Chris Sutcliffe: Over the past few years, we’ve seen the renaissance of email, as publishers and brands have rediscovered the benefits of that direct relationship with audiences. The power of email can be seen from the sky-high valuations of newsletter platforms, in addition to the amount of time that has been spent iterating on existing email strategies. But at the same time, the former has yet to truly deliver on its promise.

So a lack of investment in and understanding of the technology that underpins the most sophisticated strategies still holds it back. To discuss the realities of email, particularly around the thorny issues of monetising inventory while protecting user data, I’m joined by a panel of absolute experts, who I’m delighted to introduce now.

So please give a hand to Andreas Jürgensen, who is the CEO and co-founder of Passendo, Anders Rasmussen, who’s CEO and co-founder of Passendo, and Michael Ring, who’s VP of digital strategy at Access Intel. Thank you all so much for joining me to have this chat.

Michael Ring: Pleasure.

Andreas Jürgensen: Thank you.

Andreas, I wondered if you could maybe give us a quick introduction to why innovation around email advertising has stalled over the years, particularly given that there has been so much focus on it over the past couple of years, months, even decades?

AJ: Absolutely. Email is basically one of the oldest pillars of the internet. As the web and normal advertising on the web has developed on a lot of fronts, email has been standing still. The technical challenge for doing intelligent ad serving in email, it’s just different.

When you have a normal ad server that works on web, like we’re all used to, you’re very dependent on cookies, and you’re very dependent on JavaScript. Most of the big platforms out there providing ad serving are highly dependent on these and cannot really work in environments where these are not present.

What you need to do to be able to do this efficiently with email is to solve these challenges in a different way. How do you identify the users without cookies? How do we provide intelligence in the medium inside the page of the email you’re looking at without JavaScript? This is something that is now really important.

If you want to go and have a good strategy for how to commercialise, then you have tools that can actually do these things, so you have the control and transparency that you need to have a decent strategy as a publisher. So why this hasn’t developed is a good question. I think one of the reasons could be that email normally for traditional publishers might encounter anything from 5 to 10% of their total inventory.

But this is also typically inventory that could be put on top of what they already have, incremental revenue. So this not being addressed is now becoming an issue for many, many larger media organisations They need to address this to absolute maximise what they can get out of the different channels they own.

I see, I think that’s really interesting. The fact as well, that you spoke there about being additive, it’s still seen as a kind of a ‘nice to have’, rather than a ‘must have’. So Mike, what is that underlying reason why people still see it as a bit additive, and not something that they should be putting a lot of resources into?

MR: It’s a great question. And funnily enough, it’s something that we at Access Intelligence are trying to change our perspective, especially with our clients, now as we talk, because it was something that I think fell by the wayside in the past. It’s a lot of added value, a lot of people make goods and only throw it into a newsletter.

It was never really at the forefront of the product. But as things change, as there’s Apple privacy, as there are other privacy issues, or ad blockers, I think what we’re doing now in the industry is that we’re seeing the email itself move to the forefront. You’ve got a limited amount of inventory, and you’ve got an engaged audience. So it’s an opportunity to really bring value both to your audience and to your advertisers.

It was something that fell by the wayside. And that’s why it wasn’t additive. But I do think that, not just us at Access Intel, but I do think the industry itself is seeing that product, that piece of the puzzle, really become something that is much more the forefront of what the product set is and not so much the additive.

I think we can see the tangible benefits of that from the sheer amount of money that places like Substack, Revue, they’re investing in that direct relationship. So Anders, to what extent is the industry waking up to the value of this engaged audience via email again, and it hasn’t been something that you think has been neglected, particularly for the past couple of years?

Anders Rasmussen: I just reminded myself before our talk here that we’d actually be looking a little bit into how old email is actually used as a channel. We’re looking at it as it started before the internet was invented, which is back in the 70s, which is actually pretty interesting.

