How Hurricane Katrina Increased My Email Newsletter Click-Through Rates By 74 Percent

Executive Summary

  • Urgency drives email click-through rates
  • Click-through rates are the best measure of email readership
  • The Internet empowers niche media to cover the news cycle

Opportunity: I’ve seen three sets of test data in the last month that demonstrate the power of urgency for driving readership and email newsletter click-through rates. In each of the three tests, the email newsletter subject line was changed to reference a current news event by name, versus a more generic version. Click-through rates and site traffic was then measured for each of the two test groups.

The Test: A daily email newsletter for active private investors ran the following two identical headlines as an A/B split to its 500,000 subscribers:

    Headline #1: Hurricane Katrina’s Impact on Oil Markets

    Headline #2: How Natural Disasters Impact Oil Future Prices

The actual article was the same in both cases with a lead about Katrina’s impact on oil prices and an in-depth analysis of the impact of natural disasters on oil future prices. In both cases the headline and the dateline appeared in the email newsletter’s subject line.

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The Results: The email newsletter with Headline #1 experienced an email click-through rate that was 74 percent higher. The increased email click-through rate generated an 82 percent increase in page views when compared with page views generated by the email with the more generic headline.

Lesson: Specifics drive readership and click-through rates. Regardless of the niche you serve, your readers want to know how a news event like Hurricane Katrina will affect them. If your readers are loyal, they are loyal because you speak to them in a way that’s different that the mass media speaks to them. The bigger the story, the more they’ll want to hear your perspective. The Internet allows every publisher, no matter how big or how small, to talk to his or her readers about timely events that not long ago would have only been covered by daily newspapers and TV.

Note: As always, the details of the case have been modified to protect the identity of the publisher and the program.

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