How Targeted “Pop-Up Newsletters” Grab Hyperengaged Audiences

All that time and effort for an open rate of 20 percent hardly seems worth it, does it? Newsletter marketing might be experiencing a renaissance, but so much of it sticks to a tried-and-true formula: regular drops, same template, point to content available on your hub. Not that there’s anything wrong with that; it’s tried-and-true for a reason. But is it really maximizing the impact of your fantastic brand storytelling? Continue reading “How Targeted “Pop-Up Newsletters” Grab Hyperengaged Audiences”

Email Newsletters Are Experiencing a Renaissance

Email Newsletters Are Experiencing a Renaissance

Forget VR goggles and chatbots. These days, the rising star of audience engagement is an unlikely candidate: the humble e-newsletter.

Despite the competition from apps and social platforms, email newsletters are experiencing a bona fide revival. Publishers including the New York Times and the Washington Post have doubled down on e-newsletters, hoping that curated content delivered to your inbox will help attract a content-hungry audience. Celebrity influencers like Lena Dunham are using the medium to reach like-minded followers. And brands, too—from large B2B companies to small businesses—are re-imagining the e-newsletter and exploring its content strategy possibilities.

Their efforts seem to be paying off. Publishers are noting big jumps in email subscriptions. Meanwhile, audiences are proving their devotion to the format, and many newsletters earn high open rates.

Given the myriad digital communication tools we have at our disposal, it’s ironic that an old standby like email still packs a powerful punch. Of course, people still use social media platforms and apps to explore content. But email offers something unique—an intimate vehicle for sharing in-depth news, stories, and personal viewpoints. For readers who want great stories but don’t want to peruse the entire web to find them, e-newsletters are the antidote.

The Curious Revival of E-Newsletters

Email is nothing new; we’ve been using it for decades now. So why are publishers and other organizations pivoting back to the newsletter format?

Several factors help explain this e-newsletter renaissance, but it mostly boils down to content overload. These days, we have an infinite amount of information at our fingertips, but we’re also experiencing new challenges in parsing that information. Sheer quantity is one issue. We need help finding the most relevant, quality content, and Facebook’s algorithm only helps so much. The rise of fake news and clickbait content is another problem, because it’s becoming harder to discern credible content sources.

We want to be informed, inspired, or emotionally moved—but with so much bad content out there, we don’t know what content we can trust, nor do we have time to wade through it all.

Today’s reconceptualized newsletters help solve these problems, turning down the fire hose of information to a trickle of great content. Subscribers actively choose from which outlets the want to receive information—whether publishers, brands, or influencers. In return, they expect to receive quality content from a source they trust, in a format that’s better for slower consumption—the type of content you can get absorbed in, rather than scroll by in a flash.

And because the content is delivered via newsletter rather than social, content creators have more flexibility. Writers can experiment and take risks with quirky subjects or unique writing styles. Basically, the things that wouldn’t work that well on social can work smashingly well in a newsletter format.

Consider, for example, Disturbances, an email newsletter about dust. (Really, dust!) Through his newsletter, British culture geographer Jay Owens tackles the “science, history, and culture of dust,” in a way that’s “quirky, erudite, and totally spellbinding,” according to Wired’s Clive Thompson.

For Thompson, Disturbances and other highly original newsletters are the next evolution of the blog. Now, instead of blogging, writers and content creators can deliver long-form personal expression directly to your inbox. Instead of selling or begging for clicks, these newsletters aim to educate, to intrigue.

email newsletters content strategy - Disturbances

“After blogs, Twitter, Medium, and Facebook, the inbox has become the new site of readerly seriousness: How weird is that?” Thompson said.

The New Newsletter

Top publishers offer great examples of how e-newsletters can be adapted for content-hungry audiences. Publishers including the New York Times and the Washington Post have revved up their email newsletter efforts recently. New York Times email subscriptions have jumped to 13 million, more than double the number of subscriptions from three years ago, Digiday reports. The New York Times now offers over 50 newsletters regularly on a variety of news and lifestyle topics, up from 33 a few years ago.

