Are you putting together your year-end issues now? Our top 10 stories of the year, etc. Gotta love them, they are so easy to toss together editorially and readers adore them.
Instead of choosing his personal top 10 faves for his year end issue, Brian Livingston, Editor of InfoWorld's E-Business Secrets newsletter, asked his techie for a report showing the issues and the individual stories that got the highest clicks from readers in the past year. The results surprised him:
1. Issue open rates (the percent of readers who opened an issue in their email) repeatedly and consistently varied by as much as 100% on a weekly basis. Although National holidays definitely affected readership, "newsy" times also made a difference. Livingston's most opened issue ever was his first published after 9/11.
Because of these dramatic variances, Livingston finds it more useful to track open rates on an averaged eight-week basis than on an issue-by-issue basis to determine how successful he is in pleasing readers.
2. Livingston's email newsletter features story summaries with links to read more back at the site. So, he also tracked the clicks on these stories. He found that although "serious stories like 'How to Avoid the Top Five E-Business Mistakes'" were heavily clicked on, "the click throughs for these things were dwarfed by the numbers for the more wild and crazy Web links," such as Steve Ballmer's now infamous monkey boy video.
Armed with this data, he's now planning a reader survey to ask, "Do my readers want me to produce a Wacky Web Week report, or do they just have a healthy interest in the lighter side of e-business?"
3. Livingston also discovered that for him position did not affect a link's click rate. In fact, often stories at the very bottom of a newsletter were 45% more likely to be clicked on than stories at the very top or middle! I suspect this is the case because his issues are always structured into three sections: top stories, tech reviews and top 10 links. As readers get used to the sections, they naturally scroll to their favorite each week, ignoring the others.
This is good news for newsletter ad sales because it gives you data you can use to convince advertisers to take a lower position than the much-vaunted top one.
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