Email is the way that you can connect directly with your readers without relying on Facebook or other social media tools. It is through this direct email connection that you are able to create loyal readers that come to you consistently, no matter what some algorithm or search engine thinks about your story. Because that email connection is so important, the email marketing software that you use to manage it is really important as well.
Don’t ruin your email connection before it even gets started by using the wrong email marketing service.
In order to properly manage your email relationship with your readers, you will need to have a couple of features at the minimum:
You want the branding and the presentation of your emails to be consistent and up to the same standard as your site – because if your email looks completely different from your website, chances are that email is going straight into the spam folder. So your email software will need to be flexible to let you change the design of your emails.
And you also want analytics that tell you exactly how many people are opening your emails and reading your newsletter – otherwise you have no way to know what email content is engaging your readers and what you should be doing less of.
These are the most important features that you should be getting from your email marketing software, and if you aren’t getting these things, you should think about switching to a different service.
Surprisingly there are a large number of news sites out there now who are not getting these essential and basic features from their email marketing service.
How do we know? Recently, we did a review of 100 different news sites to see what technologies they were using.
And out of that 100, there were 14% who had no email newsletter at all. If you are in the same position, this is one of the first things you should be changing about your news site – we talk about about it a lot around here, but it bears repeating: newsletters should be the foundation of your product.
In our review, we also noted that 5% of sites were using outdated email services like Google’s Feedburner or the free email service that comes with WordPress. Both of these are based on a very basic concept of an email newsletter being something that just copy and pastes your recent articles and sends them to your subscribers in a generic list email. Not only does that not provide much value to your readers, but there have been rumors for a few years now that that Google will be discontinuing their Feedburner service altogether. Again, if you fall into this category, you should also strongly think about moving to a new email marketing service.
The Best Email Marketing Services for News Sites
So if about 20% of news sites have no email marketing at all or are using outdated software, what are the other 80% doing? We saw a wide variety of different options here and there, but the best and most popular email marketing services came down to three different providers: Mailchimp, Constant Contact and Pico.
- Mailchimp – Mailchimp is the most popular of the services, with a 55% share of the websites we reviewed.
- Pico – Pico is a young, upstart company that is quickly gaining popularity due to their combination of payment and membership features. It was was currently used by 8% of the online publications we reviewed.
- Constant Contact – Constant Contact is one of the oldest email marketing services and they are known as being the best for reliability. They came in at 4% of all sites.
How do these Email Marketing Services Compare?
Mailchimp is the closest thing to standard software for online news sites sending newsletters. One of the biggest reasons for this is that a large majority of these sites run on WordPress and Mailchimp has by far the best variety of integrations with WordPress for pop-ups, widgets and different ways to capture email sign-ups on your website.
In our review of sites using Constant Contact, all of the prompts to sign-up for newsletter emails were a bit hidden and they were lacking pop-ups. Whatever your opinion may be as to whether pop-ups are useful for email newsletter sign-ups or if they are an annoyance to readers, what matters here is that you have the best options with Mailchimp.
Mailchimp is also noted as being more user-friendly for creating email campaigns and has more customization options for email templates. (you can even import custom email templates like the one we specifically made for local news sites) On the other hand, Constant Contact has the best reputation for email delivery and offers the highest amount of confidence you can get that your email won’t end up in the spam folder.
Pico is the new email marketing service on the block, but they offer a wide variety of features bringing the ability to manage your email newsletters together with the ability to manage premium content paywalls, member sign-ups and payments. They also have pop-up and modal features to help you gather email sign-ups but they are not as flexible as Mailchimp. Still, their features are a very interesting mix that seems to be following the trend of where the business models of news sites are heading.
We recently also compared all of these email marketing services on pricing – Mailchimp was the only software with a free service, which makes them the easiest to get started with. While Pico doesn’t have a free plan, it does become cheaper than Mailchimp with larger email list sizes. Constant Contact’s service was almost universally more expensive.
Which Email Marketing Service is Best for Your News Site?
Currently, it is tough to argue against Mailchimp, as they are firmly rooted in the online news ecosystem. Their WordPress-friendly features, generous free plan, and customizable templates make them a very logical choice that you can’t really go wrong with - especially if your email list fits into their free plan.
But Pico is definitely an interesting email marketing service to check out, especially if you have plans to launch a subscription or membership plan – they might have just the right features to pull it all together for you.
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