Improving newsletter sign-ups with location specific calls to action

Deepening connections with readers through newsletters

One of the most important techniques of building a news consumption habit is email newsletters. Newsletters gives us a direct relationship with our readers that we control and allows us to engage our readers with more than daily headlines. The connection allows us to build a deeper relationship by promoting events and membership opportunities. We find that on our mature sites, 25-30% of our Brand Lover traffic comes from our email newsletters.

So, getting as many users signed up for the newsletter is a fundamental part of our user acquisition and growth strategy. The primary tool we use for this is a pop-up that appears in the center of the page once the user has been on our site for 15 seconds. We frequently tweak this UI to try to maximize the conversion rate.

Working with our partner Mahoning Matters, we saw there might be an opportunity to improve the conversion rate of their email newsletter sign up tool. The version we ran for many months emphasized Mahoning Valley.

While Mahoning Matters serves all of Mahoning County, Youngstown is the most well known city and somewhat the cultural center of the county. We hypothesized that people had a stronger emotional connection with the city of Youngstown than Mahoning Valley so we created a variant that emphasized Youngstown.

We ran A/B experiments with the Youngstown and Mahoning language and measured the conversion of these different UIs for users coming from Youngstown and those from outside the city.

Before the experiment, the original UI converted at a rate of .37%. When we ran the Youngstown experiment in Youngstown, we saw a .68% conversion rate - almost a 2x performance increase with nothing more than a slight text change. When we ran the same test, using the Youngstown string for readers outside of the city, we saw a .58% conversion rate - over a 50% improvement on the original.

This experiment was a success and our key learning is that users are more likely to have a strong emotional connection with a specific place than a larger region, even if that place is not where they live. We continue to look for additional opportunities to experiment with our newsletter conversion and messaging.