NTM’s hyper-local newsletters see high open rates, engagement

By Jens Pettersson


Stockholm, Sweden


The revival of the old school e-mail distribution of news hasn’t been missed by anyone in editorial development the last couple of years — from sending out onboarding information to new subscribers to delivering regular newsletters of “this week’s top stories” delivering articles straight into the e-mail inboxes. Just like a digital paperboy.

At our Swedish local media conglomerate NTM, we have done that for a while. And we also tried personalising mail content based upon subscribers’ recent reading habits.

The hyper-local newsletters are particularly popular in places where other news sources are scarce.
The hyper-local newsletters are particularly popular in places where other news sources are scarce.

But in autumn of last year, we decided to put more effort into setting up more specified and sharper packaging in this area. We wanted to create something even more engaging by narrowing the actual content down to more specific interests on a local basis.

The primary goal of the hyper-local newsletter is to increase engagement by offering readers a higher level of value and the ability to customise their news experience. A secondary goal was to evaluate subscribers’ interests in specific topics so that, in the future, we can scale these successful topics to other titles within the organisation.

The format for all newsletters is automated compilation based on meta-data such as articles topic tags and geographical boundaries. For instance, Södermanlands nyheters weekly newsletter covering dining and entertainment gathers all articles published in the past six days about the region’s central city, Nyköping. This includes tags such as restaurant, café, bar, concert, revue, theatre, music theatre, art exhibition, stand-up comedy, entertainment events, nightlife, show, and music.

In this way, we can run numerous different topic-specific letters without human work time.

In addition to being topic-specific, we have also experimented with creating newsletters tied to a specific geographical area. In such cases, these are areas with reduced distribution of the daily print newspaper.

To ensure a positive customer experience for subscribers, they receive a newsletter containing the most important news from their local area. This often involves smaller locations struggling to gain visibility on the front pages of newspapers. These newsletters are a way to highlight journalism for those who are genuinely interested in local news.

The names and topics of our first hyper-local newsletters are:

  • Norran: Get closer to Skellefteå AIK (sports).
  • SN: Get closer to Nyköping (dining and entertainment).
  • NT: Get closer to IFK Norrköping (sports).
  • NSD: Crime newsletter (the latest news on crime and punishment).
  • NK: Get closer to Luleå — this is going on in the city (the local news).
  • UNT: Latest news: Tierp (geographical).
  • EK: Get closer to Eskilstuna — this is going on in the city (dining and entertainment).
  • Corren - Get closer to Mjölby (geographical).

Our hypothesis for the launch of these eight newsletters was that, even though these distributions are very niche and relatively small, they are significant for those who have chosen to subscribe to them. By being present in our readers’ inboxes with topics they actively choose to learn more about, we hope to deliver great value, become important for the customer on a regular basis, and, in the long run, strengthen our relationship with the customer and, thereby, our reader revenue.

We have experimented with different days of the week for distribution to determine the optimal schedule.

Is this the way to do it? It seems like they are doing their job quite fine. These eight newsletters have an average open rate of 66%, with the best-performing among them exceeding 70%. This indicates a high level of interest among those who have subscribed to the content.

Among those who open and read the newsletters, many also click through to our Web sites to read the articles. The click-through rate (CTR) averages at 16%, with the best-performing newsletter achieving over 25% CTR. We managed to get 5,630 people to sign up within just one month; altogether we had 102,000 digital subscribers at that time. Since then, we have seen an additional increase by 10%. As of today, there are 6,169 people subscribes to the newsletters out of 110,000 digital subscribers as a whole.

The topic that engages the most people is NSD’s newsletter, Krimbrevet. This newsletter compiles the most important news regarding crime and punishment that the newspaper has published in the past week. Therefore, we have now decided to roll out that concept to most of our newsrooms around Sweden.

Thanks to the technical infrastructure we have created, with a high degree of automatisation, it is easy for us to generate new newsletters. This enables us to consistently keep creating and testing new topics.

It seems like our hypothesis on the effect of hyper-local topics on engagement was pretty correct. And, supported by the results, we plan to send out at least 30 niched hyper-local newsletters every week in 2024.

About Jens Pettersson

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