Interest in politics following President Donald Trump’s election has played a role in this resurgence, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. The New York Times, as well as other publishers, have leaned into e-newsletters in recent years, hoping to pull their content (and readers) from competing platforms, such as Google and Facebook, Digiday notes. The New York Times experiment has yielded interesting new newsletters, such as Vietnam ’67, a limited-run newsletter that examines the war in Southeast Asia through the course of a single year.

Similarly, the Washington Post boasts over 70 e-newsletters and is experimenting with new content angles. The Lily, a new distributed media brand aimed at millennial women, incorporates a strong emphasis on design, Digiday reports. Content is shared two times a week via an email newsletter and repackaged for Medium, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Each piece of content produced (about ten content items per day) gets a custom, platform-specific illustration. Through top-shelf visuals, Lily hopes to capture audiences via email and on social platforms.

Lily News instagram e-newsletter marketing

Email newsletters with a celebrity influencer also attract an audience. Actress Lena Dunham’s feminist-minded e-newsletter, Lenny Letter, strikes a balance between informative articles and personal stories from Dunham herself. The mix has paid off—Lenny Letter scores 500,000 subscriptions (almost all of them women) and a 70 percent open rate, Digiday reports.

Lenny Letter e-newsletter marketing

Brand newsletters can also use the power of personality to stand out from the crowd. The e-newsletter from the Park restaurant in Echo Park, California, engages the reader in a conversation with chef-owner Joshua Siegel, who brings the reader behind the scenes with his musings on restaurant life, as LA Weekly reports. The newsletter does include information about upcoming restaurant events, but the content star is Siegel’s deeply personal writing, tackling topics like an ode to a longtime server or what makes a meal authentic.

B2B companies can set themselves apart with similar tactics—great design, content that can’t be found elsewhere, and expert perspectives. Email marketing company Litmus excels especially in its design, using color and graphics to make the newsletter easier to read and more visually compelling. Naturally, the content shines as well.

Litmus e-newsletter marketing

There’s a reason why the newsletter format appeals to such a variety of organizations and audiences. In a word: flexibility. E-newsletters provide a blank canvas for in-depth, unique stories: stories that wouldn’t work well on social but are nonetheless captivating. These stories—from informative and educational to deeply personal and conversational—help forge a personal, emotional connection with an audience, spurring engagement and community.

Expect to see more brands and publishers experimenting with newsletters in their content strategy. With more quality newsletters out there, the bar is also becoming higher for brands. Building a great newsletter can’t be an afterthought; brands will need to invest time and effort into making sure each newsletter looks spectacular and offers outstanding content. Without that care, it’s all too easy for users to click delete.

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Featured image attribution: Mathyas Kurmann

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The Metrics That Should Matter vs. the Metrics That Actually Matter to Publishers recently surveyed 270 professionals at publishing sites, brands, and agencies about their use of content analytics. We’ll be highlighting major themes from the results in a series of posts on our blog. Get the full report here: “Getting There: Content, the companies that create it and the data behind it.” 

The good news: 81% of people creating content today have access to analytics about the success of their work. The bad news: analytics come with some disagreement about what to pay attention to. When you talk about the success of content online, you have to consider the merits of metrics you use.

Metrics shape how we interpret data; they define what we value. Sometimes, they come up short and plenty of long think pieces exist extolling the virtues of one metric over the other.

In our latest research, done in partnership with Digiday’s CUSTOM studio, we asked about the reality on the ground concerning the metrics the publishing industry wants to report on, and which ones they’re still being asked to measure.

The publishing metrics the industry deserves, but not the one it needs

What metrics do publishers want to use to define success? Survey respondents selected time-on-page and pageviews as the two biggest indicators. Social sharing came in at a close third choice. At the bottom of the list? Click through rate and scroll depth were only picked by about 8% of digital publishers as a metric that means a piece did well.

Survey data showing successful metrics for publishers

Publishers agree less about which metrics they don’t care for. More people selected pageviews as the least useful metric than chose conversions or new vs. returning visitors. This wouldn’t be the case if you simply reversed the order of preference for most useful metric, which indicates that people have strong feelings about pageviews, one way or the other.