If you look at the whole story, I’m not going to go through all the decades here, but it’s an interesting journey from where it was invented by other things on military projects back in the 70s, to then in the 80s when the internet was invented, then in the 90s when everybody just stopped having an email and it suddenly started to become the internet’s key to digital life. And then from going there into a decade, where spam suddenly became an issue. Everybody was just sending email blasts everywhere and then actually, how this whole privacy issue suddenly became a challenge again.

And now we’re back to where we actually began, where email is coming a little bit back, becoming the key to digital life, which is pretty interesting. To answer your question a little more, I think there are a lot of answers to that. I think one of them is that it ties pretty much into that whole discussion that I know that companies like Mike at Access Intel, they are about building this whole subscription strategy. And this is not just email, this is across both web and email, and how to maintain the users and then the audience.

100%. You’ve touched on so much there that I know, we’re going to get into over the course of the discussion. But one of the things you really mentioned is this kind of idea that as we’ve moved back towards a subscription economy, particularly on publishers, they are looking to re-establish those direct relationships, and then monetize them in more uninteresting ways. So at the moment, do we think the publishers particularly are getting everything they can from the emails they send?

AJ: Absolutely not. I think it’s an underdeveloped area. And I think it’s an area where the resurgence that’s happening now is the resurgence for people who are on the forefront. I think the main body of publishers are still seeing that they need to do something, but they lacked the – I wouldn’t say the ideas to do it, but maybe the tools.

It has to come from the understanding that this is commercially viable to do. It’s something that we could talk about the decline of the trust off of normal display advertising on the web, people are saying, I see a banner here, I don’t want to click it, I’m afraid where my user data goes, all of these things. These things work different than email.

Email is a trusted channel between the sender and the recipient. When you have your email newsletter that you’re waiting for every morning to see the latest business news report, or whatever you’re seeing here, that’s a trusted channel, and that channel, not to commercialise it in some way, it doesn’t work in the long term.

As a publisher, you need to get paid for whatever you’re building. I’ve been in adtech for 25 years, we’re trying to keep the Internet free and this works in the same way. If you need to keep this trusted channel free, you need some other way of commercialising it. Advertising is just a strong thing to go and do here, especially if you get the right tech. So you don’t have taken data leakage and you have relevance being the top priorities for this. Those would be my top priorities.

I think there’s a massive body of publishers who are now realising that they need to go and do this and they need to find the right strategy for actually doing this without interrupting the trusted channel that email is and they’re already recognising that it is.

But the big question that naturally follows then is what is preventing publishers from doing this? What are some of those big impediments? You mentioned tools, that lack of awareness around what tools are available, or of how to implement them?

MR: There were a few things I want to unpack. One is Anders, that’s a pretty cool timeline that you just laid out before about email from start to finish, or where we are today. I love that, it’s awesome. That’s pretty cool. I kind of geeked out on them a little bit.

The other thing is to say is what Anders was talking about, I agree, as a publisher, as I’ve been on the publishing side, the majority of my career, we’re not doing all we can with email, we can certainly do better. And yeah, it’s a trusted source, but it’s also an additional way to stay relevant with your audience, right?

I think what they say about people having the attention span of a goldfish, so you really need to see something more than that one time to have it resonate. Especially in the B2B industry, where the content you’re reading relates directly to your job, your day in, day out job, it’s something that you really rely on. I think that’s why our clients are our advertisers.

As a publisher, they come to us as a trusted source. So to look at email as being, again, back to the additive art, it’s something that’s so important to just the overall media mix, that we need to be doing more. So I think that looking at privacy, again, looking at just how you can reach your audience, and how much is out there, it’s become so important to see how we can maximise our emails, how we can monetize them, how we can get better content, and get better audience interaction.

AJ: I think now we’re addressing a lot of the traditional publishers, I think there’s also a whole resurgence of publishers who email first, and were basically building strategies around email, and then web becomes secondary, or might not even exist in the mix for them. These guys have seen the light, in regards to this as a trusted channel of the future.

