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Email renaissance: drive website traffic via e-newsletter, everybody's doing it

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Email renaissance: drive website traffic via e-newsletter, everybody's doing it

A recent survey by Quartz found that the email inbox is one of the first forms of news people access each day, and 80% of survey respondents reported that they choose email as the platform via which they share content. So it is no wonder that news sites around the world are all turning to email updates to curate and share news.

The World Editors Forum asked Grig Davidovitz, CEO of RGB Media, to explain this trend and what attraction it holds for news sites: 

"Today we are bombarded with information. One of the only digital places where everybody sees any piece of information that they have is the inbox, because you can't afford to miss anything in there. People are exposed to many, many websites many times via social media, so the number of websites that they go to on purpose is very small because we don't remember a lot of websites," Davidovitz said. 

"You can't afford not to read every piece of information in your inbox, so that is the major way today of creating a real strong tie between the user and the content organisation, making sure that the user is exposed from time to time to the content organisation. I think that today, as we are more and more surrounded by so much noise, this is a clear way of filtering."

Emails have been around since the dawn of the internet, yet the phenomenon of a distilled edition of a news site being available in the inbox is a recent one. Davidovitz suggested that this renaissance of relatively old social sharing technology in the news marketing industry is partly due to new Facebook algorithms which have de-prioritised non-sponsored content, so news sites can no longer rely on the site to generate web traffic: 

"It often takes time to really understand how to use the tools and the advantages of these tools. I think that what happened in this age in which you have so much information is that people are looking for ways to have ties. There are a few ways to have ties - you can like my Facebook page, for example, but that's not a good enough tie because you are only exposed to a certain amount of information from that page and as Facebook is under pressure to create income, what many pubishers have experienced is that the amount of exposure that users get from the branded pages has decreased significantly, so liking a page doesn't really mean that I will be exposed to information from that page."

And Twitter can be so noisy that your content is crowded out. "Twitter works differently, but again many people today have lost control of their Twitter because you've got so much information that you don't go over everything," Davidovitz said.

Email newsletters provide a solution to the perennial issue of turning accidental website traffic (where users fall upon a page by accident) into loyal website traffic (where users return to their favourite sites regularly). "If I come to a website and I like the website, often I will not remember to go back to the website so if I like the website I can subscribe to the email and then I have the email delivered in my inbox," Davidovitz continued.

Email newsletters also allow the creation of a 'time freeze' edition of a news site, with daily or weekly editions available to be seen in posterity, with the best articles and features of that day or week highlighted for readers who missed them on the site itself. Davidovitz told the World Editors Forum: 

"One of the problems that we are having on the web is that people have different time needs. Every website works according to different time factors, so I would say that, on average, websites try to radically change every three to four hours, but that doesn't feed all the users. That means, for instance, that if I didn't have time to come to the website for nine hours, then maybe there was a very good article that was highlighted but that it has already ended its lifecycle on the homepage so I completely missed it.

"The fact that you can give me, let's say, a day perspective or a week perspective offers a different hierarchical perspective to the information that you are publishing, you are saying: "Okay, these are the most important pieces of news I have published today." Let's say you're on vacation and you want to see what you have missed from a publication that you like, all these editions are waiting for you in the inbox and you will read them as you clean the inbox." 

Davidovitz describes email newsletters as a unique product in themselves, which should also be made available on the website:

"The email should not be marketed as an email or a newsletter. It should be a product, so it can be a daily edition, a daily report, a weekly magazine, whatever you want, but it's a product and you subscribe to the product by the email. Often, we are even enabling people to see this perspective on the site itself, so if it's a daily edtion of the site you can get it via email but you can also go to the site and see the daily edition and see yesterday's daily edition and see all the daily editions that you want."

While many newsletters are affiliated with a larger news site and are produced with the purpose of driving website traffic, some newsletters exist by themselves, such as Michael Brendan Dougherty's baseball daily newsletter, The Slurve. Dougherty left a job as a political journalist to start his own email newsletter business, running a paid subscription service, which he says is on the way to supporting him full-time. 

That said, the profitability of email newsletters is not clear-cut. Writer and businessman Dave Pell spends up to four hours each morning formulating an email newsletter for a mailing list of 25,000 people. Passionate about news, he is unfazed by the non-lucrative nature of this venture, from which he earns no money at all. He justified this by saying, "I’d much rather go viral than make a lot of money off of this," in an interview with Mailchimp.

The World Editors Forum's favourite 5 email newsletters are:

1.  Quartz

2. American Press Institute

3. The Guardian Media Briefing

4. Nieman Lab

5. Reuters Morning Digest

Note: Grig Davidovitz will be speaking about 'Smart new ways to reach your audience' at the 13th International Newsroom Summit on 14 October 2014, in Amsterdam, one of the strategic conferences taking place alongside the World Publishing Expo.


Livi Wilkinson


2014-09-01 17:17

Author information

The World Editors Forum is the organisation within the World Association of Newspapers devoted to newspaper editors worldwide. The Editors Weblog (, launched in January 2004, is a WEF initiative designed to facilitate the diffusion of information relevant to newspapers and their editors.

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