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Aug 15, 2000
Case Study

AIS Surprised by Email Newsletter Pass-Along Readership Revealed in Survey

SUMMARY: No summary available.

As we’ve noted in a past MarketingSherpa issue, Atlantic Information Services (AIS) is a traditional B-to-B health news publisher that decided to test the free newsletter publishing waters. AIS’ Internet marketer Jon Lowder wanted both to increase his success at selling advertising and to learn more about the readership of their free newsletter “Today in eHealth Business.”


Lowder decided to email a survey to all subscribers. “To get response up we kept the survey really short and only asked four questions,“ He says, “What kind of company were they (with 15 choices); what their title was (again with multiple choices plus the magnificent ‘Other’); How they used the newsletter - for research, new ideas and strategies, potential deals and partners, sales contacts, benchmarking competitors, general market research; and the fourth question was ‘How many others routinely get a copy of this forwarded by you.’”

Lowder worried about “scaring people off” with the fourth question so he worded it carefully. “We didn’t want people to think we were trying to find out who’s illegally taking content. So I added a line of copy saying, ‘We encourage you to forward your issues to others. It’s 100% consistent with our goal of serving as many professionals as possible.”


Lowder got “about a 15% response rate total.” (Note: ContentBiz knows some for-fee newsletters who get a lower reader survey response rate than that!)

Here’s the fascinating part. When looking over his results, Lowder discovered that about 10% of responders were strictly pass-along readers who weren’t in his subscriber database at all. And, while regular subscribers said they passed along copies to 2 people each on average; these pass-along readers said they passed the newsletter in turn along to an average of 2.5 people each! So pass-along rates actually went up at the secondary level.

Lowder did the math, “If you have 1,000 subscribers, they pass it along to 2,000 people. They in turn pass it along to 5,000 people. So your total readership is 8,000 people.” He noted, “It doesn’ go on forever. After a while it’s like closing a circle because some referrals will be to same person.”

We’re not sure if that math holds up to reality, but it’s sure an interesting theory!


Thanks to our sharp-eyed reader Sarah Stambler who wrote in to say about the above Case Study, "E-mail technology can do all that for you and scientifically too. No guess work or surveys needed. I suggest Lowder work with a state of the art e-mail provider."

Stambler is the author of "A Buyer's Guide to Email Service Bureaus and Software Vendors." More info at

There are a lot of email software providers out there, from FloNet to MessageMedia. Here are four of MarketingSherpa's favorite resources on this subject:

1. - useful Web site

2. "Poor Richard's Guide to Email Publishing" - great book

3. - free online email software that Seth Godin reportedly uses

4. - "Campaigner" low cost email software from some people we personally like a lot
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