It’s easy for me to say, I’m in the middle of email, I build emails every day. But we really think that this is the emergence of something new and strong. And the publishers out there who are realising that they will win that game. Eventually, the big guys might catch up, but it’s going to take time and there’s ample time for new guys who are creative and who want to work with formats to go and gain market share and gain a trusted audience for communication.

So Anders then, what are some of the current impediments to actually addressing this, this issue of not fully monetizing, not fully making the most of your emails. Is there anybody who you think is overcoming those impediments really well?

AR: What I’ve seen that a lot of our most successful clients is that they have obviously used our tool to use it in a way that is somewhat similar to what they do on web, right? So to build commercial products, like you would do with your advertisers.

For example, you would go out and say, hey, would you like to buy 1 million email ad impressions across all our newsletters to talk about this one industry. And by the way, I’d like to use a frequency capping of ten and it should only be the people in Hamburg and Berlin area that should revisit that. That’s something that would be a very, very normal standard way of running an ad on the web. Now, this is something you can do with an email ad server, for example.

With a focus on privacy being so great at the moment, and users being slightly more aware of what is necessary around privacy, how are publishers protecting themselves, and not just themselves, but their audience as well, in this journey of email advertising?

AJ: I think it’s something where a lot of them have seen the light on the web. They would not allow to have some foreign tech from some independent platform running without knowing exactly what data is being exposed, what data is being leaked. I think a lot of publishers right now might be commercialising their email, but they might be using some tools for doing that data leak, left and right. You have to be conscious about that.

Because this is something that could ruin this trusted relationship you have with the end user, all of a sudden,.. You will see, I hope, the same focus on user privacy and trust of this channel, that needs to become apparent. Also, with the tool selection you have.

If you just choose some random commercialization tag and put it in your email, you receive a check every month, but you let the data leak and that becomes part of the products for the guys who are selling you the tag. That’s not something that’s compliant with the way we are thinking and what the whole European situation and the California situation where you have laws now coming in place where you need to protect the use of data.

You need to make sure that if you’re sharing the data, there’s a good reason for it and everything that can be anonymized should be anonymized. You could say a lot of cookie practices are way over the limit to what you would say is all right, and then you have the whole identity graph game, people who are building identity graphs, they might not use the cookies, but they’re still trying to fingerprint everybody.

For me, that’s very borderline – why do we do it? Who do we share the data with? For what reason? Does this really benefit the end user? For me, that’s the main question here to try to protect the end user, the privacy of the end user, and it’s a tool selection. Do not take this into account, and you have the wrong, crucial action. That’s definitely how I would put it.

I think there’s a lot more people who are a lot more focused on this on the web, than there are in email, but I think it’s coming for email as well. Otherwise, you know, the whole trusted thing about this channel will slowly wither away.

Yeah, absolutely. And in fact, that takes me back to something else, Mike, because before you were talking about that direct relationship and the trust that’s built around that. But when you are trying to build out new potential, you’re in email advertising solutions, how sure can you be that you are going to be compliant? What’s the best practice for making sure that you are protecting user privacy when you are developing these tools?

MR: It’s a great question. I think you have to start internally and say, alright, who are the right teams to bring in, who are the right people to understand your tech partners, your stack, and really trusting those partners themselves.

A big thing for us is when we bring someone into our tech stack, they go through a rigorous process. We are assessing them, we are looking at industry standards, we’re looking at how they themselves present themselves in industry, before we ever bring anyone into our tech stack. So I think really having a trusted technical platform is what’s really important for us.

And so when we work with our CDP, or ESP, or you’re working with anyone in those industries, really to sit down and understand where there could be data leakage and and how you could protect your your data, because, again, it goes back to your brand.

It’s not good for you, it’s not good for your clients, if you have your data leakage, so you really want to make sure you’re not hurting anyone. It’s really just important to understand who you’re including in that tech stack. And to address this point, you don’t want to just throw a tag on, you want to make sure you’re vetting your partners quite well.

Yeah, you’ve actually got to put the work in and can’t just take that kind of easy solution out. Well, we spoke about some of the potential downsides, that of doing it wrong, but what are some of the benefits that are specific to in-email advertising? And how do we communicate that to audiences who might not necessarily even be aware that it’s possible now, as to what are some of those benefits to email advertising are?

