Why You Should Care About Email Marketing for Publishers

Melanie Balke
November 28, 2023

I’ve said it all before.

Email marketing is one of the most successful and beneficial marketing strategies. It’s a veritable powerhouse that can attract, convert, and retain. It’s as affordable as it is versatile, and it has a place in every industry.

If you don’t believe me, go ahead and check your inbox!

Who’s sending your emails?

You’ll probably see content from countless industries — including finance, nonprofits, real estate, restaurants, and more!

But that list is far from complete. I’ve barely scratched the surface of email marketing’s massive breadth of usefulness! Now, it’s time to cover how a simple email marketing campaign can boost the performance of your publishing business.

Join me! Keep scrolling to learn more about this remarkable marketing channel and how it can help you establish yourself in the minds of your target audience. While the “Big Five” may have an unassailable influence over this $25.7 billion industry, you have the power to shake things up!

A Brief Look at the Benefits of Email Marketing for Publishers

Hand-drawn building plans for the Paris headquarters of The New York Times. Overlaid text reads, “The Perks: Why Publishers Need Email Marketing.”

If you’ve read other blog posts, you probably know what’s coming. Otherwise, I’ll let you in on a secret: I love starting with the benefits of email marketing. It’s the perfect way to get everyone on the same page and demonstrate why this longstanding tradition has become one of the world’s most dominant marketing strategies.

However, I’ve also run this topic into the ground! I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a devoted fangirl of email marketing, and nobody needs to hear all that! We’re all busy business professionals, and time is precious. So, I’ve condensed my usual spiel into three key points:

  • The Reasoning: Why is email marketing helpful for publishers? Here, I examine some of the marketing challenges facing the industry.
  • The Audience: This portion of the blog post is a quick rundown of how email marketing delivers targeted experiences.
  • The Heavy Hitters: Finally, these are the must-know benefits of email marketing for publishers, though many of these points apply to every industry.

The Challenges of Marketing Your Publishing Business

Anyone running a publishing business can tell you about the stress and heartache of the past few years. While everyone was impacted by the pandemic, the humble publishing industry was one of the heaviest-hit sectors. Many bookstores were forced to close for good, and this stubborn industry was finally forced to adapt to the modern era.

Once-bustling bookstores now struggled to attract more than a few customers. At the same time, audio materials exploded in popularity. In 2019, podcast profits boomed 94%. Similarly, in the first half of 2020, sales of audiobooks in Britain grew 42%.

Every publishing business also saw a massive shift in shopping habits. 48% of book sales were online between January and April 2020.

Now, the business plan focuses on retention over sheer attraction.

That’s not to say acquisition is irrelevant. In fact, the opposite is true! Customer acquisition is more important than ever, yet rapidly evolving views on consumer privacy are making it more difficult to generate high-quality leads. Marketers must also contend with preemptive privacy compliance — namely, Google’s long-awaited destruction of third-party cookies and Apple’s iOS 15 update.

Many publishers have also noticed the slow subscription fatigue slide. Consumers have grown increasingly weary of the many subscriptions required to consume their preferred media. As prices rise, many customers are forced to choose between x or y services, and publishers are often on the receiving end of consumer budget cuts.

How Email Marketing for Publishers Benefits Customer Relationships

Here’s the good news: Email marketing can reinvigorate consumers.

Regardless of the specifics, email marketing strategies are a multi-pronged powerhouse capable of…

  • Amplifying Brand Awareness: It’s no secret that publishers are struggling to raise awareness. Fortunately, a steady drip of well-timed email marketing campaigns can renew interest and boost brand awareness.
  • Increasing Customer Retention: Once you have your target audience, email marketing excels at retention. With a bit of work, you can easily keep your consumers interested in your brand.
  • Meeting Expectations: The vast majority of consumers — a whopping 72%! — prefer email marketing over other channels, including social media.
  • Targeted Marketing: Modern email marketing platforms have plenty of ways to segment your audience and target those high-yielding customers.

Notably, this strategy works for old and new subscribers. It’s the perfect way for newcomers to gain a foothold, yet it allows established publishers to maintain a solid grip on the market. Summarily, email marketing truly is one of the most versatile marketing strategies!

What Else Can Email Marketing Do for Your Publishing Enterprise?

Of course, those aren’t the only shining qualities of email marketing.

This technology has a way of allowing publishers to reach even the loftiest goals. A skilled strategist can craft campaigns to match any need — from sales and outreach to awareness and event promotion.

A Washington Post email. The header reads, “The Biggest Stories. The Best Prices.” The campaign offers a subscription for 99 cents.

