Mediahuis streamlines newsletter creation, sign-up process

By Pieter De Smet


Antwerp, Belgium


At Mediahuis, we’ve always had a strong focus on sending newsletters to our readers. In the past 10 years, we’ve spent time determining newsletter frequency, developing content, growing audiences, understanding the art of a good subject line, and evaluating metrics.

What we particularly like about newsletters is that we own the process, unlike on Facebook or Google where you depend on an external algorithm to show your content (or not). A good newsletter strategy means you control the message, timing, frequency, and format.

Problem identification

Although we knew newsletters are an essential part of our publishing strategy, we had no clear solution to quickly launch a new newsletter, easily fill it with content, and onboard new users.

Of course, we have solutions for this, but, for example, launching a new newsletter meant a lead time of approximately three months and required a vast amount of technical expertise. Even worse, we also found there was no clear ownership of the entire process, which caused a lot of frustration for both the editorial and technical teams.

To get a clear overview of the organisational process, we used service blueprinting as a technique to help us identify all steps. Blueprinting is an ideal approach to experiences that are omni-channel, involve multiple touchpoints, or require a cross-functional effort.

Blueprinting helped Mediahuis visualise its current newsletter process.
Blueprinting helped Mediahuis visualise its current newsletter process.

What we learned

  • Too many stakeholders are involved in the process. For one single newsletter set-up, we needed several tech teams, the data team, and several people from the newsroom.
  • There is no clear owner of the process. Though all specialists were in the same room, nobody could reproduce the whole flow to deliver a newsletter.
  • The lead time is far too long. This was because there were too many stakeholders and there was no single owner of the process.
  • We need to make it easier and faster to compile new e-mail templates so we can send new newsletters faster. All templates were custom-made, though they all look quite the same with the same building bricks and elements.
  • We need to make the newsletter CMS easier to use for editors. The newsletter CMS had hardly evolved since its inception. Editors told us that they lost a lot of time making test e-mails and waiting on them to arrive.
  • We need a better newsletter overview for our users. Onboarding should be transparent. Our users could only opt-in for newsletters on the account page, where they needed to fill in a lot of data (including name, address, and e-mail) to receive a simple newsletter. What we need is a simple page where you get a good overview and opt-in easily with one click.

What we did

  • We started a new team. It’s important to know is that, by creating this team, we suddenly had a whole team owning the process. They are in charge of building a roadmap and building the necessary (new) tools.
  • We created a newsletter studio. This exists based on three different solutions: First, the newsletter configuration tool configures newsletters without development. In this screen, a webmaster creates and configures a newsletter. This works dynamically and is linked to the database. The template builder is linked with the design system. If there is a brand redesign, we can change fonts and components in one central location instead of in each template manually. It’s easy to create and adapt new templates; just drag and drop. The newsletter builder should make life easier for our journalists. A test mail can be sent, but it’s not necessary as the interface is WYSIWYG and based upon a drag-and-drop interface.
  • We created a communication centre. We have so many interesting newsletters, but we needed a good window to display and visualise them. The communication centre is linked with the design system. It is also linked with the newsletter API, and updating and categorising the selection of newsletters is built within the mail creation process to guarantee an up-to-date selection. Finally, we administered this from the same newsletter studio interface.
The communication centre is a user-friendly space where people can see all the options available.
The communication centre is a user-friendly space where people can see all the options available.

Next steps

Our focus in 2020 is to roll out this new functionality and way of working to all Mediahuis brands. This new platform will be included in all roll outs of HUB, which is Mediahuis’s digital publishing suite.

In 2020, we’ll also work on personalised messaging. We believe we can make our newsletters better through personalisation.

Banner image courtesy of StartupStockPhotos from Pixabay.

About Pieter De Smet

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