People average 51 seconds on e-zines
The No. 1 advice email newsletter subscribers have for e-zine senders? Keep it short.
This according to the Nielsen Norman Group’s 6 rounds of email newsletter usability studies conducted over 16 years.
People spend just 51 seconds, on average, with an email newsletter after opening it, according to an NNG study.
Indeed, participants in these surveys (and, presumably, your audience members) put their eyes where their mouths are: People spend just 51 seconds, on average, with an email newsletter after opening it, according to an NNG study.
“The rule for web content is to keep it short,” writes Jakob Nielsen, principal of the Nielsen Norman Group. “The rule for email content is to keep it ultra-short.”
Why so short?
Why do people spend so little time with email newsletters?
- Too many emails. Organizations and individuals send out 269 billion emails a day, according to the The Radicati Group. That’s a lot of competition for attention in the inbox.
- Tiny screens. More than 50% of your audience members now read your email newsletters on their smartphones. That tiny screen causes all kinds of usability problems.
- Audience and sender sophistication. As email newsletters have become shorter, more visual and more scannable, subscribers have learned to expect more tightly edited e-zines.
The result? Readers want less.
“Users basically said that newsletters are bad if they take too much time or demand too much work of the user,” Nielsen writes. “Newsletters are good if they … are quick reads that do not feel frivolous.”
So how long should email newsletters be?
How long should email newsletters be?
The short answer is, it depends.
The longer answer requires math. But stick with me. It’s worth it.
People read about 200 words per minute. So figure Average Reading Time, or A.R.T., a concept created by The Poynter Institute’s Roy Peter Clark.
To figure A.R.T., multiply the number of minutes you think people will spend reading your message by 200 words per minute. The result: your recommended word count.
We know that people will spend an average of 51 seconds — let’s call it a minute — with your email newsletter. So multiply one minute by 200 words per minute to get the recommended length of your e-zine in words.
The answer: 200 words per newsletter.
Aim for 200-word email newsletters.
This recommendation is borne out by another study.
Emails of about 20 lines of text had the highest click-throughs, according to study of more than 2.1 million customers by Constant Contact. Twenty lines is about … 200 words.
The Constant Contact research also showed that 3 or fewer images get the highest click-throughs.
But maybe your e-zine should be longer. Or shorter. …
The right length of an email newsletter depends, say the experts, on:
- Frequency. The more often your send your newsletter, the shorter it should be, according to Campaigner. Keep dailies to a page or less, weeklies at 5 to 7 pages or less. Monthlies can be longer, but only if you have truly fascinating information.
- Format and subject matter as well as frequency, according to NNG. Too long? Increase frequency or limit information.
- Audience. Business-to-business audiences may be busier, for instance, so their email newsletters should be shorter. And millennials prefer short newsletters, according to the University of North Carolina. But more details make them feel better informed.
Or maybe it should be really, really short.
The only email newsletter that was consistently read in an NNG study was Dictionary.com’s Word of the Day. It’s just a few lines long.
Would your email newsletter be twice as good if it were half as long?
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
Alex Moore, “7 Tips for Getting More Responses to Your Emails (With Data!),” Boomerang.com, Feb. 12, 2016
Jason Fidler, “New Data: How the Amount of Text and Images Impact Email Click-Through Rates,” Constant Contact
Jakob Nielsen, “Email newsletters: Surviving Inbox Congestion,” Alertbox, June 12, 2006