Email Achieves Digital Subscription Monthly Goal in 9 Days

by Allison Wilson Lawrence Journal-World

Case Study Highlights

  • 53% of subscriptions attributed to email
  • 20% or higher open rates across all newsletters
  • Achieved first month’s subscription goal in nine days
  • Launched a robust digital subscription initiative with a heavy emphasis on email
  • Previous focus on promotions grows database to leverage for subscriptions

The Idea

The Lawrence Journal-World is a 12,000 circ paper out of Lawrence, KS. Previously, we had invested a lot of energy into growing our engaged database through promotions, but now we were wanting to put this database to work. Our team was preparing to launch our first digital subscriptions initiative for, with the goal of creating a sustainable revenue stream for the future of our newsroom.

We planned to leverage both a traditional paywall as well as a robust email campaign. Having the advantage of studying many subscription launches before us, we knew that email would play a large role in our efforts. We were still surprised by how effective it was.

The Execution

We set out with a two-pronged approach to use email to grow our digital subscriptions. The first was an email campaign to non-subscribers, and the second was the chance to offer an email newsletter as an added bonus to subscribers.

Our goal was to be strategic with our efforts. We leveraged our circulation system to cut out known print subscribers and coupled that with our email provider to determine current engaged email subscribers. This gave us a rich, engaged list of people to email.

Next came the email itself. We didn’t want to just send out an offer email for a subscription – we knew our content provided the most value and decided to leverage that instead of a simple offer. By using our analytics, we identified the week’s most popular stories and created a weekly recap to send out to our list.

We began to see the impact of this almost immediately. On days this email was sent out, our subscriptions sign ups were double the daily average. By simply including a call-to-action for subscriptions at the top of our recap emails, our digital subscriptions began to grow. Plus, we were getting even more traffic to our site as readers clicked through to the stories in the email.

Putting a big focus on email and newsletters meant we also had to step up our game to design emails our users would find value in receiving. While many companies neglect the Welcome Email (some don’t even send one!), we really wanted ours to set the stage for introducing our digital content to our new subscribers.

By the time we were done, we had taken a look at our entire email program and made updates and tweaks to ensure we were putting our best foot forward across the board.

The Results

We achieved our first month goal for new subscriptions in just nine days.

Our newsletter program is getting consistent open rates of 20% or higher across six different newsletter campaigns. Here’s just a sampling of our email results:

  • Welcome Series – 60% open rates
  • Expired Notices – 50% open rates
  • Activation Emails to Print Subscribers – 46% open rates, 25% click-through rate
  • Activation Emails to E-Edition Subscribers – 79% open rates, 46% click-through rate

When we had initially set our goals for our paywall, our research had lead us to believe that 85% of our new subscriptions would come from the paywall. But in reality, the the results from the first two months of our paywall are much lower. 53% of our new subscriptions are attributed to our email marketing efforts.

Our publisher came into my office just minutes after the first emails sent and said, “We’ve had 7 sign ups that didn’t come from the paywall – your email is working!” We are excited to improve and expand our email campaigns in the coming months to continue our success in reaching our digital subscription goals.

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