Overview of this campaign
The Austin American-Statesman serves the Austin, Texas-area, and the majority of our readers reside within the Austin City limits. In 2013, Austinites voted to change Austin’s form of government. These changes meant the city council grew from six members, all elected at-large, to 10 members, now elected from geographic districts. In 2014, voters took to the poll to elect this completely new council for the first time; All 10 seats, plus the mayor, needed to be filled. In total, more than 70 people were running for civic office.
This was a historic moment for the city and a great opportunity for us as news providers. Despite technological limitations, we set about to increase digital engagement, and hopefully civic involvement, via a targeted email series to subscribers with news coverage about their respective districts.
The new geographic districts did not fall along ZIP code lines, and therefore we could not accurately match subscribers to a district using our available databases. However, we were able to obtain the registered voter list from the county, which could be used to isolate voters by district. Using this list, we were able to match 20,584 subscribers to their district. Only 10,148 Austinites were left unmatched.
We then set-up a series of mailings around voting to increase digital engagement:
- On Sunday, October 19, the day before early voting began, we emailed subscribers a letter from our editor and included links to coverage for their respective district, for the mayor’s race, and for other general election races.
- On Wednesday, November 5, we emailed subscribers results for races by district at 7am. (Most races were not called until after midnight the night before.)
- In many races, a candidate did not receive the majority of the vote, so the top two candidates then entered into a December 16 runoff election. We continued to email subscribers who lived in these districts.
Results for this campaign
The first round of emails was sent Oct. 19. 20,584 Subscribers were sent targeted emails about the election based on their district. 10,148 unmatched subscribers were sent a generic message about the election from the editor.
All matched emails saw a 27% or higher open rate; City Council District 3 and City Council District 10 emails saw 35% open rates. For comparison, our content emails usually see an open rate between 21% and 25%. Personalized messaging for subscribers increased our open rates by as much as 10%.
Email click to open rates were also extremely high: All targeted emails had an 18% or higher Click-to-Open Rates. The targeted email to District 3 saw a 30% CTOR and the District 4 email saw a 28% CTOR. For comparison, the unmatched mailing only saw a CTOR of 11%.
Furthermore, this first round of emails increased our engaged subscribers by 2,296, or 6 percent – the highest jump we saw in 2014.
Highlights from subsequent mailings include:
The day after the election, matched subscribers were emailed results for their district race. Emails to subscribers in District 9 and District 10 saw a 41% and a 42% open rate respectively. We saw engaged subscribers increase by 1,060, or 3%, from this mailing.
The day before early voting began for runoff elections, subscribers were once again emailed news for their districts. The emails saw between 33% and 44% open rates. (District 10 and District 8 saw 44% open rates.) We saw engaged subscribers increase by 1,516, or 3%, from this mailing.