Ballot Drives 2,900% Increase for Email Newsletter Sign-ups

by John Sahly Shaw Media

Case Study Highlights

  • 2,900% list growth in just eight weeks
  • 1,000+ votes per week
  • Tons of shares on social media from readers

The Idea

For our newspapers, the topic of high school sports is always a big win with our community. People are passionate about their local teams, and we’re already doing a ton of sports coverage around them. But we wanted to get the community involved at an even deeper level.

When I spoke with Ty Reynolds, the Sports Editor of Sauk Valley Media, we brainstormed ideas to get our audience involved more in our prep sports coverage. Based on what I’d seen had worked for other markets, Ty and I created a two-fold plan. We’d start with an Athlete of the Week ballot and use this promotion as a way to help launch a brand new email newsletter – the Sauk Valley Sports Update.

The Execution

Sauk Valley Media already offers a lot of high school prep coverage for their readers. With multiple high schools in their community, their readers are invested in reading about the wins and news of the athletes at their favorite schools.

An Athlete of the Week ballot would allow the team at Sauk Valley Media to tap into the passion of their readers and allow them to have a stronger role in the content they’re producing. By giving their readers a chance to weigh-in on their favorites, their paper would get insight into which stories to publish, and the readers would be even more invested in the content from the paper.

Once they were set on the ballot, Ty and the team at the paper determined the logistics for setting it up. They decided to award both a top female and top male athlete of the week. At the start of each week, a team from the paper would submit three or four nominees for fans to vote on.

But we didn’t want to just stop at the ballot.

The other part of our plan was to ensure our readers were getting the high school prep coverage they most wanted delivered directly to their email inbox. So in partnership with the ballot, we kicked off an entire newsletter dedicated to our local high school sports.

Each week, our Sauk Valley Sports Update sends subscribers the top local sports content – influenced by the results of the Athlete of the Week ballot whenever possible.

To grow this newsletter and curate our audience, we simply added an opt-in to our Athlete of the Week ballot registration form. We figured that the same people who were entered in the ballot would likely also be interested in the newsletter.

We recognized there was a huge number of high school athletes and families left out of the sole high school football category. When we started the ballot and newsletter, we wanted to include every sport happening right now, giving equal opportunity to the star volleyball player as the star quarterback to win Athlete of the Week.

The Results

The Athlete of the Week ballot was an immediate hit with Sauk Valley Media readers. The first week landed over 1,100 votes and each subsequent week landed almost as much if not more votes.

The email newsletter took off like wildfire. The Sauk Valley Sports Update started with only 100 opt-ins, and quickly grew to over 3,000 after just seven weeks of running the Athlete of the Week ballot. This made it the largest gain in newsletter subscriptions across all Shaw properties in 2018. We cannot wait to see what future success is in store for us.

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