Gannett’s targeted e-mails encourage subscribers to reengage through content, activities

By Phil Schroder


McLean, Virginia, USA


As a media organisation, we do not always do enough to connect to our most valuable subscribers. We give new subscribers an introductory discount, send onboarding information, and work hard to engage these new subscribers.

But, what do we do about those long-term and high-value subscribers? How do we let them know how much we appreciate them?

Gannett’s e-mail strategy ensures the company is in touch with subscribers beyond the onboarding process.
Gannett’s e-mail strategy ensures the company is in touch with subscribers beyond the onboarding process.

We have previously shared the story about our subscriber appreciation month that we launched last year. With this programme, we were able to reward subscribers with contests and prizes, no matter how long they’ve subscribed. However, there are additional things we are doing to continue to reach out to these subscribers.

One way we do this is by sending out what we call a monthly benefits e-mail. This e-mail has five variable blocks so we can customise this for each of our markets. We normally focus on a few key areas such as a reminder to download the app or an e-newspaper promotion.

We also work with our newsrooms to bring in key articles, features, or investigations they may want to highlight. These e-mails perform extremely well. Open rates are typically 15% better than our normal engagement sends, and click-through rates are about the same at 20% better than average. Subscribers who do click through also visit about four more articles per visit.

Also, 40% of the users who come to the site from the monthly benefits campaign were minimally engaged or zombie (non-engaged) subscribers before they clicked through on the e-mail.

Another area where we continue to engage our longest-term subscribers is with contests. We shared insight about how we invite subscribers to enter our concert giveaways and other contests. We continue to run these types of contests and are now very focused not just on how these improve engagement but also how they impact churn as a whole.

One recent large-scale contest we ran was 12 Days of Giveaways, which led up to the Christmas holiday. During this fun event, we gave away 12 smaller-value prizes on the first day, which led up to one larger vacation giveaway on Christmas Day.

We ran the giveaway in a blog format on our sites, and it was the most visited article among subscribers for the entire duration of the contest. It also ranked in the top 10 articles visited for all of our audiences during this time. The best part about this contest is that subscribers who entered also visited another eight articles on average, thereby driving strong engagement in a normally slower time period.

The 12 Days of Giveaways event encouraged subscribers who entered to visit, on average, another eight articles.
The 12 Days of Giveaways event encouraged subscribers who entered to visit, on average, another eight articles.

The most recent successful idea we executed was an anniversary e-mail to subscribers. We have had such a letter for some time that we sent to print subscribers, but it was only thanking them on their first-year anniversary.

Our team decided to expand this effort: We broadened the audience to send to any subscriber — print or digital — on their anniversary date, and we also revised the e-mail to once again remind them of benefits and key perks they have access to within their subscription.

We focus on five key areas today — download the app, check out subscriber-only content, enjoy the e-newspaper, play puzzles and games, and take advantage of subscriber-exclusive guides from our Reviewed brand — and may modify this depending on what is successful.

The new e-mail launched just a month ago and is already performing very well. Our open rate is about 10% better than our previous e-mail, and 30% better than other engagement sends. Our click-through rate is also performing about 10% better than the previous e-mail, and 25% better than other engagement sends.

It is critical we keep engaging all of our subscribers, and these are just a few of the ways we are doing this today at Gannett. We continue to look for new opportunities so we can keep this valuable audience as subscribers for the long term.

About Phil Schroder

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