AR: First of all, email is an engaging media. That means that usually when people go in and they sign up to receive a newsletter about pets or whatever, it’s automatically targeted to people who are interested in pets. If you sign up to receive that newsletter, it’s on your behalf. So if you want to read the content in there, it’s usually also very content heavy about the topic, which means it’s not plastered with blinking banners everywhere.

And you are aware of who they are, I suppose more importantly, what they’re into, based on the fact that they are self-selected?

AR: Exactly. I think this is also probably part of an answer to why we see more and more publishers starting to build more and more newsletter verticals within different topics, because they really see this very, very strong and engaged audience that really specifically sign up to read about the salmon industry.

So it’s interesting that, because it sounds so complementary to what publishers are already doing, they are reaching these audiences directly, that allows them to sell to them, whether that be subscriptions, whether it be products, but at the same time, if you’re aware of who they are, you can push them to be serving them more relevant advertising, as well. So it’s not necessarily an additive thing, as it is already complementary to a current revenue strategy.

AJ: I think it used to be that email was exactly as you mentioned, it was a secondary thing. And it was sometimes a publisher tool to reach more subscriptions. You send out free emails, and then people become aware of your brand that they trust, and then slowly, they subscribe to the media. That’s not the case anymore.

Email is often becoming the main course, basically the entree, where it used to be the starter. And I think that’s a really important development. As an analyst mentioned, this is just a media where you have a strong, strong singular focus. People are basically looking forward to go and look at this email every morning, every week, every month, and they’re highly engaged.

This works well for the content, it works well for the advertising, and it also works well for the publisher and the end user. So if you do this, it’s a strong, trusted win-win chain. If you do it wrong, you’ll get no value whatsoever. Like anything in life, you have to go for it and the potential upsides are just too huge.

MR: When you look back at print magazines for these companies, it was all about the circulation – how did you sell to your advertisers, all about the circ. Once we start to become a digital company, what’s the avenue? It was all about the subscribe. I think that’s a very important fact is that it was all about boosting the subscription. So you can almost show it as if it were the same thing as subscribers, not that it’s apples to apples.

But that really has changed now. It really is about delivering the right content to the right audience and making that a meaningful experience, because that’s what makes that audience come back and want to be continuation of your overall audience for the brand. So, again, it goes back to being good for your audience, but also good for your advertisers.

I think it’s also fascinating as well, the idea that you spoke about the email as being a destination in and of itself as a trusted channel, but it’s also one that people look forward to because it’s digestible, it’s separate from the mania of the wider internet.

So the fact that you can put ads in front of these people in a place that’s conducive to their good mood, and it’s relevant to them is something that’s so powerful. It’s something that I know that a lot of our listeners are grappling with, is actually making sure that ads are relevant, contextual, and more importantly, enjoyable.

AJ: And let’s be honest, it’s like with any advertising: if you do it, right, it becomes part of the content, it becomes something where it’s content recommendation, where you’re basically helping people evaluate new products, new concepts, new services. If you do it wrong, it stands out in a horrible way.

So like every other advertising point, it’s really, really important to get the contextuality right and to get the right message in front of the right eyes. If you do it right, it becomes part of a greater whole, and it adds to the experience. Doing that right is super important, and that’s not easy to do, let’s be honest. It requires great depth, meaning that if you have two or three ads running in rotation in your email newsletter, you will have a horrible result.

But if you have a depth of 20, 30 ads running with frequency, controlled with first-party targeting with tighter control of the contextuality, you’re going to get really, really good results. But that’s a demanding task and it’s a task where it’s actually a little bit different from the web.

We normally have this analogy that when you’re doing advertising on the web, it’s like putting a net into an ocean. You’re fishing, and you can have the same message and you’ll have new fish coming by all the time. If you’re actually running advertising in email, it’s like fishing in a lake. You only have the same fish in the leg. So you need a much more advanced strategy by actually putting in the right rod at the right time and having a much deeper strategy for how to actually pull that off.