Survey data showing least successful metrics for publishers

Everyone has a boss, and sometimes they don’t ask to see the metrics you care about. Employees reported being responsible for pageviews, first and foremost; social sharing and impressions tied for second. Time-on-page, the favorite of survey respondents, ranked 6th.

Survey data showing metrics publishers are asked to report

Metrics for making the right decisions

Beyond the success of each piece, no matter who’s deciding, metrics should help digital publishers make the best decisions for their content strategy. Yet that hasn’t always been the case: Pageviews have famously been blamed for clickbait, slideshows, and curiosity-inducing headlines. Social sharing has given rise to other suspect tactics, including “hate-sharing” and fake news. Those looking to increase their time-on-page metrics have looked to videos, which may not be the best solution, according to data.

From the Getting There report, one publisher interviewed pointed to the steep learning curve of using metrics, saying: “This is an educational process for all the people we deal with all the time. This is new to everyone. Some of us have been doing it for a few years, but if you’re not immersed in it every day, then you have no idea.”

What needs to happen at these organizations to ensure that everyone understands the usefulness (or lack thereof) of metrics? According to a report published this year by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, news organizations “need to think about how they can develop their analytics capability by making sure they combine the right set of tools, an organisational structure that incorporates the expertise to use them, and a newsroom culture that embraces data-informed decision-making. Falling short in any one of these areas undermines an organization’s analytics capability.”

Another publisher interviewed for the report pointed out that metrics are only part of the story when it comes to success:

“[Certain stories] are not going to do well. You do them because you know there’s some segment of your audience that’s going to appreciate that and it’s going to help define who you are. Rather than just being analytics-driven, it’s analytics-informed. That worked well: having an awareness that traffic is the overall goal, but not the only goal.”

Finding the Right Metrics to Help Your Team Stay Analytics-Driven

No matter the metrics you use, people creating content must be able to understand the data provided to them. To make the best decisions about future work, metrics and data education will have to go hand in hand.

Survey data showing how publishers use metrics insights

47.4% of digital publisher respondents answered that they can easily or very easily use data insights to make decisions about future content and distribution. It seems that the industry is on track for mass metric adoption.

Now, we just have to make sure that everyone uses metrics that match the goals of the organizations measuring them.

Interested in taking a look at additional findings from our report? Download the full report here.

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How Audience Analytics Informs The Drum’s Content Strategy

The Drum is a business publication that has come of age in the digital era. From its roots as a publisher of regional and UK marketing news it is now a global media platform and the biggest marketing website in Europe with 1.2 million unique users per month.

Much of its success has been predicated on knowing what its readers want—from breaking news stories to in-depth analysis of the hottest topics, and an early emphasis on quality digital journalism that would resonate with marketers globally.

As a publication that has long championed the growing strategic role of data for brands and marketers for understanding audiences, new product development and as a communications tool, it was inevitable that The Drum itself would want a data-driven solution for a digital future.

home page for The Drum

The Drum homepage

Analytics has become a crucial part of The Drum’s journalism as it informs and steers the publication’s understanding of what its audience wants to read. Here are three ways The Drum applies content analytics to their strategy.

News Strategy: “Reaffirming Gut Instincts”

News editor Seb Joseph says: “While a lot of how we shape our content is based on the expertise of our reporters, having has been great at reaffirming the gut instincts we have.”

Whether it is working out what type of headlines work best or getting better at understanding peak windows for the team to push traffic out in the day, having real-time feedback allows Joseph to focus more on the finer parts of the editorial strategy.

One recent example was an article about footballer Paul Pogba moving to Manchester United. An earlier, well-read story had cited adidas’ involvement in the move so the team knew that it would be popular. “However,” adds Joseph, “the platform helped us realise just how big it had been for us as a traffic generator—we were able to tweak our editorial agenda for the day to follow up on that initial story.”

