Over the past two months I reviewed hundreds of major newspaper websites to see how they handle e-mail subscriptions. Amazingly, I found over 70% of those sites hid their email sign-up box and 20% of sites had no email sign-up at all. The 10% were proudly asking people to subscribe directly on their main page. I then sent emails to a dozen of those newspapers that were clearly hiding their sign-up box and asked them why they were doing that. I received eight responses and every single one of them had the same response...."We don't have enough subscribers to warrant a primary placement for the sign-up box. We suggest you sign-up to our social media sites to receive up-to-date information."
This made no sense to me but I took the bait and visited those eight social media sites to see how things looked. To say that I was stunned was an understatement. Every single one of those sites had not been updated in at least a week and some had sporadic news postings that were at least a month old. This is, in my opinion, the top reason why many newspapers are losing subscribers - they are not staying relevant, fresh, and active with the "electronic component" of their audience. Many people have abandoned social media sites and returned to email simply because they don't have the time to sift through all the extra stuff that is found on almost every Facebook page and they turned down the twitter feeds simply because of overload. But email still runs strong and is returning to the top spot for keeping people informed on a daily basis.
Newspapers need to get much more active with their email services for two main reasons: Revenue and subscribers. It is a revenue source because advertisers will pay to have one of their ads included in the daily email news. Plus, if they want to stay relevant and and be remembered, a daily email summary of news, delivered first thing in the morning, will do the job. I am sure many newspapers had quite a large email subscriber base a few years back but email services were expensive back then and I know many of those major papers were likely shelling out over $100,000/month to their vendor for email delivery fees. Times have changed and email service rates are now 40% less so affordability has returned to the market. Plus, email services have advanced very far so it's no longer just sending email. Now you can know who took action on that email, where they went, how long they visited the website, and the reader can even ask to receive special news alerts or a series of stories over a pre-set number of days. The technology has advanced in the past two years that every newspaper needs to jump back into the email pool and regain their subscriber base. It can and will happen with the proper vendor, the proper approach to subscriber management, and good reporting.
It's time newspapers take back the ground they have lost and get their email news to be the hot button every website visitor hits.