E-mail Newsletters Much Less Attractive

Over the past few years, we've advised clients to rely less on e-mail newsletters, de-emphasizing the channel in favor of web advertising and other approaches.  The main reason is that the metrics, billing and delivery mechanisms are broken, making e-mail newsletters a much less effective advertising vehicle than they were in the past. First, with respect to delivery, I don't know how many media planners can recommend e-mail newsletters with a clear conscience when Microsoft e-mail clients have been blocking graphics as a default since Outlook 2003.  Many other e-mail clients have tried to deter spammers by blocking graphics, citing the notion that spammers use tracking pixels to determine if their spam campaigns have reached valid e-mail addresses.  Guess what?  Legit e-mail marketers track open rates and valid addresses in pretty much the same way, so the attempt to nail spammers caught legit e-mail marketers and publishers in the crossfire.

Yet, publishers expect media buyers to pay based on the number of e-mails they deploy.  Open rates have plummeted, and it's not uncommon for publishers to come in here and quote open rates of less than 25 percent.  When someone comes in pitching a product that less than a quarter of the audience actually sees, I think three things:

  1. How ridiculously silly...
  2. The CPM is four times what it should be
  3. The reach is a quarter of what it should be

We've had some good successes with text newsletters, and in some cases we've made arrangements with publishers to pay on a CPM for impressions successfully delivered (according to our ad server).  I just can't understand how media buyers and their clients should be expected to pay full price for something that doesn't reach the majority of the people sellers claim it reaches.