It’s the elephant in the room for many publishers that offer digital editions to a significant portion of their readership: How many subscribers actually open or click through their notification emails?

Digital edition use continues to grow as more publishers use them to supplement print circulation and the audit bureaus refine their reporting rules, but getting people to engage beyond the notification email requires a set of tools that resemble your standard email marketing tactics.

As of now, the clickthrough answer is still obscured by a necessary reliance on gross delivery as the primary metric used for advertisers and the audit bureaus—necessary because in many cases, but not all, clickthroughs are too small to brag about. Gross delivery, however, is showing signs of age. "At what point will media buyers demand the next level of reporting," asked BPA SVP of auditing Richard Murphy at a recent NTCFI luncheon. "Open rates? Click-throughs? When will publishers have to share?"

In the meantime, publishers are working hard to entice subscribers to notice the email announcing the latest digital copy of their magazine and then click through to read it. Industry and publisher statistics indicate that engagement with the digital edition itself is healthy, it’s getting there that’s the issue. "Our own statistics on engagement from our readers tends to be pretty decent," said Tim Langlitz, director of online business development at F+W Media. "The issue is you have to get people to read the darn thing first, and the subject line is a good place to start."

Just like you would with your email marketing tactics, testing subject lines and from lines can improve open rates. In both cases, pick a standard and stick with it. "We keep them similar each time," said Kelsey Voss, senior director, audience marketing, at Ziff Davis Enterprise. "That’s because we want people to recognize and be familiar with what they’re getting. We don’t mess around with the from line. We might change the subject line slightly, but we always say what it is."

Also similar to your email marketing is testing the right time of day to send the notification and making sure there are no IP address issues.

What’s Inside?

Publishers also need to focus on the creative in the body of the notification email. ZDE’s Voss said her emails include a bold header with the brand name, the issue date and a large cover image of the issue.

Also critical is a sampling of key article headlines or a mini TOC. "Sometimes a cover of the magazine may not be enough," said Voss. "They might decide to read it later, but if they see some of the articles they’re more likely to read it right away."

Michelle McKeon, audience development manager at PennWell, follows a similar tactic; her team is currently testing results between article highlights and a TOC format. "Some [brands] are testing the TOC in the alert rather than just highlights for a different look and feel that will hopefully attract more attention and get people to open their issue," she said.

Voss is also testing a letter from the editor approach for the eWeek brand. "It’s got a little blurb that talks about the content and it’s signed with a digital signature from the editor. It’s a personal approach."  

Growing & Leveraging Your Audience Database
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Audience data is more expansive and insightful than ever. Audiences exist in an array of silos—print, mobile, web, events, email,…