That’s such a good analogy. I like that, I’m stealing that, I’m going to use that. I suppose the question is how publishers at the moment how most publishers really monetizing their emails already, if I think back to the ones that I subscribe to, I typically see it through sponsorship deals. People will deploy a code to say, if you want to go to one of our partners and use this code, then that actually benefits us. So how are most publishers are doing it already?

AR: Obviously, we see that most of our clients are usually bigger publishers that are sending millions and millions and millions of emails. I think in our world, and no offence here, Mike, but this is what we already today call the old school publishers, and this goes back maybe 10 or 20 years when they started sending the first newsletters.

They would take the classical ad formats, formats that they were using on web, and they would just copy that the classical MPU banner, or the leaderboards and they were just placed that into the newsletters, and they would use that and think, well, if it works on web, it also works in email.

But if you look at the trends, and the tendency that’s going on today, with what you could call the new school, there was a lot of publishers that are actually challenging the format. They’re really trying to build formats that are really integrated into email and using the email as it is.

This is where all these new sponsorship format is coming in where you have sponsored at the top and then you would own whatever 100 characters of text further down that we explained more about the product. So I think we’re seeing a lot of things happening, in terms of formats there.

It’s crazy when you put it like that to think that publishers thought that it was equivalent to the web, to just plunk it down in the email. Imagine trying to sell that as a strategy now to somebody who was primarily using social and just saying, well, we’re just going to slap a banner right in the middle of your TikTok feed or whatever. It just wouldn’t work, and that was the philosophy back then. So Mike, you were going to follow up, think on what I was just saying?

MR: Anders knocked out of the park there. I’m coming from the B2B side, and I think the first thing to point out is that B2B is generally behind by some years from the B2C side. I’ve been on both sides of the industry, I definitely see the difference. However, we are catching up much faster than we used to.

When you look at sponsorship, we’re going back to the better ad. It was very easy to sell a package to a client and say, ‘give us one banner, and we’ll run it everywhere’. That was easy for the client, so it was easy for us. But that also has changed with the strategy of being more meaningful.

I like to pat myself on the back at Access Intelligence, give us a plug here, but I like to think that we’re trying to be at the forefront on the B2B side and really try to integrate new needs to advertise with our clients and our newsletters. You look at the past, the future, and how it’s being monetized now with sponsorships – it’s what’s easy.

I think the difficult part is breaking out of what’s easy, but still making it something that’s going to be a product that you commoditize for the future. And that is going back to your tech partners, seeing how they can allow you to evolve. It’s been what it has been for a long time, and now we’re in the middle of seeing that Renaissance again.

So in terms of breaking out from the easy, then, which I think is a fantastic phrase for this, what should publishers be doing more of? Andreas, what is something that is being left on the table at the moment?

AJ: The first thing is if you don’t have the right tech stack, you’re going to show the same ad to every recipient of the newsletter, which is just a horrible, horrible practice. The more you have people using your newsletter, you will build up an understanding of their preferences of what they want to see, what they’re interested in.

If you don’t have a tech stack that takes that into account, and then show you an ad that’s relevant for you, you’re doing it wrong. This even counts if you have deeply integrated innovative formats, you need something that’s able to do that. Also, on top of that, if you don’t innovate on the formats, like you guys just addressed, you’re doing it wrong as well. So those things need to be settled.

Then you need to have the right products there. When I say products, I mean, something that’s interesting for the advertisers. You need to have products that are engaging, you need to have something where you charge this in a manner that makes sense.

Saying you will get my email on Thursday, it’s going to be $10,000, I don’t know how many people see it, I don’t know many people click it – you’re not going to get a happy advertiser from that. Having relationships with lots of advertisers, either directly or through partners that have contextually relevant stuff for your newsletter, engaging formats, and then all your first party data in your platform, being part of the algorithm that selects the right ad at the right time.

