Digital media disruptions 21 - why email newsletters rule and analyst days are lacking

Profile picture for user jreed By Jon Reed April 24, 2018
In this edition - the power of email newsletters, and the pitfalls ahead. Also: why analyst days fall short and the myths of influencer marketing. Facebook's stumbles bring privacy lessons.

It's time for another media disruptions gut check - the enterprisey review. Rules: I pick the impactful stories from my media disruptions channel and give them a hard look from the enterprise angle - along with an advised course of action. This series is NOT geared for the media industry, but for enterprises looking to win audiences, and gain opt-in data.

3 stats that prove just how valuable newsletters are
by: Megan Radogna
key excerpt: "Greentech Media’s audience consists of 1m monthly article views, 45k newsletter subscribers, and 400k monthly unique visitors. Newsletter subscribers represent 15% of total article visitors, even though they only make up 4% of Greentech Media’s monthly uniques, and they spend more time on site."

enterprise relevance: high

If anything, email newsletters have gained in importance as attention spans drift. Subscribable content like newsletters matters because even loyal "fans" may get swept up in social streams and forget to return to your site. Email newsletters don't have to be 1:1 personal - as long as they are targeted enough to meet the needs of that segment of your audience.

But as newsletters become more prevalent, sterile, and boring (e.g. monthly frequent flyer updates), it will take more effort to get readers to open and perform actions. Deliverability is a key concern, as well as honoring the latest data policies, particularly in the EU via GDPR. This piece by Radogna shares how some brands are getting results.

best course of action:

  • Newsletters don't need to be personalized by they do require personal effort to be effective. A sterile copy/paste of pre-existing announcements is a fail.
  • Keep sales pitches like "last chance to register!" to a minimum. Make sure that it's easy to unsubscribe from specific newsletters and manage content preferences.
  • Establish your own "open" and "click through" goals. If you get modest click throughs, but they track directly to big ticket sales, you've probably hit your metric.
  • Radogna is right about "test test test." Newsletters are, for many brands, a better A/B testing environment than their own web sites. Use your email platform to experiment with subject headers, delivery times, and calls to action.
  • In  The fall of Digg Deeper and the struggle for intelligent news push notifications, I share some of my fave enterprise newsletters.
  • Be VERY careful about doing the full screen newsletter pop-up that interrupts your web visitor and forces them to close a window. Diginomica uses a relatively subtle "slider" and we get complaints about even that from time to time.
  • If you have the bandwidth and proper topic to do a daily newsletter, it's a great way to stay "top of mind." However, most brands should focus on doing a couple of effective weekly roundups rather than the content grind of a daily.

Three different ways The Atlantic, Digiday, and Condé Nast approach reader monetization
by: Marissa Rasmussen
key excerpt:
"Consumers’ willingness to pay will only hold firm if publishers provide value and maintain meaningful relationships with them—which means delivering more than just a metered paywall and their monthly bill. Some of the most successful businesses with subscription models, such as Amazon, Netflix, and Spotify, also offer great customer service, increased focus on personalized recommendations, and great user experiences across multiple devices."

enterprise relevance: medium to high

Most enterprises outside of the media industry will not look to monetize their content. But we can still learn from these monetization efforts. If a consumer is willing to pay for content, we have succeeded in developing an urgency and a relevance they can't find elsewhere (or, perhaps, a superior user experience, or a mix of these as in Netflix). Swap paid subscriptions for opt-in sign ups, and now you have a content/data bridge between your free content and your paid products or services. Getting key visitors to sign up for free content - and share meaningful data like job titles - is a sign of trust and relevance.

best course of action:

  • Find the right balance between free, sign up, and branded "how to" content. Rather than attempting to acquire data, think of a value exchange between your company and audience, where the audience willingly shares their data as they perceive more and more value from your platform/community.
  • An active community of groups around your brand and/or industry topics is an important way of driving sign-up interest. It's not just content but interactions. Atlantic's premium membership is "built on a direct relationship with members."
  • As this article shows, there are still under-served niches in areas where you may have topic authority and subject matter experts.
  • User experience across devices is becoming a key factor in why people sign up for some content and not others. A dedicated mobile app is probably not necessary, but progressive web apps may be worth a hard look.

How to Create a More Compelling Analyst Event
: Laurie McCabe
key excerpt: "Remember that everything you do does not have to involve a talking head and a Powerpoint deck. Some of the best (and sadly very infrequent) sessions I’ve been to have focused having a dialogue with analysts! Imagine that. Schedule more break out sessions and roundtables–they can lead off with a few slides, but the goal should be dialogue.."

enterprise relevance: medium if you are involved in influencer marketing, high if you have your own analyst or influencer events.

McCabe's piece is a thoughtful take on something I satirized in How to screw up a vendor analyst day - in 12 simple steps. There are simple things vendors can do to make these days better, such as McCabe's point on providing the slides in advance to prevent constant phone pics. It's shocking how few vendors manage to pull off these types of events. There is way too much focus on the "brain dump" and a loss of opportunity for interaction. It's the dialogue that gets companies the best insights from their influencers - and gets us the best content.

best course of action:

  • Involve externals in the planning of your events. Don't let one person internally run off and plan an event without consulting the team on how they plan to foster interaction and avoid slide deck overload.
  • Be careful about how "analysts" and "influencers" are defined. Many terrific analysts are not analysts by profession. Many so-called influencers aren't important to your customers or partners.
  • Don't be afraid to blend influencers and analysts and media into the same programs when you can. A more diverse group leads to better discussions. That might include some of your internal influencers.
  • Influencers are individual. Far better to design programs for each influencer rather than put them in buckets like analyst or media. Yes, it takes work to define individual needs, but that effort is worth it, especially at smaller events. At larger events, some bucketing may need to happen to get things done at scale.

Bonus content - a few more stories worth tracking:

These pieces were picked from my curated channel, enterprise media disruptions. You can also view the entire digital media disruptions article series, including special features.