One of my clients is a multinational manufacturing firm that has published its own “glossy” company magazine for years now. The multi-page periodical is published several times a year, in several regional editions including one for the North American market.
It’s a magazine that’s full of interesting customer “case histories” accompanied by large, eye-catching photos. The stories are well-written and sufficiently “breezy” in character to read quickly and without strenuous effort. The North American edition is direct-mailed to a sizable target audience of mid-five figures.
And I wonder how many people actually read it.
The reason for my suspicion stems from the time we were asked to produce a survey asking about readers’ topic preferences for the magazine. The questionnaire was bound into one of the North American issues, including a postage-paid return envelope. The survey was simple and brief (tick-boxes with no open-ended questions). And there was an incentive offered.
In short, it was the kind of survey that anyone who engaged with the publication even minimally would find worthwhile, and easy to fill out and return.
Except that (practically) no one did so.
The unavoidable conclusion: people were so unengaged with the publication that they weren’t even opening the magazine to discover that there was a survey to fill out.
In the world of company e-mail newsletters, is the same dynamic is at work? One might not think so. After all, readers must opt-in to receive them – suggesting that their engagement level would tend to be higher.
Well … no.
A just-published study titled How Audiences View Content Marketing, finds that company e-newsletters are just as “disengaging” as the printed pieces of yesteryear.
The study’s results are based on a survey conducted by digital web design firm Blue Fountain Media. Among the findings outlined in the report are these interesting nuggets:
- One in five respondents completely ignore the e-newsletters they receive, while more than half scan headlines before deciding to read anything.
- Two-thirds of respondents admitted that the main reason for opting in to receive e-newsletters is to take advantage of special offers or discounts, while only around 20% expressed any interest at all in receiving information about the company.
- More than half of respondents (~52%) feel that newsletter content is too “commercial” (as in “too sales-y”). Other complaints are that the e-newsletters are “tool long” (~21%) or “boring” (~19%).
Even more alarming is this finding: Approximately one-third of the respondents fell that e-newsletter content is so lame, it actually leads them to question using the product or service.
That seems like marketing going in reverse!
What Blue Fountain has uncovered may be indicative of another challenge as well: the diminishing allure of content marketing. Over time, readers have become cautious about accepting online content as the gospel truth; this research pegs it at two-thirds of respondents feeling this way.
At the same time, only about one-third of the respondents think that they can distinguish well between fact-based content versus content with an “agenda” behind it. And therein lies the basis for suspicion or distrust.
On the plus side, the research found that readers are more apt to engage with video content, so that may be a way for e-newsletters to fight back in the battle for relevance. But it still seems a tall order.
I address the topic of company e-newsletters in a second blog post to follow — stay tuned …