknesses that can be optimized. Common weaknesses for media companies are low performing automated emails and disengaged subscribers. To combat these weaknesses, you can create segments of disengaged readers to keep your core lists clean, improve deliverability, and increase engagement rates with your active audience.

Let subscribers tell you how best to engage with them

Those creating strategies often fall into the trap of assumptions. We assume that we know what our audience wants and which channels work best for reaching them. However, it’s better to let subscribers tell you how to best engage with them.

For example, you can leverage insights for interest-based opportunities:

  • Create a welcome workflow, rather than double opt-in. A double opt-in is when someone has to open an email and confirm their subscription to a list. You can also consider creating an automated welcome workflow. In this workflow, you can link to a preference center and give subscribers a chance to update their preferences.
  • Identify content categories that resonate. You can segment your audience based on the content they select to receive in your preference center (BuzzFeed has an excellent subscription hub.) You then segment your lists to send content that’s most relevant to their interests. You can also create contextual sign ups to keep generating organic growth for targeted content.
  • Develop targeted email courses. Rather than having subscribers sign up for a general email list, you can create targeted email courses that have a clear start and end point. Apartment Therapy created a targeted email course that resulted open and clickthrough rates over 55%.

Capitalize on engagement and subscriber loyalty

Media companies and publishers are lucky in that they usually have a large amount of loyal and engaged subscribers. This audience presents an opportunity for testing out ideas.

  • Use email as a way to test and experiment. According to GrooveApp, “newsletters are serving as a petri dishes for testing new product ideas.” For example, the Huffington Post is investing in and testing newsletter-only content (i.e. The Tea) to attract new audiences.
  • Survey audience for new product offerings. Before creating editorial assets, you can find out what the interest level is. For example, you can ask people about their interest in a gift guides before investing in the editorial to create it.
  • Cross promote courses and newsletters. You can create email courses that lead subscribers to newsletters. For example, a course called “5 days to better skin” could end with a prompt to become a subscriber to the health and beauty category newsletter. Alternatively, you could target the course’s audience with a separate, relevant promotion, such as “10 days to better hair.”

Monetize with diverse & creative packages for advertisers

Advertisers are getting more interested in email as media companies and publishers find creative ways to package their offerings. After all, those who visit a website from email peruse 3-4 pages per session, which is twice as much as they do when coming from social channels.

Many have begun packaging email courses for co-sponsorships, as well as offering email promotion as an aspect of branded content. Marketers are increasingly turning to LiveIntent to populate emails with relevant advertising.

Wrap up

Media companies and publishers are increasingly looking for channels where they can own an audience. Unlike sites like Facebook or Snapchat, email marketing offers the opportunity for publishers to have a direct line to their most engaged audience.
Email is affordable and produces a ton of ROI. It presents an opportunity for advertisers, marketers, and editorial leads alike.

This blog provides general information and discussion about email marketing and related subjects. The content provided in this blog ("Content”), should not be construed as and is not intended to constitute financial, legal or tax advice. You should seek the advice of professionals prior to acting upon any information contained in the Content. All Content is provided strictly “as is” and we make no warranty or representation of any kind regarding the Content.
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