That’s what you need to be doing, 100% and like you said, the example you gave though, just saying, well look, give us X amount of money and we’ll deliver potentially on something at some point, makes it just seem like a completely retrograde way of looking at things.

AJ: Many, many publishers are parked exactly there today, unfortunately.

Well, I was just about to ask then: why do you think more publishers haven’t made that move to automate in email advertising? Is it a lack of understanding? Is it kind of investment in time or cost? Is it that they think their current solutions are good enough? Because as we mentioned, the email Renaissance is only just getting underway in earnest. So do these publishers who are a little bit behind the curve, do they think that what they have is fit for purpose, even though it might not necessarily be?

AJ: This is sort of a yardstick of the agility of an organisation. If you’re doing the right thing here, you’re probably working in an agile organisation. And if you are stuck in the status quo, and not really working with the format, it’s probably a lot more cumbersome to get anything done in that organisation, that’s just really zoomed out.

We have guys coming onto our platform who have dreams and visions, they sign onto the platform, three years after, they’re still running MPU format in the top without really doing anything about it, and they have limited success. We try to help them, we try to educate them, we try to inspire them, but sometimes it’s just hard to get things done in large organisations.

So I’m not saying that how agile an organisation is, is the only thing that determines it, but our practices and our experience is that it has a good deal of influence on how successful you are with these things. We’ve been discussing for a long time, brand new platforms and traditional media and print going away, that created a lot of willingness to go and try stuff. But I think that willingness was not necessarily followed by the agility to go and build new products and invent new concepts, which is what you need to do.

I think what’s really interesting about what you’ve just said, is this idea that it’s not necessarily incumbent on the smaller, more agile companies to do this as well, it is important, in fact imperative, that larger organisations actually take a look at what they’re doing around any email advertising as well. So off the back of that then, what is holding the larger companies back?

We’ve had a couple of guests on Media Voices before, who said that it just takes a long time to get through layers of management, to get buy in from people who don’t necessarily understand what the tech is doing. So how would you actually go about convincing people that this is something that can be done and done effectively, with potentially less of an outlay than they think?

AR: Yeah, good question. I don’t think anything comes easy. Obviously, by adding an email ad server that would definitely help and give some of the answers on the way. Back to what Andreas was also talking about before, a lot of publishers are – I wouldn’t say missing the bigger picture, but I think it’s just how do we move a lot of the money from print over to online subscriptions.

A lot of the publishing thought leaders, they really see email as a very efficient tool to generate paying subscribers and converting them from the email to become paying subscribers, either as just a subscriber on the email, but also on the website. In general, using email as an engaging format.

For the newsletter that’s about whatever, wine, why not make a subscription about that, and then start converting. I think there’s a lot of opportunities, obviously. You can always start somewhere and you can start simple. That’s obviously the way to go forward, usually.

You touched on something I wanted to bring up, which is how wide can we go with this? What sectors can be taken advantage of in email advertising, more than just the straight news publishers? Is this something that could be done by even the smaller organisations who are pushing out emails to pre-existing consumers?

AR: I think there’s a huge long tail that needs to be addressed of people who are doing things that are a little bit outside of the traditional publishing. There’s a whole long tail of private clubs, organisations, nonprofits, that should be explaining this much, much more.

And of course, there is another big player in the room you’re not addressing now, which is called retail media. They have exactly the same challenge and I think 2022 is going to be the year of retail media, on many, many fronts, and we’re trying to address that as well.

We see a lot of interest in that, people who are basically saying, how can we automate a lot of the processes that used to be very hard and very cumbersome, where you have the same challenge of getting the right message into a newsletter based on every individual user. That’s what a lot of people are struggling to do today. When it comes to the long tail, I think it’s basically lacking solutions.

Hopefully, we’ll get to the point where you can go to your ESP, you can go to your MailChimp or whatever platform you’re using, and then you can drag a commercialization element in and then for your 500 subscribers, you might be able to generate $50 a month. But if your private blog club that can be free coffee for every member of the club? So there’s a huge long tail and there’s a few sectors that are also ripe for doing things here.

