There have been a plethora of articles in recent weeks about how email newsletters are finding their groove with the public. Klint Finley at TechCrunch wrote Why Everyone Is Obsessed With E-Mail Newsletters Right Now. David Carr’s piece was titled For Email Newsletters, a Death Greatly Exaggerated.
We seem poised for more institutions, publishers, and businesses large and small to adopt and focus on the email newsletter as a way to better connect to their audiences. But as with any form of media, it’s not only important to focus on the content being delivered, but to consider how this media can be used to develop a new stream for revenue.
We’ve pulled from the findings of our report, Setting the Standard, which provides data driven insights into what designs are most successful for newsletters when it comes to incorporating advertising.
You can download the entire report here, but below are some principles that should be kept in mind as you start to develop your email newsletter strategies:
1. The importance of foresight
The newsletters whose ads have the best performance share one thing in common: theyapproached the design of their newsletters with space for ads strategically built into them. When the overall design of the newsletter is built to incorporate the ads from the outset, the end result is a more organic product that performs better.
Some newsletters didn’t think about incorporating ads from the onset of the newsletter, and the result can often feel forced and not organic. That is communicated in their performance. Instead, if you’re creating a newsletter, take some time to think about where you’d like the ads to go, or how many ads you’d tolerate being in there. It’s worth it to be mindful now rather than scrambling later.
2. Believe in your content
When the ads are lower in the template, sure, they’ll get fewer clicks but they will have higher engagement. A Chartbeat study shows that 86% of engagement comes below the fold (for Slate, but it carries). That’s just as true in email as on the web. Fewer people may be scrolling through your entire newsletter, but those that do are way more valuable because they’re actually engaged.
Additionally, somehow there’s been a hive-mind recurring “truism” that’s popped up over recent years: readers don’t read. The truth is, long doesn’t necessarily mean decreased engagement. Some of the best performing newsletters that we work with counter the canard that longer emails mean decreased engagement. A grid layout that is image-heavy in its design provides readers with an easy to digest experience that encourages endless scrolling. If you feel like the best tone for your newsletter is long-form, then trust that feeling.
3. Don’t ignore the best of the web
Some of the best performing newsletters we work with have a “feed” format that encourages scrolling and scanning, mirroring one of the more popular innovations in web design in recent years (infinite scroll). This is an example of the adoption of a popular trend online that has been repurposed for email newsletters. Don’t be afraid to integrate designs online to your newsletter if it augments your product
4. Native is coming
Some of the more innovative newsletters we work with have had progressive solutions to integrate the rise of native into their newsletters in ethical and impactful ways. Native is a good solution for newsletters who have the opportunity to host house ads and offers. The most successful newsletters are thoughtful about how best to align offers with their readers’ preferences and therefore achieve a higher level of engagement. As native gains more and more traction and more technologies are developed to let it be placed in more efficient ways, it’s good to think about how your newsletter will approach it. We recommend stringent disclosure. Good native doesn’t rest on tricking a reader.
5. Mobile is here
The design of your newsletter should be made with the full realization that it is very likely to be read on a mobile device. According to a BlueHornet study, 80% of consumers will delete a mobile email just because it doesn’t look good. If you’re putting together a newsletter, here are a few templates that perform well on mobile.
In case you’re building out the design yourself, here are a few things to keep in mind:
– Use ad units that are large and visible on all devices
– Use short headlines and content targeted advertising with large text
– Make sure any links are easy to click or tap
We know that not every newsletter has the intent of monetization, but if a newsletter is successful enough, it can be a nice additional source of revenue. We’re experts on the practice and we hope some of this provides insight into the right way of thinking about designing your newsletter.