Getting Your Newsletter Audience’s Attention

How your newsletter’s top story affects newsletter engagement, and how you can choose this article for optimal engagement.

The “above the fold” concept has historically held significance for email marketers in general, but it’s particularly interesting for emailers in the publishing & media space. After all, the term has its roots in the newsletter’s real-life counterpart: the newspaper.

Whether physical or digital, being mindful of the fold means putting your best content in clear view to entice your audience to start reading and keep reading. In print, this fold is literal and (barring production error) falls in the same place for everyone. In email, the wide variance in screen size, window size, resolution, and screen magnification ensures that the “fold” will vary significantly across your newsletter audience.

So with email, getting your content above an elusive “fold” may not be the be-all, end-all of your email strategy, but the idea remains the same: it’s important to catch your audience’s eye and pull them in as soon as possible.

Of course, getting your audience’s attention starts with your subject line. After the email’s sender, the email’s subject line plays the biggest role in whether your audience opens your email. Often, the subject line will reference the top story featured in the newsletter. And in many newsletter templates, this article will also be what readers see “above the fold” when they open the email.

Bottom line, whether your newsletter commands audience attention can come down to what article you choose to lead off your newsletter. In fact, PostUp has found that sending the right headline article can lead to a 40-50% bump in engagement with each newsletter.

So just how do you pick this article?

How Do You Choose Your Newsletter’s Headline Story?

When your newsletter’s earliest content can dictate engagement rates, it’s best not to leave your article placement to chance. Instead of throwing darts at the wall or drawing paper slips from a hat, you can try one (or a combination) of these methods to curate and prioritize your newsletter content.

See What’s Working on Social Media

One option? Peek at your social media stats to see what articles are engaging your audience there.

Of course, it’s important to keep in mind that your social media audience isn’t necessarily aligned with your email audience. They may have different appetites for content entirely, and as anyone knows, certain types of content tend to take on a life of their own when social media takes notice.

When social media’s vanity metrics won’t do, you can look into your own data for answers.

Check Your Site Analytics

Set up correctly, your Google Analytics instance is a gold mine of data. Over the long term, you can use your data to shape your overall content strategy. In the short term, you can use it to put together your next newsletter.

Looking at your engagement metrics can point you towards an article that might perform well in your newsletter. But what if you don’t have time to watch the data roll in? What if the newsletter’s going out, like, now? If so, you can look towards a more urgent channel.

Take a Look at the Performance of Your Push Notifications

Some publishers have used push notification performance to shape their content strategy elsewhere. If you’re interested in doing the same, your newsletter may be the place to start.

While social media links depend on users scrolling down and finding your links, push notifications buzz your readers’ pockets instantly. Publishers can use this to their advantage to gain immediate feedback about which articles are resonating.

More importantly, as part of your direct audience, your push audience’s tastes for content may align more closely with those of your newsletter audience. Like your email audience, your push audience has indicated an interest in your content, whether by downloading an app or opting into browser push notifications. This can make the insights from push notifications more valuable for engaging your email audience than insights from your fleeting social media audience.

Should You Personalize Your Newsletter Content?

With personalization, you can prioritize articles in your newsletter based on an individual’s content consumption history. Apartment Therapy has done this in their newsletters, and more recently publishers like The Times of London have too.

Personalization is a popular aim, but it’s only effective insofar as it aligns with your goals. For some publishers, encouraging readers to subscribe to additional newsletters may earn more engagement than a single personalized newsletter. If a reader shows deep interest in a particular type of content, you can encourage them to subscribe to a newsletter focused on that content type.

When in Doubt, Test It Out!

If your audience is large enough, you can A/B test your newsletters to a small portion of your audience first. For instance, you may send a version of your newsletter with Headline Story A to 10% of your audience and Headline Story B to another 10%. After a designated period of time (say, 2 hours), you can send the winning version to the remainder of your list.

If you’re wondering which articles to test, you can always use one of the previous article selection methods outlined. Or, if your email service provider allows, you can populate newsletter content with automation, then set up the highest-performing version to send automatically as well. PostUp clients who use this automated A/B testing tool regularly see up to a 40-50% lift in engagement between newsletter versions.

If readers know they can count on you to deliver articles they like, they’re likely to keep reading. When your newsletters are optimized for engagement, you’ll build real reader habits that can be leveraged into real revenue.  

Melanie Angel
Editor, PostUp PlayBook

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