Using newsletters to drive local news traffic

Newsletter techniques Peterborough Matters used to build a more loyal audience.

When Peterborough Matters launched in early February, we invested in acquiring audience through Social and Search ad campaigns. Through this strategy we've been able to grow the top of our funnel to 135.6K unique visitors per month. However, our real goal is to build deep relationships with citizens in our community and turn them into Brand Lovers. And one month after our launch, only 1.2% of our unique visitors were Brand Lovers, users who visit over 15 times in a 30 day period, as defined by our news audience development tool, News Consumer Insights (NCI).

With the aim to increase the volume of Brand Lovers visiting the Peterborough Matters site and diversify our referral sources, we launched a newsletter to engage with readership via new stories in their inbox each day.  We started by heavily promoting our daily newsletter in order to convert our Loyal Users to Brand Lovers. News Consumer Insights research shows that newsletter readers typically overperform in terms of engagement: they have higher "visit frequency " and "articles read per visit" ratios.

We initially deployed two mechanisms to drive newsletter sign-ups: a widget on our homepage and articles and paid advertising on Facebook. These both resulted in modest, gradual growth to our email subscriber list (1115 total sign-ups). However, the biggest impact to newsletter sign-up growth was deploying a pop-up to every reader using the website. 

Using prior pop-up optimization research done by Village Media, we present the pop-up after 15 seconds of a user reading an article. In the month and a half since this pop-up was introduced, we've collected 58.9% of our total email subscribers via this method (1600 total sign-ups). With these results, we also decided to add the newsletter pop-up to another Archant property, the Eastern Daily Press and we now are in the process of rolling it out across the rest of Archant. The overall effect has been dramatic on email subscriber metrics across our network.

Growth on total Archant properties since pop-up added:

The pop-up was tested on a small number of sites week commencing the 8th of June. It was rolled out to our larger properties over the week commencing 29th of June.

Newsletters are still a comparatively low percentage of the referral traffic at 5% of total sessions to Peterborough Matters. However, with open rates of 51.5% and CTR of 21.6% we expect that to increase. Additionally, they are a large driver of Brand Lovers. Compared with a normal reader on the site, readers who come from newsletters are 9X as likely to be Brand Lovers. We look forward to continuing to experiment with newsletters (e.g. adding site navigation to the top of the newsletter, adding messages from the editor) and better connect with our readers.