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Weighing E-Newsletter Buys

  |  August 21, 2003   |  Comments

How to uncover best buys in e-newsletters.

Back when email newsletters were emerging and publishers were struggling to come up with formats as functional as they were appealing, a newsletter buy often yielded disappointing results. Critical features such as operational unsubscribe links were often disregarded. Little thought was given to crafting enticing subject lines -- though advertisers were counting on newsletters being opened.

Industry competition and the rise of spam have forced publishers to address these issues to prevent their lucrative programs from falling by the wayside. This doesn't mean all are delivering worthy newsletters. Media buyers can choose from thousands of e-newsletters, but only a handful truly deserve their business. How does one distinguish the prized from the poor? Subscribe, analyze, and compare.

In contrast to traditional marketing media, interactive media allows lightning-fast planning and quick-and-dirty campaign execution. Some marketers, however, feel speedy planning underutilizes their skills and deprives them of the opportunity to shape a truly extraordinary marketing strategy.

For this faction, a successful campaign is the product of painstaking planning and lengthy research into each potential media placement. When it comes to buying placements in e- newsletters, all buyers would be wise to take a cue from these media purists.


Because newsletters' style and function vary, buyers can't know their true worth until they've received several mailings. By subscribing to the newsletters you're considering for your client's media plan, you can get a good sense of whether newsletters are consistently delivered in a timely fashion. More important, you can gauge the quality of the subject lines used.

Whether e-newsletter placements are sold on a flat fee or CPM basis, a good subject line means a high open rate. Which means more exposure, resulting in a potentially better CTR.

How can you determine the effectiveness of an e-newsletter subject line? The fastest way is to request historical open rates from the publisher and favor newsletters that perform well. (A good performance is subjective; however, a recent industry report claims permission-based email has the potential to receive an open rate as high as 61.4 percent.)

It's also wise to watch for trends over the course of several mailings; you want a subject line that doesn't vary much from edition to edition. If the publisher has done his job, he'll have tested different subject lines to determine which format works best for his publication.


An e-newsletter's content is a big determinant of its value in the eyes of both the advertiser and the consumer. Fresh, original, and engaging content portends well for advertisers, as a happy reader is more apt to see related ads in a positive light.

Personalized content makes for a really great newsletter opportunity. This new trend is setting the standard for email marketing programs. It's no longer atypical for publishers to profile their subscribers, segment their lists, and deliver content specific to their readers' wants and needs. Publishers utilizing this approach are likely to offer more targeted ad placements. An ad is sure to incite a higher response rate if it appears alongside related content in which the reader has indicated an interest.


To best gauge an ad vehicle's success, put yourself in the audience's shoes. Measure potential interest in a newsletter by comparing it to other offerings in the field. The assets of one newsletter are often enhanced when judged against a weaker offering.

A Final Tip

Before subscribing to dozens of newsletters in a quest to find the best, set up a new email account. Using a special email address when subscribing will help deflect additional spam and ensure you don't lose your "research subjects."

Next week, I'll be reviewing some e-newsletters that provide a big bang for your buck. In the meantime, email me with your personal favorites and let me know which ones have worked for you.

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Tessa Wegert

Tessa Wegert is a business reporter and former media strategist specializing in digital. In addition to writing for ClickZ since 2002, she has contributed to such publications as USA Today, Marketing Magazine, Mashable, and The Globe and Mail. Tessa manages marketing and communications for Enlighten, one of the first full-service digital marketing strategy agencies servicing such brands as Bioré, Food Network, illy, and Hunter Douglas. She has been working in online media since 1999.

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