Campaign of the Month

Newsjacking spikes engagement in Reader’s Digest’s email newsletter

The news of David Bowie’s death struck a chord with the world. For a widely read publication like Reader’s Digest, paying tribute to the artist was a must. How did that affect their engagement?

Brand: Reader’s Digest
Designed and developed by: Ross Bannatyne

Campaign details

Subject line: David Bowie: A life in pictures
Open: 36%
116% increase in clicks


What data was used?

Reader’s Digest’s regular readers.


  • Be regarded as a main source of news
  • Increase email engagement by addressing a current topic

What makes this a performing campaign?

As a publication with great heritage, Reader’s Digest is always on the lookout for great news stories, but also places great importance on giving their subscribers the most current and important news of the day. So when the news of David Bowie’s death came to light, a day before their newsletter was due, they knew that this piece had to be their main focus.

They re-planned the newsletter with a tribute to his life as the top story and even performed a split-test on the subject line to maximize their chances of engagement with the campaign. The two variants were:

A. David Bowie: A life in pictures
B. David Bowie | The Danish Girl | 10 hearing surprises

The Results

The split-test revealed that a single focus was better to convince subscribers to open. The first subject line won with a 35% improvement in open rates (34% for variant B vs 37% for variant A) and a statistical significance of 95%, which means the results were not random.

Showing the importance of keeping your email content in line with current issues, Reader’s Digest saw a 116% increase in click-to-open rate, compared to the previous newsletter sent just a week earlier. By looking at the Heatmap Report in MessageFocus, we could see that 61% of the clicks went to Bowie, the top story.

View All Resources »