The Courier increases engagement with 3 experimental, personalised subscriber e-mail updates

By Alison Wallace

DC Thomson – The Courier

Dundee, Scotland


During 2021, a number of areas for focus relating to customer engagement were evaluated and actioned by the Audience Management Team at The Courier

Given that newsletters are one of our primary ways to bring users back to our Web site, we included newsletter sign-up CTAs in our onboarding e-mails. This was successful at increasing newsletter sign-ups; however, the overall proportion of subscribers signed up for an e-mail remained low.

At the time of our testing, only 38% of Courier subscribers received a newsletter.

Sailthru, our e-mail services provider, has the functionality to create an interest-based content feed, which gives us the opportunity to test a personalised e-mail update for subscribers to increase overall engagement.

Experimentation with personalised subscriber e-mail updates helped push disengaged users back to the Web site.
Experimentation with personalised subscriber e-mail updates helped push disengaged users back to the Web site.

The subscriber e-mail activity was split into three parts and each part has its own experiment.

Experiment 1: Subscribers with no newsletter

We tested whether it would be possible to engage subscribers with a personalised content-based email. The e-mail would use the personalisation functionality in our e-mail tool, signposting 10 news articles tuned to the user’s current reading habits.

We identified a cohort of 1,000 subscribers not subscribed to any newsletters and with low levels of engagement reported in our Sailthru tool. We randomly assigned 500 users to an experimental group who received the e-mail and 500 as a control who did not.

The test group generated 8% more sessions than the control, and 36% more users came onsite compared to the control group. Following this, we wanted to test whether we could use the e-mail to push disengaged users to the Web site.

Experiment 2: Disengaged users

This tested whether we could push disengaged users back onsite using the subscriber update email.

On another newspaper title, we tested the e-mail targeting users who had not been on the Web site by 8 p.m. each day. We believed that we could use the content in the e-mail to bring these subscribers back on the site.

Again, we identified a cohort of 1,000 subscribers and randomly assigned them to Group A (received e-mail) and Group B (did not receive e-mail). We sent an e-mail at 8 p.m. each day to users in the test group who had not been on-site during that day.

Twice as many of the test group had engaged with the Web site compared to the control, with a 17% increase for users who opened the email.

Experiment 3: Auto-enroll new subscribers

This tested whether we could improve subscriber engagement by auto-enrolling new subscribers into the subscriber e-mail.

Given that we were able to see increased engagement in users who received the e-mail, we added the e-mail to our onboarding flow. We sent an initial e-mail explaining the purpose of the message and offering subscribers the opportunity to opt-out if they wished. We then commenced sending a daily email at 8 a.m. each morning.

Only 7% of users opted out from this e-mail, and results showed this e-mail was now in the top three e-mail campaigns bringing users to The Courier Web site — despite being subscriber-only with significantly smaller lists than the other e-mails. Overall, the group receiving the e-mail was showing an engagement level of 45% compared to 28% in the control.

We have now fully integrated the subscriber e-mail into our onboarding campaigns as a subscriber benefit and will continue to experiment with the content in the e-mail.

About Alison Wallace

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