Thursday, June 26, 2014
Email Newsletters - The Yin of online marketing
This June 4, I was invited to speak at Magnet 2014 in Toronto by Mara Gulens and Daniella Girgenti from the Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada (CPA Canada) that put on on seminar on email newsletters before an audience of 80 people. I describe email newsletters as the Yin of the Yin-Yang relationship with the web site the Yang, as without each other there will not be any online success. I use this description as email newsletters are a “Push”  strategy and the web site is the “PULL” strategy for online content. Two polar opposites of each other just like Yin and Yang in Chinese philosophy.

Why are email newsletters so important? Email newsletters are the number 1 driver of traffic to your web site (sometimes up to 80%). That’s right it is not social media or SEO that drives the majority of traffic to your web site it is email newsletters. I have worked with magazine publishers in the launch of  email newsletters, digital editions and web sites so I saw this first hand. The claims of social media and SEO are over hyped by some of the media out there trying to get noticed or companies making misleading advertising claims that should be banished.

On July 1, 2014 the Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL) in Canada goes in effect. After looking over the Act it is like closing the door after the horses have left the barn as I feel it will be ineffective with spammers and phishing threats (identity theft artists). It will cost companies money for compliance and this looks like a lawyer gravy train for the uninitiated. Just like security software the bandits will always be 2 steps ahead as they have no ethics or care about laws as they are criminals trying to steal from you. So you can lock the door, but they can still break in. The best deterrent is education ie: digital street smarts not digital book smarts.

This underground economy of spammers have been part of the internet fabric forever. My innocence and naivety of the internet was broken when I talked to a security software expert that says you can hire spammers to do a denial of service attack on your competitor’s web site by them hijacking somebody’s computer and using it as an email server and flooding the target web site with requests and thus crashing the site. This legislation is not going to be effective with this crowd as their servers are most likely in a jurisdiction outside of the reach Canadian lawmakers anyhow and they have been doing this since 2003 or before the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 in the United States was introduced.

Canadian publishers have already lead the way in honest and ethical behaviour for email newsletters since the 2003 CAN-SPAM Act was passed in the United States that required email newsletters be opt-in and have the ability to unsubscribe. And if you use a USA vendor for email services they have protocols to ensure spam laws compliance. For companies this is another matter as they most likely have a list that needs to cleaned up as it very unlikely that their list are opt-in, which explains the flood of emails I am receiving from companies the past two weeks that I have already sent to the junk folder and forgot about. The CASL is also forcing companies to have consent to install computer software on your computer like they do in Europe for cookies that track your online habits. This is a major victory for privacy advocates.

The seminar portion put on by Mara and Daniella talked about their journey in launching an email newsletter  for their organization. They had to clean up their list first and have the people on the list opt-in . Once this was done they saw the open rates of the email newsletter increase. Here is there checklist that they shared with the audience on their learning.


The metrics for email newsletters are open and click through rates (CTR) in addition to list size and reach of the desired target market. Open rates depend on the quality of the list and good writing in the subject header. Open rates I have experienced range between 20-65% depending on the message and time of year. CTRs can range form a low of  0 up to 10%, depending on the message or offer. Open rates are underreported as through my experience technology does not always works as I have had responses from people , but in my report the email was not opened.

Email newsletters are an important part of the marketing mix for advertising as it provides the same quality audience as a magazine subscriber. The question publishers have to deal with is how many emails do they send out before they irritate their readers and they will unsubscribe. In my opinion anything more than once a week is disrespectful and it should have personal salutation to that person. No one like online stalkers that send you emails everyday.  I believe we should go beyond the SPAM requirement and treat your reader with the utmost respect and transparency as it is just good business. The new spam laws will make email list rentals or sponsorships obsolete as I do not think people will ever opt-in for 3rd party emails and when the person signed up to receive the newsletter it is implied that it will be an editorial message not a sales pitch that will only have them unsubscribe from your list and that is bad for business.
- Martin Seto
About Me
Martin Seto

Martin Seto is the producer of the Canadian Online Publishing Awards (COPAS) with 30 years of life expereince in technology, advertising, media and creative exploration. He can be reached at marty(dot)seto(at) or 416-907-6562, and on LinkedIn.

Most Recent Blog Comment
Lorene Shyba says:
Full of terrific information, Thanks!...
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