Editor & Publisher

7 best practices for effective email newsletters

Optimizing newsletters, from subject line to testing to data analysis

Email newsletters continue to be one of the most powerful newsroom tools, regularly connecting publications with their audiences and encouraging readers to develop a habit and establish loyalty toward a news organization. Looking to spruce up a newsletter or planning a new launch? Here are some tried and true strategies for optimizing newsletters that publishers can put into place today.

1. Focus on subject lines

Inboxes are cluttered, so it’s no secret that having an attention-grabbing subject line is key to getting readers to open an email altogether. Use A/B testing to try out various styles and determine what your audience responds to, whether that means including emojis, providing a sense of urgency or simply offering concise recaps of the stories inside the email. It may take a few extra minutes of someone’s day to craft a compelling subject line that’s specific to each newsletter send, but the reward will show up in the form of increased open rates and a better understanding of the interests of readers. Keep subject lines 40-50 characters, and don’t forget to use preview text as another way to tease what’s inside.

2. Review newsletter CTAS

For publishers focused on reader revenue, newsletters are a proven path to conversion, so don’t squander the opportunity to ask readers for their support each time you enter their inbox. Include big, bold call-to-action buttons in a color that contrasts with your design. Link these CTAS directly to your donation/subscription page and keep the language on the buttons simple — “Donate today,” “Support our work” or “Subscribe.”

3. Be a member of your own audience

Put yourself in the shoes of readers to ensure newsletters are looking good and functioning as expected. Ask multiple members of your team to sign up for each editorial newsletter or welcome series, and remember to review on various email clients (Outlook, Gmail, etc.) and using various settings, such as in light or dark mode, and on various devices. While most newsletter production and test sends likely happen on a laptop or desktop computer, readers are increasingly viewing newsletters and news stories on mobile devices.

4. Improve accessibility

Audit each newsletter to ensure it is as accessible as possible for readers of all abilities. Audience members using a screen reader to consume a newsletter will appreciate the use of alt text descriptions for images. Avoid including infographics that are packed with words, unless the same information is repeated elsewhere. Copy should be at least a 14-point font and in a color that’s easily readable, with text leftaligned and links clearly identified using bold and/or underlined font.

5. Personalize the experience

Help readers feel connected to your organization by using personalization features. Include a custom greeting that pulls in a reader’s first name if available and consider making the reply-to address a real person on the team. For fully automated newsletters, try adding a personal message from time to time to promote a special event or ask for reader support.

6. Test regularly

Subject lines aren’t the only aspect of a newsletter ripe for testing. Try using split testing to see if readers respond better based on who the sender is, the calls-to-action in an email, images, preview text or another element. Use the results to hone your strategy and inform future sends.

7. Monitor data

Decide on a few key performance indicators, or KPIS, to monitor, with a focus on actionable insights to be taken from the data. For example, if open rates are lower than expected or unsubscribe rates shoot up for a particular email, study the subject lines for clues on what caused the changes and develop a plan to A/B test subject lines on future sends or try a new style of subject line for a fixed period of time before reviewing again. Keep an eye on the data and make a commitment to revise each newsletter’s strategy based on insights coming from the audience.


Bluelena was founded by a team of experienced newsmedia executives to create a sustainable future for independent local media through building and supporting subscription, membership and donation models for long term-success. Today, over two-hundred brands leverage our audience management platform, strategy consulting and marketing services to accelerate their digital transformation.






Editor and Publisher