‘The inbox is tough real estate’: The New York Times expands international newsletters

The New York Times is launching a limited-edition newsletter for the U.K. that’s dedicated to demystifying U.S. politics ahead of November’s midterm elections.

The “Abroad in America” newsletter, which launches next week, will be written by Sarah Lyall, an American Times journalist and longtime U.K. resident. London-based illustrator Dominic Kesterton will design the artwork.

The Trump bump has boosted subscriber bases for many American publishers, but has also driven international growth. Rather than competing on U.K. politics, the Times is trying to use its American perspective as a competitive advantage.

“We’re trying hard to expand outside the U.S.,” said Elisabeth Goodridge, editorial director of newsletters for the Times. “It makes sense for us to do something like this during such an important time in U.S. political history. We’ve never had a president like Trump before, and there is so much happening from state to federal level.”

The newsletter will be distributed twice a week and will feature a core 600-700 word article from Lyall, links to related midterms stories from the Times and responses to reader questions. “We have realized that a good newsletter is a two-way communication,” Goodridge said. “It’s not about pushing our journalism out into the ether. We want to demonstrate our relationship with the readers.”

Goodridge wouldn’t share the total number of sign-ups for the newsletter, but said that it had already hit its halfway goal, with 85 percent of sign-ups coming from outside the U.S. The Times has 4.8 million monthly visitors in the U.K., according to comScore.

Newsletters are a useful tool for publishers seeking to build reader habits and turn readers into paid subscribers. The Times’ international digital subscriber base accounts for 15 percent of the publisher’s digital news subscriptions (not including its crossword or cooking subscriptions). Total digital subscriptions are now at 2.9 million, according to the publisher. The Times has found a direct correlation between those who subscribe to any of its free 55 global newsletters and those who convert to paying subscribers. A total 14 million people subscribe to its newsletters overall; Goodridge wouldn’t say how many have converted to subscriptions.

“The New York Times is unique amongst traditional publishers,” said Alice Pickthall, analyst at media analyst Enders. “They have successfully broken out of their regional market and now have significant international demand. Targeting U.K. readers of The New York Times, who are concerned with U.S. politics, will sit well within their strategy to further international demand for their products.”

The newsletter is being treated as an experiment. It will run until Nov. 11, after the midterms end. The team will then assess what’s worked and where to launch future U.K. and Europe-specific limited edition newsletters, according to Goodridge.

“The inbox is very tough real estate to get into. You’re competing with emails from your kids’ doctors. What we offer has to be invaluable information. We will experiment with the structure and look at how people respond,” said Goodridge.


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