Yeah, it’s non-negligible revenue as well, if you are a smaller organisation, it could make such a difference. Mike, earlier, you mentioned that B2B was potentially a little bit behind the curve, in terms of B2B publishing – what is preventing more investment in this area?

MR: Everything that we’re kind of touching on, it’s an understanding, it is certainly layers of management, you have to have a staff who not only understands it, but who then can break it down and say, alright, how can we advance it? It’s very easy, I think, for a smaller publisher to say, hey, this is working, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right?

That’s the old saying, however it’s easier to do that, because you have less of a staff, you have less of an understanding. Working with people who can help you educate your teams and understand why this is a benefit, that’s really a big benefit, or a big issue as to why we haven’t seen the movement so quickly.

Also, as you were saying before, if it could be a canned solution, if it could be something very easy that could be implemented, I think you will see the market change much faster. There’s a lot of moving pieces, and it can make you want to pull your hair out. But if it’s a canned solution, it’s plug and play, I think you’ll see that the industry move much faster.

That actually leads neatly on to the next question, which is how do we all then see that publisher email sector developing? Is it going to be the development of those easier canned tools, as you said, Mike? Or is it going to be that there is going to be one or two big players who take the lead and really help steer this development? It’s always hard asking people to predict the future.

AJ: What we see right now is a lot of sponsorship platforms popping up where people are trying to basically facilitate, to be the market maker between supply and demand in this market. That has a lot of relevance at this point. I think there’s going to be a lot of consolidation, I don’t think we are in the consolidation phase for that yet, I think it’s still going to explode for at least a year or two, and then stuff is going to happen, it’s going to be consolidation.

Then maybe at one point, a big player comes in and will try to consolidate as much as they can into a bigger player. A lot of the time, we use the analogy that we’re trying to address a technology niche that’s been underserved. But we’re still following the trajectory that web advertising took for the last 20 years.

To be honest, how we see things now, a lot of the guys who are out there, we think that they are 10, 15 years behind what they’re doing technology-wise, we’re trying to only be five to 10 years outdated, compared to what’s out there. I think the guys who can catch up to the web as fast as possible, while preserving privacy, which is the biggest challenge for web, they’re going to be the winners.

I would love to position us there, but let’s see how the world plays out. There are other players out there trying to address this, but I think our privacy and technology first approach is probably going to be the winning strategy. It’s hard to predict, especially the future.

Yeah, I mean, definitely considering the amount of effort that’s been going on preserving user privacy, making sure that people are aware of the primacy of their own data, and where they can actually choose to deploy that data or not.

One thing that I wanted to touch on there, as you mentioned, that there might be an early mover advantage for the place you want to get in the space and really help define it in terms of the tech side. In terms of publishers, is there an early mover advantage in being one of the first consumer-facing organisations who does in-email advertising really, really well, and actually makes it a enjoyable, viable experience for consumers?

AJ: You are going to get all the nice benefits of email before everybody else. This means that you can evolve and develop faster than everybody else. This means that you basically have a head start. Let’s be honest, if you just have, 10 minutes of a head start on everybody else, that advantage just becomes greater and greater, it becomes a snowball, because you can innovate faster, and you can learn faster.

If you don’t try to spearhead this, you’re doing it wrong. You need to be out there experimenting, you need to be experimenting with newsletter formats, with ad formats with technology, with all of the things you need to be experimenting with. And then when you find out what works, keep innovating.

If you don’t do that, you’re going to get left behind. So you could say that if you’re static, you’re slowly getting left behind. Just standing still and waiting for I don’t know what, it’s not going to get you anywhere. So I think there’s a huge advantage, you’re going to see the future before everybody else.

MR: Yeah, I’d rather fail fast than be a late adopter.

You spoke there about being too early to market with this, but how do you measure the success of an email advertising campaign?

AJ: Excellent content. Including ads. Obviously, I think content is the key. Again, whatever topic the newsletter is about, we’ve talked about a few times already, you need to to maintain a healthy audience analysis there. It needs to be excellent at all times, and how do you measure that? The easy answer is open rates and churn rates, on the audiences, and for the advertisers, it’s about engagement, clicks and conversion rates.

