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The power and value of newsletters

The value of newsletters

What value can a newsletter bring to a media organisation in 2024? Plenty – email newsletters  remain a key tool, with news publishers including The Telegraph and The Times focusing as much on this format as newer forms like podcasts. 

At the recent Newsrewired conference, The Times’ newsletter editor Henry Bird, The Telegraph’s head of newsletters Maire Bonheim, and JournoResources director Jem Collins shared advice on getting the most out of a newsletter. Read on for how these outlets have built up loyal followings by engaging with readers on a more personal level. 

Getting the right tone

Deciding on the tone of voice for a newsletter can be daunting, and it isn’t a case of ‘one rule fits all’, as Henry Bird pointed out:

‘At The Times, we realised there wasn’t going to be a blanket rule that was going to apply to every single newsletter, so every one had to be quite carefully thought through and discussed with the editorial department. Now each one has a very distinct identity’.

Maire Bonheim agreed that working closely with the relevant editorial department and talking to them about what the readers want in terms of content, tone, and presentation will lead to better open rates and engagement:

‘It’s a case of constant iteration, so you don’t just relaunch and you’re done. You’re constantly experimenting and trying new things’. 

The perfect timing

When is the best time of day to send out your newsletter? This varies depending on who you are writing for and what topics you are covering. Jem Collins sends the JournoResources newsletter later in the day around 6pm:

‘We think about where people will be when they read it. Sending out jobs and opportunities –  our audience won’t want to open that in the office with the boss looking over their shoulder’.

At The Times, it’s the opposite. Daily breaking news, is shared at 6am every morning in the Best of Times newsletter.

Testing and pivoting when needed is vital for keeping readership engaged. Following plenty of testing at The Telegraph – perhaps unsurprisingly –  gardening was found to perform better on a Saturday, and puzzles on a Sunday. 

Frequency is also important – Maire mentioned the need to constantly check readers’ engagement with topics, as well as what time of day they are being read the most.

Value and measuring success

The value of newsletters is being recognised more and more by newsrooms. Henry shared that times have changed since newsletters were treated as something to be sorted at the end of the day:

‘Once we drilled into the data, we realised the value newsletters have. Now teams dedicate a significant portion of their day to this’.

Newsletters can be utilised for different purposes, too – at The Telegraph, some newsletters are specifically aimed at acquiring new subscribers, others are aimed at retention, with some pitched as exclusives for paying members only. 

At JournoResources, the newsletter is for increasing membership:

‘Part of our monetisation model is pushing people from the newsletter to giving up a bit of money every month to get a little bit extra,’ said Jem.

How do you measure if your newsletters are successful? ‘It really depends on what your goal is and you go from there,’ says Maire.  

Henry added: ‘If you’ve got a newsletter that really prioritises lots of marketing, ads and lots of visuals, the priority is to get people to click on the links and through to the stories. In general, the most important number there is open rate – that’s the most reliable metric of building loyalty and retention over time’.

Wondering what else was discussed at the Newsrewired conference? Then you can check out our overview of the key takeaway points. And if you’re writing a newsletter and in need of expert comment or information for it then you can get it by sending a request on the Journalist Enquiry Service.

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