Theyve got (your) e-mail
A well marketed newsletter service can mean 'found' money for you
By Russell Shaw -- Broadcasting & Cable, 10/22/2000 8:00:00 PM
Rare is the television station or network Web site that doesn't have an e-mail newsletter or alert service that viewers can sign up to receive. The content usually covers the gamut from weekend beach or fishing reports, sent out via e-mail the Thursday before a hopefully idyllic weekend, to news summaries, sports scores, stock-price information and weather forecasts that can be tailored to the specifications of an individual user.
"One of the most obvious benefits of [e-mail content] is extending your presence, establishing regular contact with your site visitors rather than relying on them to come to your site all the time," says Lana Spivak, lead account representative for Topica Inc., a leading e-mail newsletter distributor and solutions provider based in San Francisco.
To the user, it all looks so simple: a menu of alert choices on your home page, accompanied by "subscribe here" buttons that, when clicked, will take your site visitors to a brief sign-up page where they enter their name, e-mail address and other information necessary to set up the menu of e-mail content you will supply them with.
To you, the content provider, setting up a robust menu of e-mail content choices comes with risks, decisions and rewards.
Let's take the good news first. Customized e-mail content is great brand-extension and, when well marketed, can be "found" money.
Here's how the logistical/ business model often works:
By checking your site's logs for pages that receive the most visits, you identify content on your site that is especially popular.
You make a decision on the types of popular content that is translatable either to a weekly newsletter format-such as a guide to next week's prime time programming-or to an e-mail alert service in which you send specific, time-sensitive information to people who have requested it.
You present these sign-up options on your Web site, either on your home page or, better yet, on subsection pages devoted to specific topics, such as sports or weather.
You contract with an e-mail service to maintain your subscriber service and handle the actual e-mail distribution of your list. While prices vary by the type of service, an average fee charged by these services ranges from $25 to $35 for each mailing of 1,000 subscribers. Crunching the numbers, sending out three alerts to 1,000 subscribers apiece would cost you between $75 and $100.
You make your money on advertising, either through e-mail alert/newsletter "title" sponsorships or through banner ads in the body of the e-mail message. While you might be able to get only 2 cents or 3 cents a click for banner-ad space on your site, keep in mind that, since newsletter or alert subscribers are self-selected for specific interests, you shouldn't have trouble finding advertisers or sponsors willing to pay significantly more than traditional banner-ad rates to reach targeted eyeballs.
Each point in the process calls for some nuanced decision making.
Identify popular content :
Sophisticated but easy to use site-analysis tools can measure the traffic patterns on all your Web site's pages. "Page views" are just a start. These tools, which run on your site's Web servers, can chart the peak periods of readership for individual Web pages, down to the minute.
Identify suitable content:
Here's where log data integrates with good, old-fashioned, tempered judgment. That's how CNN-Sports Illustrated Interactive decided to offer weekly golf and pro-football e-mail newsletters, as well as the pro-basketball newsletter it plans to launch in November.
"We looked at page views for the number of unique [individual] users, and we worked what we found into our strategic plan," says Andy Mitchell, marketing director for the site.
Entice people to sign up:
Getting subs entails two important mantras: make the offerings sound interesting, and guarantee subscriber privacy.
Because people are tired of junk e-mail sent to them by companies that purchased lists of e-mail addresses gleaned from other sign-up forms, let your subscribers know if you plan to do this, and offer them the opportunity to decline the sale of their name. Selling subscribers' names is "OK if intentions are plainly stated and people get to choose," says Jim Sterne, co-author of Email Marketing: Using Email to Reach Your Target Audience and Build Customer Relationships.
Sterne suggests two sign-up boxes with options like these: "Click here for our newsletter" or "Click here for our newsletter *and* very special offers from the people you want to hear from!"
In the next Common Ground column, I'll discuss how to present your content.
Russell Shaw's column about Internet and interactive issues appears regularly. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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