This byline was originally posted on What’s New in Publishing

Several major market forces have brought newsletters to the forefront of the Associated Press strategy. As a not-for-profit, we’re focused on objectivity, truth and relevance for our audience. While our core values won’t change, the world is changing, and The AP is creating new approaches to delivering content to maintain our brand while growing our reach.

Newsletters provide us with the ability to diversify our content and reach new audiences as we foster a direct relationship with readers and collect valuable first-party data for a cookieless future. For any media brand with similar goals, newsletters provide a relatively affordable, nimble and profitable way to ensure future growth.

Expanding The Associated Press to new territory

As our VP of Global Marketing, Julie Tucker, likes to reinforce, ”We must continuously pursue new ways to expand our reach in a thoughtful way. Newsletter’s barrier to entry, reach, and engagement is not just a nice to have — it’s essential.” Given we have such strong relationships with our readers, even our more lighthearted news content is widely read, circulated, and liked. 

This discovery was particularly important to our success over the past several months as the pandemic unfolded. First, we saw record numbers of readers turning to us for reliable reporting on COVID-19. As months of isolation ticked by, these same readers —and new readers — were looking for a reprieve from the “harder” news. Aware of this desire, we began to take a much more proactive approach to include content from our Oddities, Entertainment, and Sports categories. These articles can be, and are, wildly popular because it provides readers levity in difficult times.

Newsletters have become the perfect way to test our content expansion strategy. We introduce new concepts in our newsletter sign-up page with the label “coming soon.” Using Sailthru’s robust data reporting capabilities, we see which topics garner the highest levels of interest, and once we reach critical mass, we will create a category-specific newsletter.

For a publisher with a huge number of syndication partners, newsletters also offer The AP an opportunity to engage directly with readers. With the ability to personalize our emails, newsletters are an important channel as we expand our direct relationships with our audiences because of the captive nature of the interaction. 

Collecting quality insights

Another significant driver of our plan to reach more readers directly is our interest in building a robust first-party data strategy. Again, newsletters are a highly valuable channel for collecting data and building out user profiles. As such, we’re becoming much more proactive with our subscriber signup approach. We’re also being more thoughtful about how we incorporate newsletter subscription requests across our properties in order to maximize results.

Increasing ad revenue

In addition to a more exciting and engaging email newsletter experience, insights give us the ability to lean into more premium media sales approaches. While we currently earn most of our newsletter advertising revenue through programmatic channels, our plan is to reverse that trend and sell significantly more through direct sales – where advertisers require more audience insights. Newsletters not only give us useful audience insights, but also provide brands with unique advertising and sponsorship opportunities. 

Newsletters have traditionally been viewed as a “nice to have” or just another touchpoint.  But, now we’re viewing them more like a standalone product that deserves a marketing budget, cultivation and continued expansion. 

While newsletters are often the quiet, steadfast channel, for us, it’s becoming a major pillar of our future evolution. As a result of our approach we’re starting off 2022 north of one million subscribers and plan to continue expanding.

With social media facing issues with misinformation, for-profit news outlets competing for clicks, and readers looking for news in entirely new places like Instagram, TikTok and YouTube, Associated Press has an opportunity to reconnect people to trustworthy news content, and email newsletters are a big part of that.