Every reader has a birthday. The Northwest Florida Daily News turned that obvious fact into an email campaign that increased reader engagement, enlarged its database—and generated more than $80,000 in sponsorship revenue last year for the 20,000-circulation paper in Fort Walton Beach.
As described by Michele Walden, the GateHouse Media newspaper’s digital events and promotions manager, the Birthday Club campaign was designed from the start to be a year-long project with recurring revenue.
“To get started with a birthday email, you need to develop a database with your user’s birthdays,” she wrote in a report for Second Street, the a Saint Louis-based provider of private-label online promotions platforms for media companies. “While we had already been collecting birth dates through earlier initiatives and had a good amount to start with, we made a dedicated effort to continue to grow our database.”
Through print, digital and social media, the paper directed readers to a Birthday Club sign-up page, and sends out a quarterly email reminder of the club to everyone in its database, except those already enrolled.
Working with Dana Pruitt, the newspaper’s digital fulfillment and contests/promotions specialist, Walden incorporated coupons from local businesses. “Not only would offering coupons allow us to drive revenue from sponsorships, but by enticing our users with birthday offers, we’d keep them engaged with our paper,” Walden wrote.
Those enrolled in the Birthday Club receive two emails with special offers on the month of their birthday, one on the first day of the month and a reminder during the third week of the months.
For sponsorships, the Northwest Florida Daily News set up 12 advertising categories and sold exclusive sponsorships in each of the categories. Annual sponsorship packages were priced at $1,000 a month with a required 12-month commitment. Packages include the monthly emails, promotions on the Birthday Club site, annual print, digital and social media ads directing readers to the signup page, and monthly ads for the sponsors in print, digital and social media.
The campaign was a “huge win” in expanding its database, Walden wrote. In the first three months of the campaign, the paper nearly doubled its local database from 11,000 to 20,000. It’s averaging about 1,300 new users each month.
It’s been a big revenue driver as well. “Each month, we’ve been able to attract more and more advertisers,” she wrote. “So far, our email campaign has generated $80,000, and we’re hoping to generate even more. Plus, our sponsors have been able to see real results as users come in and use their coupons.”