Because only 19% of e-zines get read thoroughly
Email newsletter subscribers skim 69% of the e-zines they receive, according to the Nielsen Norman Group’s latest eyetracking study.
Subscribers in the NNG study:
- Thoroughly read just 19% of e-zines
- Read the majority of the content of 6%
- Glanced at but did not read at all 6%
“They don’t spend much time, and they don’t read full content,” write the researchers. “The dominant approach to newsletter content was to skim.”
“Scannability is important for websites as well, but it’s about 50% more important for newsletters.”
— Jakob Nielsen, principal, the Nielsen Norman Group
Indeed, writes NNG principal Jakob Nielsen, “Scannability is important for websites as well, but it’s about 50% more important for newsletters.”
Why write scannable e-zines? Because:
1. Subscribers skim even more on mobile.
In NNG’s most recent study, mobile newsletter readers reported that they:
- Skimmed newsletters 74% of the time
- Fully read newsletters 24% of the time
- Glance at but don’t read 2% of the time
2. People read only 37 to 200 words of your email.
People spend just 51 seconds, on average, with an email newsletter after opening it, according to another NNG study. That’s enough to read fewer than 200 words.
(Remember: What we measure moves. People perform differently when they’re being observed in a lab than when they’re reading their own emails. They may never spend a whole minute reading your email newsletter in the wild.)
For sales emails, the numbers are even more brutal: People spend just 11 seconds on e-blasts, according to a 2017 report by Litmus. That’s enough time to read about 37 words.
So which words do they read?
3. They read the microcontent.
Email newsletter subscribers in NNG eyetracking studies read the headlines and the first line or two of the story. They often skipped the paragraphs, sometimes because they were scrolling too quickly.
Instead of reading the paragraphs, their eyes were drawn to:
- Headlines. If they could get the gist of the e-zine from the headlines and without reading the text, they were happy with the newsletter.
- First 1-2 lines of text. Get to the point faster in email.
- Bulleted lists. Subscribers read the first item more than subsequent items and the first words in each bullet more than subsequent words.
- Links. They’re blue and underlined, so they’re the easiest elements to skim on the screen.
So put your message where their eyes are: In the microcontent, or online display copy.
Does your email newsletter pass the squint test?
Sources: Mike Renahan, “The Ideal Length of a Sales Email, Based on 40 Million Emails,” HubSpot, July 11, 2018
Kim Flaherty, Amy Schade, and Jakob Nielsen; Marketing Email and Newsletter Design to Increase Conversion and Loyalty, 6th Edition; Nielsen Norman Group, 2017
Jakob Nielsen, “Email newsletters: Surviving Inbox Congestion,” Alertbox, June 12, 2006
Jakob Nielsen, “Targeted Email Newsletters Show Continued Strength,” Alertbox, Feb. 17, 2004