Are you suffering from a news overload? I definitely think I’m past the point of saturation and on to straight-up drowning in news consumption at this point.
The thing is, I have a relatively simple solution that’s mitigating the issue: Newsletters.
About a year ago, I realized that I could no longer keep up with the news, both industry and general, by visiting a million websites each day. I decided to scrap the habit, and instead, I subscribed to a bunch of newsletters. These days, I have daily subscriptions to three current events digests and about eight industry newsletters (and I know that’s still a lot 🙂 ).
Before all of this craziness, newsletters were already having a moment. Newsletter juggernauts like Morning Brew and The Hustle, two of today’s most widely-recognized newsletter-first publishers, are building thriving businesses. And those are just two examples; there are plenty of smaller newsletter publishers who are also prospering.
After the Great Upheaval, newsletters still seem to be everywhere, but they’re of a different sort (hint: mostly having to do with a certain virus). That’s what I want to talk about this week.

COVID, COVID Everywhere

(Not so) shameless plug: Keywee has been helping publishers drive newsletter acquisition for years now with the help of a product we call Content-to-Capture. With it, publishers can run campaigns that are similar to Facebook’s in-feed lead ads, with the addition of an article content preview before asking users to leave their email addresses and other details.
This ad format is handy to me when I dig into campaign data because I can have full visibility into publishers’ content strategies for email acquisition.
And I think you can guess what the dominant strategy has been over the last couple of months. A big share of publishers running newsletter acquisition campaigns with Keywee have created a COVID-19 newsletter. Remember how last week I mentioned that some things don’t change and that we haven’t seen any COVID-only traffic campaigns? Well – this is where they’ve been hiding – in newsletter campaigns. Of the hundreds of Content-to-Capture campaigns Keywee is managing at the moment, the top spenders are all COVID-related. Even most of the non-COVID campaigns have content that is related to the virus, and it performs as well in terms of user retention.
But how sustainable is this?

The Downward Trend

Bottom line – it’s not going to be, at least not for long. Let’s break down the numbers.
Over the past few weeks, we’ve seen a steady decline in COVID-related pageviews. They currently stand at approximately 11.5% of overall traffic, as you can see below.
So there’s certainly quite a bit of content fatigue. Honestly – how could there not be at this point, right?
But let’s also be clear: CPCs and CPLs are still incredibly low. If a publisher is running an ROI-positive newsletter campaign around COVID, there’s no reason to stop running it.
This downward trend, however, will most likely continue. Take a look at conversion rates on COVID newsletter campaigns:
Like page views, they’re gradually starting to come down. Costs are still low, but they may not stay that way forever.
So – what now?

Time to Veer Away From the Virus

Real talk: across the board, regardless of the type of content, CPCs and CPAs are at historic lows. This opens the door to a wealth of opportunity. If you’re currently running or planning on running newsletter sign-up campaigns, it’s time to start thinking about the long term.
I don’t think COVID newsletters are going to disappear. If I were to place a bet – I’d say they’ll be around for as long as this virus is, and people will continue to be interested. But it’s time for publishers to broaden their horizons again and look beyond the immediate. The time to grow your audience is now. We’re already starting to see a shift amongst our publishers. Slowly but surely, we’re seeing a return to broader topic coverage. So far, low CPCs and CPAs are holding steady in May.

Keep It Useful

So what are publishers talking about? Well – it depends on what their core audience is interested in. One local news publisher, for example, has returned to promoting its food-focused newsletter, now covering the best places for delivery and recipes rather than restaurant reviews. Another local publisher has started a newsletter to update on business openings and closures in the area.
Entertainment publishers are back to talking about the Kardashians. Financial publishers are talking about financial planning and outlooks for the coming year. As I said, we’re seeing a variety of topics popping back up again.
I won’t go into a whole treatise about getting newsletter subscriber campaigns up and running (I recently wrote about it on PubExec if you want to dig deeper), but I will say this:
If there’s an iron-clad rule in newsletters, I think it’s that you have to deliver value. People will give you permission to visit their inboxes if you provide them with something useful. That should be the first question you ask yourself: what can I give to my users that will enrich them? What will build trust?
I promise you that as long as you do that, you have the potential to succeed. That’s the common denominator for every successful newsletter campaign I’ve seen. I hope that it will be your guiding light.
If you’re not currently working with Keywee and would like to learn more, feel free to reach out and request a demo.