Simply put, the news desk is able to be much more immediate, strategic and measured in its approach to reacting to popular stories on the site. Very often the team will expand on a story when audience engagement is high by either looking for another angle, or increasingly building video into a story.

The dashboard is also helping shape the overall editorial themes of the online publication with weekly and monthly reporting being used to flag the interest (or otherwise) of the wider themes the publication covers.

“News is becoming so commoditised now that we’re constantly trying to add value to everything we do.” —Seb Joseph

The platform is easy to use and available to all, but to really emphasise the importance of the real-time data from the site, there is an overview screen now placed above the news desk. This visibility is helping reporters engage more and enables Joseph to direct the team with more certainty of a good result.

The Drum overview screen in

The Drum overview screen in the dashboard

As a result of being able to see immediately which stories were doing well, and when, The Drum made the decision to rearrange its content teams to capitalise on peak time and engagement.

Now, from the publication’s Glasgow hub, there are teams of three reporters who start shifts at differing times. One shift starts at 7am to hit the morning traffic spike with mobile and tablet-friendly content, and the next starts at 2pm GMT to do the same for its growing US audience. Short, snappy ‘need-to-know’ articles work best at these commuter-peak times.

Features Strategy: How Data Insights Help Identify Content Lifecycles

The Drum magazine is published fortnightly in the UK, with a quarterly US print edition. Both are dominated by longer-length articles including features, sponsored content, columns and thought leadership pieces across its pages.

Katie McQuater, Magazine Editor, The Drum

Katie McQuater, Magazine Editor, The Drum

Features are published both online and in the print edition, so the insights that come from the platform not only influence what appears online but also in the distributed magazine. It has, says features editor Katie McQuater, changed the way the team plans its long-form content wherever it appears.

Here is where’s suite of metrics filters comes into its own: rather than simply looking at page view numbers McQuater focuses more on the number of engaged minutes and average time spent on the piece.

She also looks regularly at the most popular tags, which helps her decide how feature content should be tagged on the site and to identify which content themes are attracting an engaged audience. For instance, topics such as programmatic advertising, data and social media influence are of perennial influence to readers.

Editor Stephen Lepitak concurs. He says the analytics allow the editors to understand which writers are best connecting with The Drum’s audience and to pinpoint content that might not immediately reach a mass audience, but might be longer-form or long-tail, slowly bringing in readers over a period of time.

The Drum uses’s Evergreen Overview report to help do so. Whereas most online articles have a median lifecycle of 2.6 days, many of The Drum’s in-depth analytical and ‘how to’ pieces impact well beyond this.

Commercial Editorial Strategy: Popular Pieces and Partnerships

Editors can plan content for specific dates and events and witness whether or not the audience finds it to be of interest, and learn what needs follow-up. Commercial teams can then sell advertising around content they know will be popular when running similar pieces in the future.

The Drum also has a content marketing arm, The Drum Works. Proving the worth of such evergreen content is increasingly key when partnering with companies on commercial content—be it long-form articles, videos, white papers or bespoke research.

The Drum Everything You Need to Know series

The Drum’s ‘Everything You Need to Know About…’ series

Data shows that many of The Drum’s most popular content marketing initiatives have been in serial form, such as its popular ‘Everything You Need to Know About…’ strand, which takes marketers through all the basics of a particular topic over a series of weeks via short-form videos supported by feature articles and social media activity. Content can be optimised and reoptimised to fit the brief.

Says The Drum managing director Andy Oakes: “We are much more able to advise clients on content marketing strategy as we have a much better idea about content consumption as a whole.”

Oakes adds that in-house marketing has been improved with insights such as that awards stories were rarely read widely unless they contained a brand example.

The Drum, Today and Tomorrow

Data and analytics are shaping the way The Drum addresses its audience but, critically, not dominating it, as Lepitak points out.

“Despite knowing how to follow audience figures, we also retain journalistic independence to follow stories or content that we believe that our readership should be aware of—whether those stories are likely to be read widely or not.”

Analytics give everyone in the newsroom from the journalists to commercial and the management team a holistic view of performance, from the individual to the overall; respecting what the reader wants to read without forgetting The Drum’s ethos.

