Is email going to be a future publishing channel?

Any avid blog readers will know about my appreciation for the Shortlist media model[1]. One of the emails that have worked exceptionally well has been the daily Mr Hyde and Stylist email.

Email marketing in general has been on the radar for years. Cheaper than direct to mail, they very often had a pretty standard subject line designed to get through subject lines. Most publishing websites used email to encourage existing users to come onto the site as part of their daily routine.

Looking at the broad trends, there is an interesting juxtaposition. Email open rates have increased from 22% to 25.6% at the end of 2009, but email click through rates have declined from 5.9% to 4.4% on average[2] according to Epsilon.

As a statistic, this seems to be in opposite. In the UK, however, there are similarly low figures – an open rate of only 21.47% against a click through rate of only 3.16%[3]. More interestingly was the way that in this sector, publishing bucked the trend – achieving almost 25% more than their competitors on average with 4.26% click through rate against a 21.52% open rate.

That’s a lot of difference between comparative industries – and one possible answer as to why is that publishers are able to create the subject lines and brand that enables the trust for people to engage with their EDMs.

Moreover, there are good news for advertisers: 67% of customers were willing, according to Clickz marketer Mike Hotz, to give email addresses to receive discounts and promotions. A further 57% ‘say they are more apt to buy a product in store after receiving an email’.

So before we even consider click through rates, there are some strong arguments to say that email is still an incredibly valuable and underrated tool in marketing.

And yet 61% of emails are considered non-essential by consumers. 49% of consumers subscribe to 1-10 brands, and 34% choose to receive 6 emails per day from brands that they trust[4]. This tells you that for brands – engagement and trust is important.

Publishers traditionally used their ‘impartial’ status as marketers, but not direct marketers, as a great skill to be able to generate trust in their audience – perhaps why they generate a higher click through rate than other industries.

What these statistics show is an astounding range of possibilities for the email publisher. Generally speaking, brands themselves can be far too defined to warrant an entire email of consumption – and Shortlist has shown there is a demand for a strong, daily email which can instead select and curate the brand stories you should be hearing about, wrapped around content that you are interested in.

So what is the future of the email with regards to publishers? Well, the opportunity lies in creating a compelling product that curates the content that consumers are looking for. Trust will be critical here – trust that the EDM not just delivers them relevant and engaging content, but content that will work.

For advertisers, this offering will be compelling – a way to cut through the traditional brand noise whilst maintaining a sense of product authenticity. For consumers, they get the news, content and information they want, in a convenient, easy to read format. And for publishers, they create a new channel of engagement – one that can draw people back to aggregating around their website.

In 2013, look for email publishers. They will be the ones creating waves – using email to create a strong, digitally based reach into consumers’ lives.