Herald Sun content strategy goes old school with e-mail newsletters

By Nathaniel Bane

Herald Sun

Melbourne, Australia


With so much noise on social media, and home pages and mobile sites turning over frantically, the Herald Sun has gone back to the future with our latest content strategy.

We are bullish on newsletters. From a publishers point of view it makes a lot of sense. The format offers good personalisation, depth around a topic, and convenience. Readers can opt-in to read stories at their leisure.

Newsletters suit audience segments, whether it’s a deep interest in Australian rules football or crime, opinion news, or entertainment.

As a digital subscription publisher, we also offer more than just news; there are rewards, events, and products we can discuss with our audience in a meaningful and more targeted way.

Our editorial lead on the newsletter strategy, Jo Schulz, is overseeing two new and very different personalised e-mails that launched this year.

Open rates on two new e-mailed newsletters are 25% to 30%.
Open rates on two new e-mailed newsletters are 25% to 30%.

The first is the Editor’s Edition, a weekly wrap of our most compelling content chosen by the newspaper’s editor. The weekly e-mail began on February 27, targeting our digital subscribers.

It includes commentary on “the week that was in news” and hand-picked stories providing insight and opinion around content that has had an impact on our readership. It also includes our full digital print edition, and space to promote the latest subscriber-only offers known as +Rewards to readers.

Almost half of our subscribers have opted for the newsletter, which arrives in their inboxes every Saturday at 9 a.m. Open rates are consistently above 30%, a strong starting point.

We have some way to go to reaching the giddy heights of other publishers, but we strongly believe as we learn more about our reader behaviour and become more adept in this space, that number will climb.

The second new product is our SuperFooty Edition, built entirely around our Aussie rules football content. We include the latest insights, updates, and analysis on teams before the first bounce of every AFL round.

Like the editor’s e-mail, the SuperFooty Edition is personalised with the reader’s first name, and includes an intro message from chief football writer Mark Robinson and up to 10 stories as well as a marketing banner to promote AFL-related products we offer.

The database already has more than 100,000 readers, with open rates at about 25%. Again, we are looking to grow this.

These two products are in addition to our daily newsletter sent every morning about 7 a.m., which land fresh in inboxes.

We send at 7 a.m. to capture morning commuters, but on weekends it goes out at 6 p.m. Weekend data shows us thats when our readers have the time to sit down and catch up on the news, and it allows us to compete with traditional evening news bulletins when readers have the time.

Last year, a personalisation trial in which the database was split and customised into three segments (according to the user’s reading habits of top sections) resulted in a lift in engagement and open rates.

If a reader’s postcode was known, one or two articles were added relevant to the reader’s local suburban publication or zone. Users see a maximum of five personalised stories based on their preferred sections. That daily news e-mail, going to a database of 168,000, has an open rate closer to 40%.

We have found good quality content that is resurfaced at the right time does well, generating further click-through and subscriptions.

About Nathaniel Bane

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