Email is an increasingly important channel for publishers. Newsletters are an integral part of brand-building, helping build personal connections with digital audiences.
Perhaps more importantly, newsletters have huge potential as newsrooms’ biggest revenue driver. They are at the top of the subscriptions funnel: Newsletters are a great way to get people to log in (thus providing their email and an opportunity to build a user profile); they are also the most effective tool to convert registered users into subscribers.
Yet, some fear the newsletter boom might come to an end. Apple’s announcement of the Mail Privacy Protection update will prevent senders from using invisible pixels to see which users opened emails.
How will Apple’s decision affect the newsletter business? Opinions are divided. While some are afraid that banning invisible pixels will bring the newsletter boom to the end, others argue alternative metrics can measure your email activity better.
The Fix offers a list of 6 main alternative metrics that can be more reliable (and maybe even more efficient) to help you determine your email strategy.
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- Clickthrough rates. Jens Lennartsson, an email marketing expert argues that open rate does not indicate whether users find the content engaging and interesting and finds it slightly more insightful than the number of subscribers. Instead, he suggests that alternative metrics, especially the click rate can give better understanding of which content sparks the audience’s curiosity.
- Using reader surveys. Alex Kantrowitz, author of the free, ad-supported newsletter Big Technology, proposes a slightly different approach. As he shared with The Verge, Big technology’s ad inventory was sold out for the first half of the year, not by using invisible pixels but conducting “good old-fashioned reader surveys”.
- Building API integrations. Si Fung, Head of Deployment of Performance Horizon suggests replacing invisible pixels with API integrations which, as he maintains, improve data completeness and quality, as well as information security and consumer privacy. Notably, in API integrations no third-party cookies are used, so browser policies will no longer affect data flow.
- Conversion rates. Another highly relevant KPI for newsletter activity is conversions. These depend on the objective you want to reach (e.g., getting to the landing page, registering, becoming a subscriber). Measuring them shows the true value of your emails in delivering your newsroom’s strategy..
- Monthly list growth. Dan Oshinsky, the Director of Newsletters at The New Yorker offers a list of some of the newsletter metrics that are actually better than open rate. Monthly subscribers list growth is the first indicator on his list. Arguably, it reveals whether the newsletter pitching is effective, and whether branding and your acquisition efforts are working.
- Engaged minutes per newsletter. According to Oshinsky, another metric that should not be overlooked is tracking engaged minutes per newsletter. This means tracking how much time readers actually spend on your website after clicking through from a newsletter. This metric is especially relevant when your goal is to make sure that readers do not only click and land on your website, but they actually spend time on it.
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Nevertheless, no one argues that the open rate does not matter. It is undoubtedly a useful tool for measuring your newsletter performance. Yet, other metrics and tactics, including but not limited to clickthrough rates, API integrations. reader surveys, conversion rates, engaged minutes per newsletter, and subscribers growth can give a much better understanding of how efficient your newsletter strategy is and where you have room to grow.