AR: If I had one metric: open rate. You just set it on us. We see thousands and thousands of newsletters in our platform. If you are hovering at 30%, you’re part of the middle good set of guys. If you’re above that, you’re doing excellently. If you are less than 30%, you need to look at what you’re doing. That’s just to throw some stuff in there.

So if you’re looking for a single metric, then look at your open rate. 30% and above, you don’t have to worry, the house is not on fire. If it’s less than 30%, you’re probably doing something wrong. Those trends need to stay on track in the long term. You cannot judge if you as a publisher have the right advertisers after one or two setups.

But if you put down a strategy, and you evaluate month by month, and you see the open rate slowly moving one or the other direction, that’s the final measure of the quality you’re providing, because that means that people are really looking forward to your content. And if you have that situation, you’re doing it right.

Mike, how does that compare to B2B and B2C sectors, is there something that’s different between the two when it comes to email marketing in email advertising?

MR: Content is king. Look at all these subscriptions for TV networks, people subscribe to all of them and then never use any of them. So they start to cancel them out, and I think email is the same way. It’s an oversaturated market, and you really want people to want to be invested, to want to receive your email, or they’ll just opt out. So content is certainly king.

Looking at the metrics, opens and clicks, allows you to work with your team internally with your content team to say, hey, this is working or this isn’t working, and how do we drive them back? You have to look at the basic metrics to understand the bigger picture.

Nice. Absolutely. As we’re coming to the end of our discussion, I wondered if we could maybe wrap up by providing a five to ten year view on to what extent email is going to be a bigger part of the media mix in the future? Do we expect that it’s going to grow as the tech develops alongside it?

Do we think that the recognition now of that direct relationship is going to empower more publishers to invest? Do we think that it’s going to become a bigger part of the revenue mix even? So to what extent do we think that email is not just here to stay as part of publishers’ revenue strategies, but will grow over the next five to ten years?

AR: That’s a heavy one. I could quote you a bunch of statistics, there are many different sources. But you know, if you combine them, then we’re looking at about 300 billion emails every day. And that includes everything. So there’s a lot of unserious, there’s a lot of status mails, there’s a lot of your message was read, single-line emails, but in general, there’s also a lot of really high quality in there and that’s growing.

It’s growing year for year, month by month, and it has been doing that since the 70s. I don’t see that that’s going to go away. So it’s not a question about if email is going away or not, because it’s not. It’s a question about are you joining the wave, are you joining this as a medium? And if you’re not, then email might not seem important to you, but if you were doing it right, it would be important to you.

Yeah, the fact that it’s not delivering is proof that you’re not doing it right, I suppose.

AJ: Just adding to that, with my freshest statistical numbers here, I’ve read that 73% of millennials, they identified email as their preferred means of business communication.

I believe that absolutely. So it’s not going away anytime soon, particularly around the area of direct comms.

AJ: Exactly.

Thank you so much for taking the time to have a conversation. Something we talk about all the time on Media Voices is how publishers are using email, not just in terms of direct engagement with consumers with readers, but as a revenue play as well.

So it’s been fascinating to hear those stats, it’s been fascinating to hear your hopes, your optimism, for the way that publishers can actually use email to really build up their businesses. But more importantly, thank you so much for coming on and just enlightening myself and the listeners about the realities of email advertising. It’s something that I don’t think gets enough attention.

MR: This was great. Thanks for having us.

Of course. As a very final question, if people want to find out more about Passendo, where can they go?

AR: If you do a quick Google search, you’ll have lots of resources there. Just put in Passendo, we have a unique name. Go and Google it and then see what pops up. There’s going to be lots of interesting information both across LinkedIn and all our other channels.

Fantastic. Well, thank you so much, Andreas, Anders and Mike. It’s been a fantastic chat, and hopefully, the listeners have got as much out of it as I have. Thank you again.

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