We talk too much about The New York Times when the crisis of journalism is also about saving local news operations and digital entrepreneurs.
But the latest news about how the Times is using email newsletters can be applied to all news organizations. Digiday reported that the Times has 13 million subscribers to more than 50 email newsletters.
What this means is that the Times has a direct communications channel with its users in a walled garden that Facebook and Google, the giants of digital advertising revenue, cannot touch.
When users get an email and click on a link, they go right to the Times website and the newspaper's own advertisers.
It also means that the people who subscribe to the free newsletters by registering have a more intimate relationship with the publication.
This intimacy translates into economic results: "newsletter subscribers are twice as likely as regular New York Times readers to become subscribers ... and they also read twice as many stories per month as the average Times reader," Digiday reported.
That intimate relationship also allows a publication to develop more revenue streams. And email is also a great way to interact with users and create true two-way communication.
So, here are some recommendations for digital news entrepreneurs:
- Develop a database of your users. Make it worth their while to register on your site and give you their email address.
- Share links on email to some of your best content, and direct it to subgroups of users based on their interests, be it sports, world news, local news, business, entertainment, etc.
- Send the emails at the time of day when the news is most useful to a group of users. For example, entertainment news on a Friday, market results at the end of the day, latest news and sports scores before breakfast.
- Track and measure response to know your users better.
Far too many digital news organizations do not make the effort to develop and own the relationship with their users. It is that relationship with their loyal users that allows a media organization to develop multiple revenue sources. It's also a key to achieving sustainability.
James Breiner is a former ICFJ Knight Fellow who launched and directed the Center for Digital Journalism at the University of Guadalajara. Visit his websites News Entrepreneurs and Periodismo Emprendedor en Iberoamérica.
Main image CC-licensed by Flickr via Sebastien Wiertz.