I’ve already touched on many benefits, but there are still a few more left, such as…

  • Adaptability: Emails work well with any marketing channel. Use that weekly newsletter to nudge subscribers toward your social media presence. Deploy a sales campaign to boost revenue. You can even use email marketing to generate website visitors!
  • Affordability: Email marketing is the most cost-effective solution to your marketing woes. More importantly, its low upfront cost hides a highly profitable center. Today, the top email campaigns can earn a 4,400% ROI (or more)!
  • Consumer Convenience: 75% of Americans own a smartphone. That’s a massive audience, and they’re just waiting for your personalized newsletters.
  • Profit: Ultimately, the bottom line matters the most. Don’t worry, though! Email campaigns have consistently high conversion rates, and their sales are often triple the value of equivalent social media efforts.
  • Simple Management: Email marketing is a remarkably simple process. Even without its advanced features, publishers can create and deliver high-quality exclusive content without lifting a finger. With the right analytics base, email marketing becomes a powerful tool with on-demand reports of your business’ progress.

Tips and Tricks to Delight Your Target Audience

A blurred envelope with stamps. “Tips & Tricks: Amplify Your Marketing Strategy.”

With that said, I must emphasize that email marketing is far from simple. It’s a multi-layered process of creation, destruction, analysis, and — perhaps — a bit more destruction. A single effective email marketing campaign requires hours of research and planning to make it palatable. That’s not even touching the work to create personalized email marketing.

Yes, it can amplify your business plan with its rich reporting features and intuitive analysis of first-party data. Of course, it can give existing subscribers delightful surprises and targeted deals. And it will even handle the screening to deliver consistently relevant content. It does all of this, but you must still do the work and research.

So, how can you get more value from your email marketing campaigns?

1. Know Your Audience

A chess board. “Tip #1: Know Your Audience.”

An email marketing tool may be powerful, but hands-on awareness of your audience’s preferences is marketing gold. Everyone — from digital publishers to law firms — must know their target audience. Otherwise, you’re spamming people with irrelevant content.

And what does that mean?

Well, what would you do if you were inundated with useless emails? You’d block and report whoever is sending emails! Now, for businesses, this means two things. The first is a loss of efficacy. Even the most thoughtful marketing campaigns fail if they go unopened. The second is a loss of revenue, as each email costs money to develop and deploy.

(If it happens often enough, you may even end up on a blacklist! But that’s a topic for another post.)

The Audience Awareness Hierarchy of Needs

You’ve probably heard of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, that oft-memed-upon triangle of human requirements. However, I’m about to invoke it for marketing education. Much like that triangle, email marketing requires cascading levels of audience awareness. From the large base to the narrow point, the marketing audience triangle looks like this:

  1. The General Audience
  2. The Target Group
  3. The Cliques
  4. The Individuals

General campaigns — like the Washington Post Black Friday campaign — can be sent to everyone, fulfilling your “General Audience” category. They’re non-specific marketing pushes that anyone will appreciate. However, your focus narrows as you increase your specificity. So, let’s move a step up.

Next, we have our “Target Group.” Though still wide-reaching, the target group is more specific. Perhaps it’s broken down by gender or geographic region. Alternatively, you might segment this audience by determining their preferred reading length.

Got that?

Great! Time for another step.

Your “Cliques” are like your stereotypical high school tables. Instead of jocks and preps, however, publishers will likely group subscribers by genre or preferred author.

Finally, we have the individual level. This isn’t entirely necessary. In many cases, you’ll use a platform’s advanced features to reach this level of granularity. However, it’s a handy way to deliver personalized lists or recommendations to loyal email subscribers.

How Audience Influences Your Email Marketing Campaign

Now, I want to illustrate this concept.

Think of that triangle again.

Let’s fill those blanks in with a few ideas!

1. The General Audience

This is the largest segment. Here, you’ll likely be sending emails that promote widespread sales or announcements. Common examples of general-use campaigns include welcome emails, seasonal discounts, and informational email efforts.

2. The Target Group

Now, dig a bit deeper.

It’s up to you to decide how your email strategy handles granular segmentation, but I’ll offer a few examples. Of the many ways to segment your audience into broad groups, you may choose to group subscribers by…

  • Demographics (e.g., gender or geographic location).
  • General preference (e.g., podcasts versus books or audiobooks).
  • Payment plans (e.g., free tier, paid plans, and premium plan users).
  • Length preferences (e.g., novellas or epics).
  • Subscription preferences (e.g., regular email newsletters).

