No Newsletter is Good Newsletter

Despite our frequent disapproval of newsletters, we understand that there is a certain need to maintain regular contact with users, even if they’re not constantly engaging. We know how hard it is to give up cold turkey, though, so one of the main goals of assembling the Pirate’s Guide has always been to highlight and elaborate on great alternatives to the newsletter. So as we were putting together our most recent chapter on the best emails for user retention, we met with our friend Andrea over at 8tracks, to talk about what they did when they got rid of their monthly newsletter.

One really important thing that Andrea mentioned at the outset was that the newsletter was already being outperformed by almost every other type of email they were sending. This is not uncommon and totally in line with our own findings but, crucially, when they asked themselves “How do we get people to read the newsletter?” one of the proposed answers was “Make it… not a newsletter.”8tracks email digest

The eventual form of the solution was the weekly digest. On it’s face, it sounds a bit like a newsletter, but when you dig a bit deeper it actually has a really interesting, dynamic core. Realizing that they still had all this useful user data that was generating their much more effective emails, they came up with a hierarchy of possible content for the digest:

1) Personal recommendations based on past activity

2) Popular recommendations from their friend network

3) Curated staff picks

4) Overall popular content

This meant that, depending on how much usage data they had for each given user, they could scale the level of recommendations provided. I think my favorite thing about this plan is that it subtly reinforces the value of spending more time using 8tracks. As they learn your tastes and your network grows, your weekly digest will drift farther from what’s hot right now, and more towards what you might really like.

8tracks digest with staff picks and personal recommendations

The same ideas can be expanded into your own product, even if you’re not content focused. The key is to think about what usage information you have on your users – what do you know about your relationship that could improve the process by which you select what to send them.

If you’re realizing right now that you haven’t really considered the value your newsletter provides to the users receiving it, we’re not going to call you out, just think on it. And if you need more ideas for what to do after you kill your newsletter, you can check out our Pirate’s Guide to Email – it’s chock full of examples that cover exactly that.

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One response to “No Newsletter is Good Newsletter”

  1. Lana says:

    Great read, Alex! It’s making us think we need to come up with a more appropriate name for what our product creates! I think the main takeaway here is that this new email or ‘digest’ is curated and personal which feels like someone cares and has taken the time to get to know your tastes. Authenticity goes a long way!

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