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Are Open Rates dead?

Anna from Revue
Anna from Revue
Hello there,
It’s been a wild week in the world of email after Apple made several privacy-centric announcements last Monday as part of this year’s Worldwide Developers Conference. 
One aspect in particular has rattled the email industry: in the iOS 15 update, due this fall, Apple Mail will prevent senders from knowing if the recipient opened the email, and it will hide the recipient’s IP address. 
Below, I’m going to dive into what this could mean for newsletter writers, and offer some tips on how to get ahead of the change. 
What exactly was announced?
Here’s what it says on Apple’s website:
In the Mail app, Mail Privacy Protection stops senders from using invisible pixels to collect information about the user. The new feature helps users prevent senders from knowing when they open an email, and masks their IP address so it can’t be linked to other online activity or used to determine their location.
The “invisible pixels” mentioned here are also known as tracking pixels — tiny images embedded in an email that load when a recipient opens that email. That delivers a signal to the sender that tells them the email has been opened, and it’s how services like Revue calculate what the Open Rate of your newsletter issue was.
We don’t have all of the information yet on how this will work, but under the new design, Apple Mail will effectively indicate that an email was opened by the recipient as soon as it lands in their inbox, whether or not they actually opened it. 
What does that mean for my Open Rates?
If this works as expected when rolled out later this year, you won’t be able to trust Open Rates anymore. Unless none of your readers use Apple Mail to check their inbox, this skews the data. Every reader on your list who uses Apple Mail will count as an ‘Open’, so you would see your Open Rates go up — even if fewer people actually read your emails.
Open Rates have always been a bit fuzzy, but with this change they’ll be less accurate, and therefore less useful to track.
Won’t that also affect my Insights?
It will. Two of the three tabs we offer you on the Insights page (“Performance”, “Engagement”) rely on Open data to work properly. 
The “Performance” tab shows Open Rate and Click Rate over time
The “Performance” tab shows Open Rate and Click Rate over time
The Engagement tab shows what proportion of your readers are highly engaged — and that is based on how many of your newsletters they open. We’ll need to think of another way to show that data, but we’re absolutely committed to making sure Revue creators don’t miss out on important statistics. 
Creatives ways to measure engagement — beyond tracking Opens
Sure, Open Rates can tell you something about how engaged your readers are. But it’s a top-of-funnel metric when it comes to reaching the true goal of a newsletter — whether that’s monetization, creating a community, or building a personal brand. For years, we’ve advocated looking beyond that broad statistic to find the metrics that really matter for determining how engaged your readers are, and hitting your goals.
We expect to see newsletter writers doubling down on other engagement tactics, like surveys, quizzes, and replies. 
In fact, we’ve had this conversation with some publishers who already use Revue: The Markup and Startpage. We’ve built them the functionality to turn off the tracking of their readers’ Open statistics. They use donations, surveys, and other methods to connect with their readers — and their example demonstrates that it’s possible to be successful with email without relying on Open Rates.
Here are some other ideas for measuring engagement:
  • Write a survey. You can use tools like Google Forms to ask your readers questions about topics they’re interested in, or even to gather information and content for your next issue.
  • Encourage readers to send feedback. Readers of Revue emails will have the option to indicate whether they liked an issue or not by clicking feedback buttons in the footer. 
  • Talk to your readers about the change. This is actually a great opportunity to connect on a human level with your subscribers. And I’ll bet that if you tell them you’re looking for other ways to know what they think about your newsletter issues, they’ll be willing to help you out. 
  • Use your welcome email. A great welcome email can be a way to spark a meaningful connection with a reader. I wrote about this a few weeks ago in this very newsletter. Check out that issue for tips and ideas.
  • Find inspiration in other newsletters. I’ve also written recently about thinking outside the box when it comes to starting a conversation with your readers. Here are some fun examples to get the creative juices flowing
What will Revue do about this?
This change will force us to think about how to mitigate the loss, to provide more tools to increase and measure meaningful engagement. The fact that there’s now a blind spot in the funnel towards these deeper metrics is unfortunate, but it’s also motivation for us to keep building tools to support our creators in their newsletter journey. 
We’re still in the process of working out exactly how this change will work, and what we can do to help our creators — but rest assured we’re working on it, and will keep a close eye on any developments.
I hope this has helped straighten out some concerns you might have at this early stage — but as ever, if you have any questions you can find me by replying to this email. 
Now, let’s move on to what else we’ve been up to… 
Updates from Revue this week
Strike that:
It’s a small change, but you can now use strikethrough as a formatting option in the Revue editor. Enjoy!
Big things are in the works:
You may have noticed an announcement we made this week…
✨Coming soon✨

We’re currently building new ways to grow your newsletter audience, and we want to preview one that will live right on your Twitter profile 🧡
We want to give writers tools to turn their Twitter audience into newsletter subscribers by letting people sign up straight from your Twitter profile. This will be available for Revue newsletters soon, so stay tuned!
Read on to find out what else has been happening in the world of newsletters…
The week in newsletters
Here’s what you need to know:
A packed set of Apple announcements could have big impacts on news publishers — for good and for ill
Writer Kyle Chayka launched a campaign to fund his newsletter via NFTs. It succeeded
Ted Williams proved local news can be profitable. Now, he’ll try to replicate the success for Axios
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Anna from Revue
Anna from Revue @revue

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