Newsletter subscribers are twice more likely than non-email subscribers to convert into paying members. Shrikant R Kale, co-founder of iZooto, looks at publishers can grow their email list in the most effective ways.
Owned audience, also known as the marketing list, is undoubtedly the greatest asset publishers can possess. This direct connection is exactly what allows them to effectively engage, monetize, and retain their readers over time – the recipe for success in the era of content overload and tough competition.
Apart from web push notifications, it’s email that allows publishers to build a solid communication bridge through triggered actions or newsletters. Why is that so important? Well, for example, Vox’s newsletter readers spend an average of 110 seconds on the site, compared to just 40 seconds for Facebook visitors. The New York Times also found that newsletter subscribers were twice as likely than non-email subscribers to convert into paying members.
But to enjoy these numbers, publishers first need to get their readers to subscribe. How can they grow their email list in the most effective ways?
1. Design a subscription form that draws attention
The way publishers present the subscription form can make all the difference in the world. The copy should always be catchy and crisp, ideally incorporating action words. Publishers can experiment with emotionally charged phrases, leverage the uniqueness of their brand, and add some engaging graphics, emojis, animations, or countdowns.
When it comes to the call-to-action (CTA) itself, it should be very concise. Requesting too many details isn’t the best way to go – publishers should start with just the email address and continue collecting data as the relationship grows stronger. Also, it’s interesting to see how different words and colors affect human psychology in different ways. Did you know that red, green, yellow, and orange tend to perform the best in CTAs?
Overall, publishers should remember that the subscriber state is a relationship of trust. That’s why it should always be clear what value is given to those readers who sign up. One of the ways to do that is by offering content based on readers’ interests. For example, the WSJ’s newsletter page allows readers to select the exact newsletter they want to subscribe to and includes a preview of each one so that they know what to expect even before hitting the subscribe button.
2. Placement matters
Even if publishers have the most seamless form with sharp copy, it’s not enough. They need to prioritize its discoverability – both on websites and across platforms. The sign-up form should always be easily found and optimized for mobile.
Publishers should also think about at what part of the reader experience the form should be displayed. Pop-ups are the most common ones, and tend to show solid results. The top 10% highest-performing pop-ups averaged a 9.28% conversion rate. The average conversion rate for all pop-ups is 3.09%.
Overall, publishers can experiment with:
• Exit-intent pop-ups: When a user is about to click the ‘go back’ or close button, the pop-up will show, trying to persuade the user to stay.
• Time-based pop-ups: Instead of showing the form immediately, publishers can instead time it to be displayed after a specific time spent on the site, making sure that the targeted readers are more engaged
• Content-based pop-ups: The form only shows on specific pages on the website, based on which content is displayed. They can be used to leverage specific interests and reader preferences.
• Scroll-based pop-ups: Publishers can display the form to the reader at a specific point, for example, when they finish reading an article and invite them to subscribe for more.
• Hello bars: While pop-ups jump out unexpectedly, a hello bar is visible on the website the moment it loads. It occupies the top or bottom of the website, and it can’t be closed, following the readers as they scroll.
• Sideboxes: Readers can display a permanent box on the site to insert their email.
3. Bet on quality content
Still, one of the most obvious ways for publishers to grow their email marketing list is by focusing on what they’re best at – creating quality content. Clickbait articles, pieces that aren’t newsworthy, or that of poor writing, will not persuade the modern reader, who is spoilt with choice.
But it’s also crucial to take a step further to think about how to leverage quality content to truly woo readers to subscribe. Generally, publishers rely on two strategies. First, they can use free resources or online tools – journalists can create more in-depth reports or specialized series – and all that readers need to do to access them is to share their email.
Second, there’s gated content. Publishers can drive the potential of premium articles that require the reader to pay. This type of content usually takes a lot of research or is highly exclusive, representing a prompt for readers to share their email ID.
4. Gamify the experience with contests and giveaways
Demonstrating that by joining the subscriber community, readers can access rewards, is another way publishers can grow their email marketing list. Contests and giveaways are a fun way to do that, and they tend to get high engagement, considering they can be further shared on social media. Instead of a dull pop-up, why not try out apps like Wheelio, and install a tempting spinning wheel with great rewards on your site?
Publishers can leverage emails to promote any gamified experiences, and also make it a rule that to be entered for a chance to win, the readers must provide their email address. This is a great opportunity to get creative – for example, you can reward each subscriber with extra entries for every friend they refer to.
5. Encourage engagement
Comments, feedback, reviews… All these form the engagement aspect of every successful publication. Publishers should understand that access to benefits their community brings is something that they can leverage to get more subscribers.
In the past, publishers have often closed their comment sections because they lacked the tools or resources to moderate them or fight against internet trolls – but that was a major mistake. By doing so, they cut off an important subscriber stream.
Publishers need to think about ways to encourage community interactions and make even random visitors want to join and interact. This can be done by adding new sections asking for feedback, allowing readers to rate or review something, or adding comments sections even to videos and other content formats.
To become a true digital force, publishers must embrace digital communication methods. By making the subscription process as seamless as possible and showing how it adds value to the reader, they can constantly grow their own audience and better enjoy the benefits it brings. All this can be further enhanced by A/B testing, ensuring that publishers do their best to find the perfect mix.
By Shrikant R Kale