Keskisuomalainen Group reduced subscriber churn with newsletters

By Matti Niskanen

Keskisuomalainen Oyj

Jyväskylä, Finland


Nordic publishers are traditionally not known for investing in newsletters in the same manner as U.K. or U.S. publishers, and we used to explain this away with cultural differences.

With limited resources, it is often challenging to produce newsletters that serve readers every day, and Nordic audiences usually associate e-mail with promotions and low-quality content. So why should we invest in newsletters, and what could be the extra value achieved from such an investment?

Keskisuomalainen Oyj (PLC) is Finland’s leading regional publisher, with more than 60 regional newspapers online. We used to have manually curated newsletters for some of our biggest titles, but during the last few years we started to look at newsletters differently. Could there be a tool for activating our digital subscribers and hopefully reducing churn as well?

We had two main questions to answer for the solution: 

  • How could we scale the newsletter to multiple titles, from small to big newsrooms?
  • How could we ensure the content is appealing to our subscribers — but doesn’t require an inordinate number of resources?

Getting personal

We were hesitant if such a solution could be found, but we soon learned about Belgian technology house Twipe. They have developed their award-winning personalisation technology, James, for several years. Our discussions made us realise we were ready to take a totally new approach to our challenge.

With Twipe, we launched an even more ambitious project than we originally planned:

  • Every weekday, our subscribers would receive an automated newsletter with links to 10 stories.
  • The algorithm would personalise the list of top stories based on each subscriber’s individual reading habits.

The algorithm feeds itself with interaction data from our sites and updates the list of articles accordingly, putting some weight on each day’s top stories. This approach would free our editors from the manual effort of choosing and compiling the newsletter every day.

Every e-mail is tailored to the individual subscriber based on data we gather about their reading habits. With over 75,000 individual e-mails sent out weekly, in theory, each of them could be totally unique.

From the beginning, the main goal for the project  was to reduce churn with highly personalised and automated newsletters.
From the beginning, the main goal for the project was to reduce churn with highly personalised and automated newsletters.

Overcoming hesitancy

It was understandable that there was scepticism or at least hesitancy about the algorithm. Would the results really be able to satisfy our readers? Was there a risk that we were sending out a random list of articles which paid no attention to the day’s top news? With no manual oversight, would we be able to produce a consistently valuable newsletter?

To overcome these risks, we carefully studied the early feedback from our subscribers and newsrooms. Based on the feedback, we noticed some obvious content areas should be excluded (i.e., preferring our original content over news wires or other external sources) and made a few tweaks to include more local content instead of international news.

With these changes, we reached the following results in 2022:

  • Encouraged by the early results, we expanded the automated personalised newsletter to 17 titles.
  • The e-mail open rate has been lifted by 5% compared to previous, manually compiled newsletters.
  • 6,500 more readers activated, compared to the control groups not receiving the newsletter.
  • 4,700 more readers turned habitual readers, i.e., read 10 or more days in the past 30 days.
  • With new digital subscribers, we observed a higher retention rate amongst those receiving personalised JAMES newsletters.
The effect on retention was studied with test groups and control groups.
The effect on retention was studied with test groups and control groups.

Our results show that newsletters can be a valuable tool for improving the relationship with our subscribers.

We recently introduced an opportunity for our subscribers to give feedback on each day’s newsletter. So far, 85% of the responses have been positive. This was valuable confirmation for our team that investing in newsletters really pays off.

About Matti Niskanen

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