Beyond Localization: How Ultra-Targeted Email Newsletters Help Publishers Drive Engagement and Revenue

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Once dismissed as old-school and “dead,” email has experienced an incredible renaissance over the past couple of years, drawing increasing attention — and budget — from marketers and publishers alike.  

More recently, amid growing skepticism and distrust of social media content, consumers have gravitated toward email as a more trusted, reliable source for news — both local and otherwise. In fact, as the Covid pandemic forced drastic changes in daily activities in communities around the world, publishers like NextDoor saw a huge spike in email engagement and traffic as people clamored for local news they could trust.

But beyond growing demand for localization, consumer expectations for personalized and relevant content have also ratcheted up. Thanks to the example set by the powerful recommendation engines at Netflix, Amazon, and others, consumers expect the brands they interact with to know and deliver exactly what they want—and they have no patience for irrelevant junk.

Smaller, niche publishers and brands have long known the power of email to connect with their audiences — for many, it’s been a lifeline in cutting through the clutter of social media chaos. But now, even larger, mainstream brands are starting to take note. 

For example, Axios has recently kicked off a major expansion into localized email newsletters, even hiring large teams in major cities across the country to create and distribute content. That’s a stark contrast from just 18 months ago, when many publishers were still slashing payroll to stay afloat during the pandemic.

Email’s benefits for publishers and marketers

So, what’s driving the shift toward email? Here’s how this tried-and-true channel is breathing new life into audience engagement and monetization strategies.

Precise personalization

With the death of tracking cookies, brands need new ways to understand audience preferences, and email fits the bill. The truth is that cookies were never really all that accurate anyway (there’s no way to identify the same user across multiple devices, nor distinguish between different users on the same device). Because an email address is very rarely shared, it provides the perfect unique identifier around which to build a rich user profile. By tracking user behavior both in emails and on site to a specific email address, site owners can learn each user’s likes and dislikes based on their engagement. Brands can then use this data to deliver more of what they like and less of what they don’t for precise content personalization.

Relevancy trumps frequency

No one wants to be overwhelmed with spam—we know that for sure. But a funny thing happens when you start to deliver relevant content that users actually want: They care less about the frequency. In fact, user data shows that brands can safely send more emails and see higher engagement from them when they contain personalized content. Not surprisingly, driving higher email engagement is about quality, not quantity.

Trust is paramount

User trust is an essential ingredient in driving engagement and revenue, and email has proven to be the most trusted channel for brands and publishers. Users are not only more likely to click on links in emails from brands they trust, but they’re also more likely to click on the ads contained within those emails, providing a clear connection between trust in email and revenue growth.

Direct 1:1 relationships

With email newsletters, brands can directly track their users’ preferences with first-party data. Where social media and search traffic are both referral sources, which make it hard for brands to access user data, the 1:1 relationship with logged-in subscribers provides rich, granular detail that brands and publishers can use to give subscribers more of what they want.

Increasingly intelligent

By leveraging artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms to analyze user behavior with emails and on-site, brands can continuously learn more about their audiences to refine content recommendations. That means, over time, content personalization gets more precise, and subscribers enjoy a custom experience that feels curated specifically for their interests. 

Automation enables efficiency

Clearly, sending customized emails to every subscriber isn’t feasible, even for the largest staff. But with new automated personalized email solutions, even brands with the smallest teams can distribute precisely customized content at scale. By automatically tracking user behavior and using that insight to curate and distribute relevant content, automated email platforms can fit every size program or budget.

Rejuvenate evergreen content

Email isn’t just for breaking news — it can help drive traffic through evergreen content, too. By using automation to curate content and deliver relevant recommendations to subscribers, brands can breathe new life into archival content that’s not time sensitive, bringing visitors back to the site to drive added monetization.

Email’s resurgence in marketing

For many years, email had been overlooked and undervalued as new channels emerged to steal the limelight — and budget. Now, this stalwart channel has come full circle, once again becoming the centerpiece of audience engagement for brands and publishers for its direct, affordable solution to content targeting and personalization. As the industry looks to move forward in a post-cookie world, email is proving to be the most effective and trusted channel for helping publishers drive new revenue and business growth.

Jeff Kupietzky is CEO of Jeeng.