Why The Financial Times’ newsletters aren’t for everyone
The Financial Times is unusual among news publishers for its reliance on subscriber revenue; it makes more than half of its money this way. The FT’s email newsletters are particularly aimed at retaining and upselling its subscribers, who can pay a rich $249 a year for standard digital and up to $612 a year for premium print plus digital.
“There was always a sense of bringing in new readers,” said Andrew Jack, head of curated content at the FT. “But premium is a real area of focus. We’ve redoubled around premium to get people to upgrade.” To that end, the FT is launching a new newsletter for premium subscribers on Monday. Called Authers’ Note, it’ll feature a daily briefing by senior investment commentator John Authers on Wall Street after the closing bell.
Jack leads a staff of five devoted full-time to newsletters; editorial staffers at various news desks handle much of the daily newsletter writing. Eight other newsletters, including Best of Lex, Brexit Briefing and Opening Quote, are available only to standard or premium subscribers. Another nine are available to non-paying but registered users.
The FT clearly feels it’s doing something right with newsletters, since it’s launched 12 in the past two years alone, including Brexit Briefing, fintechFT and White House Countdown this year. It claims more than 750,000 total opens a week across its eight subscriber-only newsletters (which could include the same person opening one more than once).
Each newsletter is growing by a single digit percentage per month in net new signups (after accounting for people who unsubscribe). Their total open rates range from 25 percent to 50 percent (38.5 percent is the open rate for media and publishing newsletters as measured by email marketing company MailChimp).
Increasingly, publishers are putting out newsletters that are designed to be a product unto themselves and read entirely in email. Similarly with the FT’s premium newsletters, they tend to have a lot of original content, and because their recipients are already subscribing, the FT doesn’t need them to click back to the site. It’s the opposite with the free newsletters, which have less original content and are designed for people to click through to the site, where they’ll likely hit the FT’s high paywall.
It’s hard to tell if newsletters are actually getting people to subscribe because there are so many triggers that get people to subscribe, though. However, if they click to subscribe directly from the email, the newsletter can take all the credit. (Jack wouldn’t say how much, though.)
And while getting signups is good, the FT also ultimately wants its newsletters to pay for themselves. That’s hard for publishers to do because there’s no third-party auditor of newsletters.
Jack said the newsletters get “significant” revenue from standard and sponsorship ads, but acknowledged the measurement issues and expectations that the newsletters pay their own way. “Clearly, the long-term objective is that newsletters are part of an editorial package that should be generating income.”
Member ExclusiveCase Study: How The Week successfully created a children’s media property amid the pandemic
The Week created and grew a children's publication in the unprecedented pandemic year to keep young audiences engaged.
‘They won’t enable our identifier’: Identity tech providers try to make sense of Google’s plan not to support alternate identifiers
Some identifiers just won’t work in some Google inventory, but identity tech providers are keeping a stiff upper lip.
PopSugar Fitness expands health and wellness coverage after success with at-home workout videos
PopSugar hired Jennifer Fields as deputy editor of fitness to broaden fitness content to include mental health and wellness.
SponsoredHow publishers are maximizing retention after the COVID-19 subscription surge
Michael D. Silberman, senior vice president of strategy, Piano For many publishers, 2020 was a good year for subscriptions, and the trend has continued into 2021. For example, over the last month, The New York Times grew active news subscriptions by 48%, and Insider has doubled its subscriber base to just over 100,000 in the […]
‘It moved quicker than we planned’: iProspect’s global president Amanda Morrissey on the restructure with Vizeum
iProspect's global president Amanda Morrissey expects to complete Denstu-owned performance agency's restructure with Vizeum by the end of March.
Member ExclusiveMedia Briefing: Media companies’ diversity reports show compounding leadership gap problem
Media companies’ diversity shortcomings pervade their organizations, but lack of diversity among their executive and management ranks is particularly problematic.