Key Lessons Emerge From Success of The New Yorker's Newsletters

Share |

"Last year, Condé Nast's data science team built a model to predict which factors best determine whether a reader will become a subscriber [to the paid product]." They found the number one indicator to be if that website visitor subscribes to a free New Yorker newsletter.

That comes from a NiemanLab article yesterday about The New Yorker's growing reliance on their free newsletters. One of the first big hires made by new New editor Michael Luo last year was Dan Oshinsky as director of newsletters. Previously, the person in charge of newsletters had other responsibilities.

"I knew that there was so much more that we could do with the newsletters by having someone focused on them," Luo said.

Here are some facts and takeaways from that article: 

The New Yorker is using free newsletters to build subscriptions to the paid product.
There are eight free newsletters and most reflect on the content of the magazine: Cartoons, The Daily, Culture Review, Fiction, Goings on About Town... It's a simple sign-up form—yes, no, email address and submit. (They might delve for more information later.) Newsletters now represent about 12% of traffic to their site, and there are well over a million subscribers.
The takeaway: Take your most popular content and offer free slivers or similar articles to your non-subscribers.

Their newsletters create strong bonds with their audience.
"This has always been a loyalty type of business," Oshinsky said. "You don't last that long without building strong relationships with readers. Email is kind of like a living room. It's a very personal space. You let in your friends, the coworkers you like, and a couple of brands you really trust—like this one." Recognizing someone's loyalty can be important and create good feelings.
The takeaway: Personalize beyond names to past touch points and preferences. Done right, it's another way to bond with your readers. 

Here's what a survey from GetResponse said a couple years ago:
"If you're not sending enough emails, you're leaving money on the table and potentially handing your customers over to your competitors – provided you're sending emails your customer consider valuable. Too many marketers use the unsubscribe metric to guide their decision as to the optimal frequency when, in reality, it should be a metric that matters—such as sales, revenue, downloads, etc."
The takeaway: Find the metric that's right for you to help determine your email frequency. 

While that still holds true, something else does not.
Two years ago, surveys were coming out that "newsletter" was a negative word, that we should use ezine or e-letter or some other e-ified word. But there it is in all caps on The New Yorker site in that recognizable font, and readers are responding. Other advice still stands though, that you should talk more about what's in a report, study or newsletter, then the just the sending of it.
The takeaway: Newsletter away! 

Oshinsky's role bridges four of the The New Yorker's core teams—editorial, product, consumer marketing and sales.
"Part of the role is to ensure that all of these departments are on the same page with current products and new launches." This was a big part of SIPA's webinar yesterday on Aligning Editorial Strategy with Sales and Marketing, featuring Brian Cuthbert, Group Vice President at Diversified Communications—making sure editorial, sales and marketing are on the same mission. If you're a smaller company, it can be a little easier, but then being virtual might bring new issues. (Cuthbert wants his virtual people videoed in for meetings.)
The takeaway: Have a person serve in a bridge role for you, working with multiple areas.

Interestingly, The New Yorker is hoping to develop newsletters with their own exclusive, non-magazine content, not aimed at readers. Sounds like someone might be coming to B2B land.

Ronn Are you subscribed to the SIPAlert Daily?
If not, you're missing out on daily strategies, tips, profiles and case studies that can build your audience and increase revenue. To sign up, please contact Nevena Jovanovic.

Ronn Levine began his career as a reporter for The Washington Post and has won numerous writing and publications awards since. Most recently, he spent 12 years at the Newspaper Association of America covering a variety of topics before joining SIPA in 2009 and SIIA in 2013 as editorial director…