How Brooklyn Based built a 10,000-strong email readership
A few years ago, Nicole Davis used to work as an art and entertainment editor at The Villager, a Manhattan-based weekly. Every day, she says, she would receive information about events in the neighboring up-and-coming borough of Brooklyn.
Davis, soon joined by Annaliese Griffin and Chrysanthe Tenentes, began diligently sending out what she jokingly refers to as “bleemails” (half blog post, half email) to 100 friends containing her picks and lists among happenings in Brooklyn.
"I wasn't going to capture anyone's attention by starting a blog," she said of her decision to go with email.
Two years later, Brooklyn Based is 10,000 readers strong and has an open rate of 70 to 80 percent. We asked Davis how she built such a large and captive mailing list so quickly:
Relevant content – The spread of Brooklyn Based was "completely word of mouth," and for good reason: The newsletter is highly targeted and highly relevant to what was then an under served community.
“We'll tell you about an artist or designer who could be living two doors down for you,” she said. By targeting a geographical community that already existed, the pipelines for sharing content were already established. And because the email pertained to events, readers would show up to recommended events and create a community around the newsletter.
Embrace email's benefits as a medium – Email may be old-school in the face of tweets, blogs and podcasts, but it still has its advantages. No medium has yet surpassed email in its ability to be easily shared. Most online publishers rely on readers to take the time to copy and paste a link into a tweet or email. For Brooklyn Based, readers just have to hit the forward button. Davis also sais she beleives the medium posseses an intimacy that others do not.
“With email you can get a much more real response from people,” she said. “You can have a much more one-on-one dialog... Even as the list grows I still feel the intimate connection with our readers.”
No digests – For many publishers, email newsletters usually involve some sort of digest. Davis believes part of the growth and success of Brooklyn Based is due to the face that her newsletter contains material that is written specifically for the email in the style of a magazine front-of-book piece.
On Tuesday and Thursday Brooklyn Based contains feature stories about local news or events. Wednesday is the “tip sheet” with event recommendations from the newsletter's editors.
"We're a really fun read, not just an email that delivers info. We inform and entertain," said Davis.