The problem with email newsletters has always been that they are (mainly) text-content -- i.e. stuff people read.
But, according to publishing industry studies, fewer than 10% of the public really honestly enjoy reading. They may read because they have to, but it's not the way they truly prefer to receive information. (Think about it -- would you rather talk to a friend or read an email from them?)
In the business world, studies have shown that the executives who read trade journals, white papers, and online content are generally a different group than those who attend trade shows. If you target "readers" alone, you're missing a large segment of your target demographic.
You're missing "viewers" and "listeners."
Gary Drenik at BIGresearch worried about this for the custom newsletters his company created for consumer packaged goods firms to send to retailers. The content was wonderful -- lots of fascinating factoids. But fact is, many retailers and sales reps are just not of the "reader" mentality.
Drenik says, "I needed a way of getting beyond two and a half pages of text and pie charts to bring information to life. People are used to seeing things on TV. They don't want to look at numbers and charts." CAMPAIGN
Drenik started researching and testing prototypes of a streamed TV-style video in Fall 2003 (see below for samples and links to vendors). He launched his first video newsletters both for his company and for several Fortune 500 clients in early 2004.
Here's how his TV-style newsletter works:
-> Step One: Write and send your regular newsletter
Drenik's team still writes and sends opt-in names the standard monthly HTML email newsletters they did in the past. This way the "readers" in the audience still get information in a format they prefer.
-> Step Two: Turn the long newsletter into a video
Drenik hired a local video production crew and had their trained scriptwriters turn the long newsletters into video scripts for an average three-minute video. He tells the scriptwriters which are the hottest stories so they know what to focus on and what to cut.
The final approved script includes camera angles and videographer direction in addition to the words to be read. (See sample below.)
The team selects and hires a local TV anchor or TV reporter to moonlight on the side as the official video newsletter presenter. They try to match personality to the brand personality of the company that will be sending out the newsletter. They also look for stability -- is this an on-air personality who'll be staying in the area for a while so they can be counted on for the long haul?
Then final edited video is transferred into a format which can be streamed from a Web site. Drenik insisted on a format that did not require the use of a player, because he knew it might be a hump some newsletter recipients are unwilling to pass over. Getting the information had to be as easy as turning on your TV, with no possible tech challenges.
-> Get the video out to opt-in names
Although rich media such as streamed video can be sent via email, it doesn't work with all recipients' email systems, especially those in corporate America. Drenik decided to take no chances.
Therefore, he posted the video on a Web page, along with a textual transcript of the information (for folks who might want to listen and read) and emailed the list a link to the page.
The emailed announcement was ultra-simple to avoid filters, and to look as non-promotional as possible. It was text-only, and only a few short words plus a hotlink. (Link to sample below.)
Depending on which brand's newsletter it is, the click rate for the text-only video briefing message is 25-34% on average. (That's the percent of total names sent to that clicked through to the video briefing Web page.)
Many newsletters would be happy with an open rate that high; to get a click rate that high from total names sent is unusual -- and indicates both high user interest and viral pass-along.
Plus the average clicker spends 8:57 minutes on the landing page, indicating they've both seen the video and been intrigued enough to then spend more time reading the textual content as well.
These click and time spent rates are consistent month after month.
All of the lists BIGresearch sends these newsletters to, including their own, had circulation surges for the first three issues they published. In one case a list went from roughly 500 names to 3,500 names in 90 days entirely from pass-along sign-ups. Then the viral surge tends to subside as forwarding reaches the natural envelope of an interested niche community. The 3,500 newsletter now adds about 100 new names per month.
This is the type of surge we used to see in the early days of traditional email newsletters, back when they were new and exciting. What a pleasure to come across it again!Useful links related to this story:
Creative samples including a regular "reader" email, the actual video script created from it, and a "video briefing ready" announcement: http://www.marketingsherpa.com/bigresearch/ad.html
SOS Video Communications - the vendor BIGresearch uses to create the videos: http://sostv.com/
Clipstream - the online video streaming tech BIGresearch uses (which does not require the visitor to have a specific player to view): http://www.clipstream.com