For years, we’ve heard many industry experts proclaim that email is dead, especially when it comes to reaching younger audiences. As social media burst onto the scene and gained billions of followers, publishers soon flocked to these channels as a way to reach Gen Z and Millennials (GZM) and take advantage of the interactive capability. In fact, platforms like Facebook even encouraged it, wooing publishers to bring their news to the newsfeed.
And then the proverbial wall on the garden began closing in. With a policy change and a tweak to the algorithm, Facebook deprioritized publisher content, dropping it off the newsfeed in lieu of user-generated content. And for any content shared on the platform by users that generated referral traffic for publishers, Facebook kept a lock on the user data, preventing publishers from gathering insights about those audiences. Without that insight, publishers have had no way of re-engaging them to bring them back. Which means Facebook benefited from publishers’ content, but it was very much a one-way relationship.
Fake News Foils Facebook
Then along came fake news. By failing to responsibly monitor content shared on its platform, Facebook became a cesspool for misleading and flat-out false information that destroyed its credibility. Despite the majority of GZM admitting they rely on social media for news and information, paradoxically, they admit they don’t trust it.
Only 1 in 5 Gen Z and 1 in 4 Millennials are confident that news they see on Facebook is credible, and nearly half of Gen Z (47%) and 4 out of 10 Millennials (39%) say they’re not confident or they don’t use Facebook at all. And, Facebook isn’t the only social platform with a credibility problem. Confidence in Twitter is about the same: fewer than one-fourth of GZM says the Twittersphere as a credible source of news.
Publishers Have the Advantage
To be fair, social platforms aren’t solely responsible for the lack of trust. Part of the issue is misguided user expectations. These platforms were never really intended to be news outlets. They’re gossip, lifestyle and entertainment venues. They’re essentially the playground at the elementary school. It’s where people play games, talk about what’s going on in their lives and show off a little. If you missed math class, you wouldn’t ask the kids on the playground to teach you the new material. You’d go to the reputable source: the teacher.
Too many users rely on random people in the Facebook playground for news and information. And too many of those armchair experts take advantage of it, spewing misinformation sometimes just to see who they can get to take the bait.
By contrast, nearly 2 out of 3 GZM users turn to publishers’ websites for their news with nearly 95% expressing confidence that the news they read there is credible. That means publishers have a tremendous opportunity to rise above the playground gossip, to leverage their position of authority and trust to build a more direct, 1:1 relationship with GZM audiences, over channels they control.
Email is the Answer
That’s where email comes in. Far from being “dead,” email is still a primary channel for reaching GZM. Nearly 80% of Gen Z and 93% of Millennials say they check their email at least daily and 50-60% say they check it several times a day.
And email is a trusted channel, far more so than social, an attribute publishers can capitalize on to build an engaged subscriber audience. Among those who subscribe to email newsletters, loyalty, trust and content relevancy are the top three reasons for doing so, and more than half of GZM say they’re already reading the publishers’ site anyway. Emailing them the day’s headlines or a curated selection of relevant content based on their known likes and interests just makes it that much easier for them to engage.
In fact, over half say they would sign up for multiple topic-focused newsletters from a trusted publisher, which suggests the age-old fear about sending too much email is unfounded if the content is relevant and personalized to subscribers’ interests.
Maximum Engagement through Personalization
And unlike third-party gatekeepers like social media, email allows publishers to communicate directly with GZM audiences. With no algorithmic middleman controlling when, how or what content users see, publishers can be sure their content reaches the right audience at the right time over the right channel. Even better, because publishers can tap into users’ click-thru behavior through email, unlike social channels that withhold user data, they can learn more about what subscribers like and what they want. This allows them to send even more personalized, relevant content, which elicits more engagement and even more precise personalization…and the cycle continues.
In fact, that’s exactly what GZM audiences want: 66% and 63% of Gen Z and Millennials say they want personalized content based on their behavior and interests, and they’re OK with publishers tracking their behavior in order to deliver it. Contrary to social, where user data is routinely collected, exploited and sold without their knowledge and no way to opt out, nearly 80% of GZM audiences are OK with publishers tracking their behavior when they trust the publisher, the publisher is transparent, and the data improves their experience through personalization.
Beyond Engagement to Monetization
Aside from giving publishers a direct way to engage GZM audiences with personalized content, email also enables publishers to leverage this inherent trust to drive new revenue. The notion of “conveyed trust”—where users trust the brands who advertise within publications they trust because they trust the publisher—is a powerful advantage for email. Considering that 75% of GZM users refuse to pay for digital content or email subscriptions, they clearly recognize that monetizing through advertising is necessary to generate the revenue publishers need to stay in business.
Nearly 3 out of 4 GZM users say they’d rather see ads and get free content than to pay for it. Even better, 65% of Gen Z and 75% of Millennials say they’ll click on the ads in email newsletters if they trust the sender, and they’re more likely to do so if it’s relevant and personalized.
That makes email a powerful channel not only for engaging audiences, but also monetizing that traffic—all while cultivating a direct relationship with a highly sought-after demographic.
Despite naysayers and new channel competition, it’s clear that email remains an effective, enduring stalwart of the digital age. And, as publishers face new pressures from the failings of social platforms and paywalls, along with the demise of cookies, implementing a sophisticated, personalized email newsletter program is a critical strategy for publishers to ensure continuity and survival of their business.
About the Author: Jeff Kupietzky serves as CEO of Jeeng (formerly PowerInbox), an innovative technology company helping companies monetize their email newsletters through dynamic content. Before joining PowerInbox, Jeff served as President and CEO at Oversee.net, managing worldwide operations and building Oversee’s owned and operated portfolio of domain names into one of the world’s largest, establishing the company as the leader in Internet real estate. Under his leadership, the company diversified into lead generation, building several high growth and high margin businesses. Before that, Kupietzky served in leadership positions with X1 Technologies, Digital Insight (Intuit), Siebel Systems (Oracle), and Loudcloud/Opsware (Hewlett-Packard). Jeff began his career as a consultant for McKinsey & Co., developing business strategies for software, insurance and banking clients. A frequent speaker at Digital Media conferences, he has also been featured on CNN, CNBC, and in many news and business magazines.