Real Time Banter: How to Build a Robust Email Operation
In this Real Time Banter webinar, LiveIntent SVP of global marketing, Kerel Cooper, and VP of marketing, Nick Dujnic, speak with Josh Jaffe, general manager of Horoscope.com, about building a robust email operation, calculating the lifetime value of a subscriber, and innovating for lasting success.
Key insights from Josh Jaffe
As the largest astrology media company in the world, Horoscope.com reaches 25 million unique users per month. Its properties include Astrology.com, SunSigns.com, and a Spanish-language site, Horoscopo.com. They drive revenue through a range of channels, including display advertising, premium and syndicated content, paid subscriptions, and, of course, email newsletters, which reach more than four million active subscribers each day.
Horoscope.com’s team has proven that innovation and diversification are critical to lasting success.
“We’ve innovated our way to growth,” Jaffe said. “We’ve had very legacy infrastructure, editorial strategies, and design, and we really overhauled everything in the last four years to grow a lot.”
For example, when Jaffe first started at the company in 2016, they were still sending emails using their own email system.
“It was good because it was inexpensive, but it was bad because there was no targeting or analytics,” Jaffe said. “We were sending out half-a-billion emails each month because we didn’t know who was getting it.”
Once they onboarded a new email service provider and started working with LiveIntent, they saw an improvement in targeting, measurement, performance, and revenue.
“We’ve done those sorts of things across every aspect of our business to really modernize it and position it for growth,” Jaffe added.
This innovative approach also came into play when the pandemic hit and Horoscope.com had to revamp its content strategy.
“In mid-March we saw an almost immediate change in user behavior,” Jaffe said.”People weren’t commuting as much, when they’d normally check their horoscopes, and people were more concerned about their health than, say, reading about how their day might go. So we had to make some changes pretty quickly.”
To adapt, the publisher launched:
– A quarantine horoscope for navigating this new normal
– A streaming horoscope to find the best shows to watch while cooped up at home
– More campaigns promoting its games, which saw increased engagement
– A new content series on social media to foster a sense of community
– A subscription offering for premium content.
Which channel did Horoscope.com use to spread the word about these new initiatives? Email, of course.
“Email underpins everything that we do and every outcome that we want from our properties,” Jaffe said. “Everything we want the user to do, we can achieve that via email. We don’t have to go out and spend on Google or Facebook. We have already have our own marketing channel there.”
The publisher also drives 15% of its revenue from email through a mix of display ads and direct emails sent on behalf of advertisers – and that’s not even including revenue from people who convert to buy premium products.
As a result, email plays a critical role in calculating the lifetime value of a customer.
“At a base level, what most people might think of when trying to figure out lifetime value is: How much money am I making from the ads and the newsletter?” Jaffe said. “Yes, that’s where you start, but hopefully that’s not where you end, because that’s not the right number.”
Jaffe noted that they also have to take into account factors such as traffic driven back to your site, pages visited, the RPM of those pages, revenue from direct advertisers, conversions and purchases, and new customers driven to partner companies.
“In the future, as we start to ramp up marketing of our mobile app and our subscription offering, all these new means of earning that are being completely driven by email marketing, will go into the lifetime value,” Jaffe said.
Best practices for building an email strategy
- Start now. “If you don’t have an email newsletter strategy, to me, that’s publisher malpractice. You’ve got to start to build that direct relationship with your users. It’s not too late.”
- Decide what you’re optimizing for. “Do you want to optimize for revenue or engagement? Do you want to optimize for opens or clicks? That’s going to change over time depending on your business’s specific goals.”
- Test new ideas. “You can use email as a Petri dish for experimentation. If you’re a publisher thinking about exploring an adjacent topic, you don’t need to go through the process of setting up a new website or spending a lot of dev time. All you need is a writer or some source of content, and you can promote that to your existing users and send it out via email newsletter.”
- Find your rallying cry. “For us, it’s about helping our users find more community. How can they connect with each other and our editors and astrologers? It’s great because everyone on the team gets around it – editorial, operations, marketing, engineering, and product.”
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