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Pop-Up Newsletters: A Quick Guide

When people think of pop-ups on the internet, they typically think of the days where you couldn’t click a link without being hit with a flurry of flashing boxes. Fortunately, pop-up windows aren’t quite the menace they used to be, but in their place, we’ve seen the rise of another kind of pop-up: the pop-up newsletter. But unlike the other pop-ups that have dominated the internet, people have a much more favorable opinion of these pop-ups. 

Pop-up newsletters are short-run newsletters, often covering a niche topic, event, or discussing a content vertical in deeper detail than the typical recurring newsletter. Publishers like sending pop-ups, advertisers like advertising in them, and (if their high open rates are any indication) audiences like reading them.

The Benefits of Pop-Up Newsletters

Why are pop-up newsletters so popular for publishers and other content creators? A few reasons:

  • Limited-time commitment. With a pop-up newsletter, you can focus on producing quality for a finite run without committing resources for the long haul.
  • Plus, a limited-time commitment for your audience. If people know they’re signing up to receive, say, an email per week for 10 weeks, they’re likely to keep opening those emails—especially if it’s a 10-part series of content.
  • Draw in new audiences. If you get a new audience’s attention, you can direct them to your other content; you do have their email address, after all. While they’re viewing your pop-up newsletter’s content, they might find another area of your content they’re also interested in.
  • A testing ground for new content. A pop-up newsletter provides a way to gauge audience interest in new areas of coverage or content types. If it performs exceptionally well, it may signal that there are appetites for additional content in this space.
  • High-interest audiences = high-interest advertisers. Creating a newsletter around a niche topic means a niche topic for advertisers to place their ads against. This gives advertisers access to an audience they can be reasonably sure is interested, and it gives you a way to command higher CPMs.
  • A way to engage your audience in the background. Some pop-ups contain evergreen content, such as a how-to series. This content is largely evergreen, making for a low-maintenance newsletter program that you can tweak and perfect over time, if necessary.

The Strategic Importance of Pop-Up Newsletters

Some have wondered if offering newsletters here, there, and everywhere will lead to “newsletter fatigue,” or if an individual publisher creating too many new newsletters will cannibalize the lists of their existing newsletters. According to Digiday, publishers like the New York Times aren’t seeing it:

“At 55 newsletters, the Times might seem to be at peak newsletter. But [Elizabeth] Goodridge, who oversees a staff of more than 15 and growing, said she hasn’t seen evidence that the [short-run] newsletters are cannibalizing existing ones…

“‘I feel like we could still launch more,’ she said.”

If the content is high-quality and relevant to their interests, people are generally receptive to receiving more than one newsletter. In fact, it’s to your advantage for readers to do so. The more newsletters a subscriber receives, the more opportunities you have to engage (and therefore monetize) that individual subscriber.

With niche pop-up newsletters, you can drive deeper engagement by catering to specific interests of your audience. If they’re interested enough in the subject, they probably won’t mind adding another newsletter to the mix.

Types of Pop-Up Newsletters

Some pop-up newsletters are time-based, typically centering around deeper coverage of a particular event or season. They might be based on an important industry event (like Quartz has done with Davos or CES), or it could be something as simple as a TV show: in 2017, the New York Times’ Game of Thrones newsletter routinely earned an open rate above 100%. With event-based pop-up newsletters, you can capitalize on times of high interest to drive engagement with new audiences or even deepen engagement with your existing audience.

You may also consider an evergreen pop-up newsletter series. These newsletters are often educational in nature, like The Information’s Courses or Pew Research Center’s series on immigration. It’s also possible to position your evergreen content around a particular event, perhaps by creating a series of prewritten educational explainer content that gives context about a certain event before or as it happens.

Tips for Successful Pop-Up Newsletters

Ready to create your own pop-up newsletter series? Here are a few things to keep in mind.

  • Know your audience. Look at your data to determine particular topics of new newsletters. For example, if a particular area of coverage has earned high engagement, you may consider doing a deep-dive into that topic. You could also repackage the top-performing evergreen articles into a limited-run newsletter series of its own.
  • Use email capture widgets on your site and promote in articles. Promoting these new newsletters alongside relevant content makes it more likely readers will find these newsletters relevant enough to subscribe.
  • Cross-promote before the launch. Give your existing subscribers a heads-up before the first send. By including a way to subscribe straight from your existing newsletters, your current subscribers can opt into an additional newsletter with a single click.
  • Send to your existing list. If you already have an email list, you have a built-in audience for your pop-up newsletters. Try sending new newsletters to your existing list proactively; provided you include a clear opt-out link, you can opt your current audience in and get your new newsletters off to a running start.
  • Target users with a known interest in that content. Maybe you don’t want to send your niche pop-up newsletter to your whole audience, but you can use your first-party datato identify which segments of your audience will be interested. The Washington Post has previously used sophisticated word analysis to opt in readers, but it can be as simple as identifying users who have previously consumed a particular content category.
  • Stay connected. Cross-promote your other newsletters for the duration of the pop-up newsletter. Then, use the final email in the series to clearly show off the other options they have to keep receiving your newsletters. If you’ve delivered a high-quality pop-up series, your readers will be likely to want to stay in touch, even after the series ends.

PostUp’s Email Audience Enrichment solutions allow you to target your email subscribers based on their content consumption history, allowing you to send your new pop-up newsletters to a highly interested audience. To learn more, get the guide here.

Melanie Angel
Editor, PostUp PlayBook

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