It is about delivering a better (long term) product for the audience The Drum serves in a commercially viable way. It is why, when The Drum overhauled its website earlier this year,’s analytics played such an important part—by giving everyone involved a far better view of the way that content is consumed.

Has your digital media organization made changes based on data and analytics? If you’d like to share a success story about your team on the blog, contact us.

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Video Analytics: “An Offer You Can’t Refuse”

Watching a movie is a very different experience than reading a script.

Think about that memorable scene in The Godfather where Peter Clemenza orders his henchman to carry out a hit on another character that betrayed Don Vito Corleone. Clemenza’s original line was “leave the gun,” but the actor improvised by adding, “take the cannoli.”

“Leave the gun; take the cannoli” has since become one of the movie’s more quotable lines, but it is noticeably absent from the screenplay.

How Digital Publishers are “Leaving the Gun” and “Taking the Cannoli” with Video

We know that any successful content strategy hinges on an ability to identify what types of content resonate best with our audience (“leave the gun”), and then to make unique — sometimes off-script — decisions about how, and where, we present this content based on the data (“take the cannoli”).

Some online media companies are turning to video content as a way to “take the cannoli.” Austin Smith, CEO at Alley Interactive, a digital agency working with top publishers, has said: “Digital publishers are relying more and more on video, not just to improve engagement and bolster revenues, but to tell better stories.”

Vector Media Group’s Matt Weinberg elaborates:

“Digital publishers are using video to help their audiences better understand and engage with the topics they’re publishing information about. In many cases it’s being used to augment written content. Video isn’t just live action or interviews; things like video infographics and explainers are also very popular.”

Using Data to Improve the Success of Your Video Content

Relying on video without the data to back it up is a good example of improvisation gone wrong — of creating content that doesn’t make sense in the context of your editorial strategy. Nieman Lab reported that “news organizations have been producing loads of video content to fill social media feeds and attract higher ad rates,” while a recent post from Poynter said that media organizations hail “video ads as a possible remedy for the digital advertising slump.”

But video is not a silver bullet to monetization.

In fact, according to’s most recent Authority Report, video may not be as popular with viewers as it is with advertisers because audiences are engaging with video much less than with other content types. Instinct tells us to jump in with both feet and try to produce different types of video until something sticks; after all, if we know which written posts are most engaging for our audience, we can extrapolate what types of videos will work best, right?

Wrong. Just because publishers are producing videos does not mean that people are interested in viewing them. And because video is so expensive to produce, online media sites need to ensure that their video efforts are justified. The best way to create impactful video content is to look to your audience to see what they are interested in watching, and why.

Introducing Video Analytics for the Dashboard

Today, officially introduced its video analytics feature, which was previously available in beta. Video analytics gives digital publishers and brands a 360-degree view of their content — including video content alongside text-only posts in our intuitive dashboard.

See the Full Press Release Here

At, our mission is to help anyone who produces content online to develop a complete picture of their content strategy — no matter what form their posts take. Our video analytics feature allows content creators to analyze the full spectrum of content they create so that they can finally understand which videos are most engaging and adjust their video strategy as necessary.

It allows them to “take the cannoli.”

Looking to Analytics as a Foundation for Your Video Strategy

How can online media companies reap the perceived rewards of video while creating the useful, engaging content their audiences desire? The key to any effective content strategy that includes video is to look at the data:

  • Are video posts more successful than text-only posts?
  • If you include more than one video in a post, which video performs better?
  • Which video topics resonate with your audience?
  • Are certain sections of your site more conducive to video content?
  • Where are your readers engaging with video, and why?

The questions above are a good starting point to learn what’s working — and not working — with respect to your video strategy. Data is increasingly becoming a top priority for digital newsrooms, who are encouraging writers, editors, freelancers, and others to understand and work with it. Video analytics is an extension of’s core analytics product, and it democratizes data by making it available — and actionable — to everyone.

Interested in learning more? Contact today for more information about our video analytics feature.

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