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Janet Roberts

Run the Numbers Before Adopting Link-Only Format
By Janet Roberts

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Several Ezine-Tips readers have floated their ideas for new ezine formats, most of which involve mainly a link in an email message with the full newsletter on their Web sites.

Their reasons boil down to three main goals:

  • Beat the recipients' spam filters by minimizing the number of potential trigger words

  • Avoid any format or link problems in viewing HTML newsletters

  • Avoid overwhelming readers with too much content in each message.

Will this work? They ask me, and I always answer, "It depends." It depends on your readers, how often you publish, how much incentive you give your readers to click through, how much of your list actually gets the announcement, and more.

I'm going to discuss one factor today -- list shrink -- and then go back to the topic in future Ezine-Tips. In the meantime, I'll be talking to publishers who use several different formats about their experiences.

Also, although this issue has come up before, I'd like your views on how much material you send out in each issue. Have you changed formats, from a full-content newsletter to a link-only announcement? What happened?

I don't want to know what you prefer when you read newsletters, just what do you do with your newsletter, and why. Send your comments here.

I usually advise against sending out announcement links, mainly because I'm biased in favor of full-content ezines. However, I also believe your own numbers can predict how a format change will affect your readership.

Run the Numbers First

Every time you put up a barrier to your content -- such as making them click to get it -- you will lose some readers. Can you afford it? Let's run some numbers:

  1. Suppose you publish a list that for the sake of easy statistics has 1,000 members on it, and you average a 90-percent success rate, meaning your newsletter reached 900 of your subscribers.

  2. Of those 900 readers, some will receive it but not see it right away because their mail servers sent it to their bulk-mail folders. Suppose this happens to 5 percent, a conservative estimate, of your 900 recipients. You're down to 855 potential readers now.

  3. Among those 855 readers are the ones who don't open their email right away because they're out of the office, away from home, etc. About 1 percent of our Ezine-Tips readership fits that bill, judging from the autoresponders we get, so there go 9 more readers. You're down to 846 readers.

  4. How many of those 846 readers will open your newsletter? You probably don't know this for sure unless you track your opens in HTML format, but let's give you a wildly successful 80-percent rate. That leaves you with 677 potential readers.

  5. Up to this point, we've reached the probable readership potential of just about any newsletter, no matter what the content is. However, making them go to your site for the full newsletter adds one more list-shrinking factor:

  6. How many of those 677 readers will actually go to your site to read the newsletter? I don't know of any studies on this -- if there are, somebody tell me! -- but, whenever this issue surfaces in Ezine-Tips, the people who say they don't like to click through outnumber the ones who do by at least 2 to 1. Let's be conservative again and estimate that 20 percent of your recipients won't go to your site. That leaves you 541 who would, potentially, out of your 900 readers who in theory got your announcement.

  7. Can you survive on that? Or, do you have many other ways to get folks to go to your site?

Nobody should expect 100-percent delivery and 100-percent opens and readership. If your initial delivery rate is high, then you risk a little less in list shrink. However, you'll still end up with a smaller list of potential readers.

Ezine-Tips for March 27, 2003

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