3. The Cliques

You’ll eventually reach a point where you must provide more detail. Recipients of these emails are likely long-time readers and loyal customers. Thus, you want to deliver an exceptional experience. Many of these campaigns will likely include recommendations or personalized newsletters.

Some examples of this level of sorting include grouping by…

  • Genre (e.g., drama, romance, etc.).
  • Media “type” (e.g., comfy, suspenseful, or relaxed).
  • Preferred author.
  • Preferred podcasters.
  • Topical interests (e.g., current events, true crime, and media analysis).

Notably, most of this information will come from your existing sales and subscriptions.

4. The Individual

Finally, we reach the individual level of email marketing.

This is where you tailor every element to fit the recipient. Many individually focused campaigns offer unique discounts or personalized recommendations. They’re designed to look custom-made without requiring the same amount of effort and input.

2. Let Users Choose Their Experience

A Japanese classroom with long tapestries flanking the blackboard. Overlaid text reads, “Tip #2: Let Subscribers Choose.”

Speaking of personalization, one of the best ways to guarantee a new subscriber loves their experience is by allowing users to set their preferences. It sounds complex, but most email marketing platforms now allow for simple customization of opt-in forms.

Aside from being a convenient way to handle your behind-the-scenes email automation, this customization provides customers with a way to control their own narrative.

For example, you may ask customers to tell you their favorite genres or select their favorite podcasts after subscribing. Alternatively, you may offer a simple way to opt-in to or refuse your newsletter.

The Power of Relevance

Obviously, this approach gives customers the best experience. If they don’t want to see romance novels, they simply opt out of those emails. They avoid what they dislike and reap the rewards of valuable content.

However, you can implement this on a systematic level, too!

For example, your paying customers likely have a paper trail (forgive me for the pun) of prior purchases. These breadcrumbs are their digital imprint that reflects their individual preferences. Thus, they’ll receive more relevant information than potential subscribers.

Similarly, basic plan users may not have as many benefits as paid unlimited plan users.

Nonetheless, the method matters less than the result. You’re striving to deliver high-quality information that subscribers love. An email should increase the time spent on your site or promote an idea that helps your business thrive.

And it should do so in a way that leaves customers interested and wanting more!

3. Interweave Your Marketing Strategies

The Los Angeles skyline. “Tip #3: Use Your Other Channels.”

One of the best ways to generate that interest is cross-channel marketing.

Don’t be content with a self-contained email. Encourage subscribers to contribute to your social media presence and boost your website traffic! Promote digital or in-person events!

Remember: Email marketing is an “always on” channel, and it’s your job to use it to its full potential. Don’t waste the power of your email marketing service!

Drive Traffic to Your Website

A Blurb email encourages users to learn about publishing a non-fiction book in time for the school year. The call-to-action reads, “Get Started.”

Website promotion is a powerful tool that only gets better with age. Today, your web presence secures your brand’s status as an authority figure, particularly when it’s sitting comfortably at the top of those SEO rankings.

Unfortunately, maxing out those search index listings takes a lot of work and promotion.

Fortunately, your subscribers are a handy built-in audience. Let your audience know whenever you publish a new blog post or webpage! They’ll flock to your website and give you that much-needed attention, and — hopefully! — you’ll net some juicy conversions. This is also a handy way for publishers to drum up interest in new products or services.

Encourage Sharing

Naturally, most readers probably jumped right to social media marketing when I started this section.

There’s nothing wrong with that, but I must mention a much older method of marketing…

A New York Times email marketing campaign encourages subscribers to gift a subscription.

Yep, that’s right! Good, old-fashioned word-of-mouth marketing remains a powerful force in today’s economy. It’s a low-cost way to grow organic interest in your publishing business without selling your kidneys for new users.

I’m not saying that businesses should ignore social media. However, media companies must be aware of their roots. Despite its well-earned status as a powerful tool, social media platforms remain the modern Wild West of marketing strategies. They’re great for promoting your service but can just as easily be its downfall.

So, split your investments! Keep those social platforms open, but encourage that all-natural organic growth through readers’ inclinations to share what they love.

4. Invest in Professionals

Overlapping leaves. “Tip #4: Let the Pros Handle It.”

Alternatively, you can skip the headache and find a service to handle your email marketing needs.

The Email Marketers is my hand-picked team of email pros, and we’re always ready to tackle a challenge. We’ll work with you to build a customized marketing strategy that makes your business shine. And the best part? You don’t have to do anything! Just sit back, relax, and watch as you rise above those other publishing businesses.

If that sounds like something you’re interested in, schedule a free strategy session and prepare to see how our expertise can work for you!