Free Email Newsletters Are Hot

How one of the Internet's oldest platforms, free email newsletters, is trending in 2021

I continue to read with interest how free email newsletters are the hot new thing. A recent Digiday article shared that The New York Times, who has 15 million email subscribers “debuted a deck of 18 new and existing subscriber-only newsletters to readers” this month. Additionally, Quartz, who has 1.3 million newsletter subscribers and 11 email newsletters, “announced it was refocusing its three-year-old subscription program around its email newsletters, after the publisher found in an earlier survey that 75% of its paying subscribers were driven to most of Quartz’s content from their inbox.” The article goes on to lump in each top-shelf magazine publisher one at a time, who are focusing on their email efforts.
One last takeaway came from the L.A. Times’ CMO Joshua Brandau, who said “If someone doesn’t engage and return to the L.A. Times’ site or open its emails within the first 14 days of signing up, they’re likely to remain unengaged and could be at risk of churning.” He said that data like newsletter sign-ups are one of the “key signals for churning or remaining subscribed.”

Download a FREE copy of Best Email Subject Lines for Selling Premium Subscriptions and Memberships and discover an extensive list of email subject line frameworks that are consistently proven to sell and boost revenue for publishers.

Now see, I’ve been designing and publishing both premium and free email newsletters for almost three decades. So I thought I might share some general statistics as well, on the three free consumer newsletters we are currently publishing with the goal of providing some comparative data on how special-interest consumer newsletters perform compared to the general interest counterparts that are often associated with big daily newspapers.
I also feel the need to point out that Mequoda Method free email newsletters also have a web component.
The email component typically includes a tease of three or more articles published back at the website, depending upon the business model and number of premium products, subscriptions, and sponsors. For those, we wedge text ads between the snippets for these articles, which we’ve talked about before in our articles about designing email newsletters. 
The website aggregates the free content for all of the newsletter articles and forms a massive archive, which is what we call a digital website portal. The digital website portal is the primary driver for search, social, and referral traffic.
All the performance metrics we see continue to indicate that having free email newsletters that both drive website traffic and act as an attraction engine back at the website for search, social and referral traffic is a superior business model.
Two of our publishing group’s three consumer newsletters were launched this year: Food Gardening Daily (a fruit and vegetable gardening and recipe magazine),  I Like Crochet Daily (a magazine for crocheters with patterns and tips), with the third having been around for much longer: Cabot Wealth Daily (an investing publisher with a collection of premium investing newsletters). In total, these 3 systems combined have 361,309 email subscribers with an average open rate of 40.73% and an average click rate of 2.63%.
While we can’t share conversion rates and revenue rates, you can make some guesses on how well email performs for these publishers, who are seeing open and click-through rates way above industry norms.

We believe this is due to the incredibly high-quality content that we make available in these three consumer email newsletters, and they also have an aggressive hygiene policy of knocking folks off those lists if they are not clicking or opening within 30 days.

I invite you to subscribe to all three, Food Gardening Daily, I Like Crochet Daily, and Cabot Wealth Daily so you can judge for yourself the relationship between content quality, contact frequency, and these above-average engagement metrics.

We’ve been guiding other publishers through the development and optimization of digital newsletters since the mid-1990s with more than 300 under our belt. In addition to three free daily email newsletters we currently publish, our team supports another six free daily email newsletters for our consulting clients. And between our consulting clients and publishing group, we support 28 premium newsletters.

It probably won’t surprise you to know that our publishing group has another four free daily newsletters under development and another nine premium newsletters on the drawing board. And as a Mequoda Publishing Network Member, you’re reading our free daily B2B email newsletter for publishing professionals, right now.

As a digital publisher, I am thrilled to see others popularizing digital magazine and newsletter formats. I believe that widespread digital magazine and newsletter publishing of both free and premium content will lead to higher adoption rates and ultimately to less print publishing and loss of the resources that print publishing consumes and converts to greenhouse gases.

What do you think about the media saying that free email newsletters are making a comeback? 

Download a FREE copy of Best Email Subject Lines for Selling Premium Subscriptions and Memberships and discover an extensive list of email subject line frameworks that are consistently proven to sell and boost revenue for publishers.


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