Audience Engagement Digital Innovation
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Reach creates Email Innovation Lab: Partners with Google News Initiative to turbocharge newsletters

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“Local news is more important than ever”

As Peter Houston wrote in our 2021 Media Moments Report, “The power of email newsletters to drive audience engagement was fully exploited in 2021 and, as Jack Shafer put it in Politico: “Traditional media is going to ride this writers’ wave for all it’s worth”.”

For Reach PLC, the largest commercial national and regional news publisher in the UK, its focus on newsletters has been accompanied by a transformative surge in audience engagement and traffic, with newsletter subscribers visiting its websites 30% more than a standard reader.

In 2021, the publisher doubled down on its newsletter strategy and now sends out a staggering 300 newsletters covering topics as diverse as Liverpool FC football tactics to its parenting newsletter Lemon-Aid. David Higgerson, Chief Audience Officer at Reach, told WNIP last year:

Our page view increase was thanks to a number of factors (not least the hard work of our talented journalists) but our strategic focus on newsletters played a major role.

Email Innovation Lab

Reach is now taking its focus on newsletters one step further with the launch of an in-house Email Innovation Lab to accelerate its work in developing new ways to reach local audiences.

In partnership with the Google Digital News Initiative (GNI), Reach will work closely with Google to refine and hone its newsletter strategy as well as share learnings across its entire portfolio of titles, especially with regards to ‘digital infrastructure, analytics, and personalization’.

The Lab, led by Innovation Editor Paul Gallagher, will see the creation of 12 new roles including a team of dedicated newsletter editors who will be placed at the heart of selected regional newsrooms to work closely with the editorial teams. It will also involve a number of new launches around the UK including:

  • A series of ‘passion-based’ newsletters launched in and around Bristol focusing on communities of interest
  • Borough newsletters in Walthamstow and Croydon (as part of MyLondon, which recently surpassed its competitors to become the most-read London title)
  • A series of geographical newsletters launched in Lancashire 

According to Reach, the new daily bulletins will curate content ‘with a conversational tone to reach a new generation of readers, using audience data to inform what topics people most want to hear about’.

We now want to create local communities people can really be part of…It’s a privilege to be invited into someone’s inbox on a daily basis, and we need to keep working hard and innovating to retain that right.

David Higgerson, Chief Audience Officer, Reach

Benedicte Autret, Strategic Relationships, News & Publishers at Google, adds, “The Google News Initiative works side-by-side with publishers to build a more sustainable, diverse and innovative news ecosystem.

“Local news is more important than ever, and we are happy to support Reach as it experiments with personalized newsletters to increase reader engagement in its local communities.”