Winnipeg Free Press realigns newsletter strategy based on reader feedback

By Erin Lebar

Winnipeg Free Press

Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada


The power of newsletters has become a much-discussed topic industry wide. The potential for engagement and revenue through newsletter products is huge, and the pool of strategies for maximising both of these outcomes is vast.

At the Winnipeg Free Press, we have a strong slate of newsletters that cover topics from politics to pets and everything in between. Many are written by journalists in the newsroom, while a few others take advantage of automated formats featuring most-read content.

The survey sent to readers revealed those subject areas in which they were most interested.
The survey sent to readers revealed those subject areas in which they were most interested.

A newsletter working group made up of members of several different departments — including editorial, product, digital, and advertising — monitors the progress of each newsletter by measuring metrics such as conversions, open rates, and sign-ups. This group is also responsible for pitching ideas for potential new newsletters and recently relied on a reader survey to help decide between possible topics.

Anyone who has spent time doing audience surveys knows that sometimes the results aren’t necessarily in line with what the user is actually engaging with on the site. But, sometimes you luck out and get some very useful — and more importantly, actionable — results.

The survey was sent to registered users who had visited the Winnipeg Free Press Web site in the last six months and who are also subscribed to a product news mailing list. This survey was very short — only three or four questions, depending on the user’s subscription type.

We asked:

  1. Do you receive any of the following newsletters? (Answer options included 14 of our current newsletter products as well as an option for “none.”)
  2. For which topic(s) would you register to receive an e-mail newsletter? (Answer options included seven topics we have the ability to produce new newsletters about, as well as an “other” option with the request to specify.)
  3. Do you currently have a paid subscription to the Winnipeg Free Press?
  4. (If answered “no” to question 3): Would you subscribe to more newsletters if you were able to read the Free Press stories linked in them? (Most of our content is paywalled.)

Just over 5,000 users responded to the survey, and two main successes were immediately evident.

Due to the set-up of the survey, users encountered sign-up prompts twice: once in the first question in which every newsletter title was linked to its own subscription page, and once at the end, as the user was automatically directed to their e-mail preferences page which includes newsletter subscriptions. Because of these two prompts, this survey alone resulted in more than 2,400 newsletter sign-ups.

The second success was that the survey provided the newsletter working group with the answer it was looking for: The topic of gardening landed much higher up on the list than either of the other options previously considered, so that newsletter became prioritised based on the survey responses.

The new Winnipeg Gardener newsletter already has nearly 4,600 subscribers.
The new Winnipeg Gardener newsletter already has nearly 4,600 subscribers.

Within a month, the Winnipeg Gardener newsletter launched. It now has nearly 4,600 people signed up to receive it, putting it in line with many of our other editorial newsletters after only two months and three editions.

Winnipeg Gardener is also a revenue-generating newsletter by way of paid advertising placements, something the working group is hoping to replicate with other newsletters.

About Erin Lebar

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