Newsletters Are Dead? Think Again

November 13, 2016

Growing a branded content business relies on a publisher’s ability to deliver on guaranteed views.

One of the biggest hurdles premium publishers face is driving views to branded content. A publisher’s entire branded content business has increasingly become dependent on reaching and exceeding view targets to content programs. As we know, publishers are moving away from CPM pricing in favour of a cost-per-view (CPV) pricing model. This is largely because marketers value exposure and engagement with branded content, not just who looked at the native ads promoting it.

In order to effectively scale branded content revenue, publisher’s must diversify and expand their distribution strategy into new channels and audiences. According to research, 79 percent of publishers currently rely on paid distribution, primarily through Facebook, to meet the minimum number of views to branded content they guarantee their clients. However, only 11 percent cited they currently use email and newsletters for branded content.

Publishers that continue to rely solely on driving views to sponsored content programs via onsite native ads will continue to face an uphill battle with the widespread adoption of ad-blocking technology and increasing nature of off-site content consumption on mobile – particularly through Facebook Instant Articles and Google’s AMP. We are confident there is a substantial untapped opportunity for publishers to leverage more organic audiences, especially through their newsletter subscriber base. Newsletters have the potential ability to drive significantly more views than organic social channels like Twitter.

Despite widespread misconceptions, email is here to stay.


So you’ve heard a lot of talk about email being dead? – maybe not.

Back in 2011, Mark Zuckerberg predicted email’s end when he launched Facebook Messenger as the so-called Google Gmail ‘killer’. Fast forward five years, and recent data suggests his bold prediction has not come to fruition. At a macro-level, email is expected to continue growing. A recent Radicati Group report predicts worldwide email users will grow from 2.58 billion in 2015 to 2.94 billion by 2019. Likewise, total daily emails are expected to increase from 205 billion to 246 billion by 2019.

More importantly, however, interaction time with email remains staggeringly high. According to a Reuters Survey, U.S. workers spend 6.3 hours a day checking email, with roughly half of that time going to work-related emails and half to personal.

For publishers, email open rates and click engagement continues to perform well. As Lucia Moses from Digiday discovered last year, The New York Times has experienced double-digit growth in its email subscriber base and achieves a gross open rate topping 70 percent.

In summary, I think Clive Thompson from Wired said it best: “newsletters are, improbably, in vogue”. One does not need to look much further than Buzzfeed as a shining example of a publisher developing a robust newsletter strategy. Today, Buzzfeed offers readers a choice of over a dozen different email subscription options.

Newsletters are an effective channel for driving organic, high-quality views to branded content.

Why do we think newsletters are a great channel for publishers to promote more views to direct-sold, branded content programs?

  • As the research suggests, email is expected to be a long-term viable, and growing channel for publishers.
  • Organic channels like newsletters help minimize a publisher’s reliance on paid alternatives.
  • Newsletters subscribers are generally considered to be highly engaged and loyal audiences.
  • Allows a publisher to target specific user groups and understand behaviour on an individual or group level with open and click data.

Example of newsletter branded content promo:blog-newsletter-final

Polar’s Platform provides a seamless integration into email service providers.

Earlier this year we began working with several publishers to explore integration and workflows supporting branded content promotion in email newsletters. Over the summer months we began beta testing integration with  Polar’s Branded Content Platform into email service providers (ESP), such as SailThru. At the same time we developed a new feature called Promo Feeds – it provides content teams with an intuitive, drop-and-drag user interface to quickly curate newsletter creative feeds.

Benefits of running branded content promos for newsletter via Polar’s Branded Content Platform:

  • Mitigate the effects of ad blocking without ad-serving promos
  • Custom curate dedicated newsletter campaigns with any creative
  • Leverage out-of-the-box promo feeds feature for seamless ESP integration
  • Make use of existing behavior and audience targeting via your ESP
  • Centralize the tracking and monitoring of performance across all of your distribution channels

Several of our publisher partners experienced an immediate uptick in views to branded content.

Adweek boosts views to branded content by 15% with newsletters – engagement time 2x higher.

Within eight weeks of launching, Adweek witnessed an immediate spike in additional views to sponsored articles. Newsletter distribution is now a part of the core distribution strategy for Adweek BrandShare.

Adweek’s success by the numbers:

  • Increased views by more than 15% to branded content campaigns via newsletters.
  • Improved branded content engagement time by 86 percent.
  • Newsletter audiences had an average engagement time of 5 mins and 24 seconds.
  • Quickly deployed over 20 different branded content promos from several campaigns.

“Polar’s Branded Content Platform has helped us reach our most loyal and engaged audiences with a seamless solution for curating branded content promos for our newsletters.”

  – Kolby Yarnall, VP of Native Advertising and Content Development, Adweek

Read more about how Adweek uses newsletters to drive more views.


JULY 2017

Polar’s Snapshot of Global Branded Content Performance presents the complete picture for major markets and publishers this past quarter.