Should you drop subscribers who don’t open your e-newsletter?

If you’re like most e-newsletter senders, you track the statistics on how many subscribers open each issue. Personally, I check them multiple times because I get a rush out of every click on my monthly Investment Writing Update. But there are people who never seem to read my newsletter.  

This made me ask, should you drop people whose names don’t appear on your open list?  

I’ve been mulling this over for awhile. After all, you’ll get charged more each time your readership rises above a certain level by firms such as Constant Contact that provide a way to manage your email lists and format your newsletters. 

I finally decided that I should not drop the non-openers. Not if they are good potential source of business or referrals. Open statistics aren’t all that matter because
1. Newsletter open statistics aren’t 100% accurate.
2. You may benefit from people who don’t open your newsletter, but will think of you when they finally need you, your product, or your services. 

Inaccurate statistics
 “Your open rate could be higher than what is reported,” said Constant Contact, the newsletter service that I use.

There are all sorts of technical reasons why open rates may be under-reported. To my non-technical mind, the reasons boil down to your audience’s choice of email reader and email reader settings–things over which you have no control. “Open rates are becoming less accurate with many people reading email from hand held devices and disabling image downloading, said the Email Marketing Metrics Report (June 2009). The move to hand held devices has accelerated dramatically since that report was published.

I know one e-newsletter writer who deleted all of the subscribers who hadn’t opened at least one recent issue. She got many complaints from readers who were inaccurately categorized as non-openers. Plus, she lost subscribers like me who enjoyed the newsletter, but only read it occasionally.

You may benefit from non-readers
 “I never read your newsletter,” said a colleague. She’s just too busy and my content doesn’t isn’t relevant enough to her narrow circumstances. On the other hand, she said, “I see your name every month in my email, so I’m reminded of you.” This jolt has contributed to her giving me dozens of useful contacts over the years.

It can be useful to gently remind your prospective clients and referral sources of your existence.

Sometimes “they would prefer to ignore your messages until they are ready to buy,” according to Dela Quist, as quoted in “Just Wait For Me” in MarketingProfs’ Get to the Point: Email Marketing  newsletter. This has happened to me. I got a very warm introduction–and a great client–from someone who had ignored me for months.

My conclusion? If individuals have voluntarily signed up for your e-newsletter, there’s no harm in keeping them on your list. Indeed, one of those subscribers could become your next client. 

July 29, 2009 update: Thanks to Morningstar’s Mike Barad for reminding me that Outlook’s preview pane can produce false “open” statistics. You may mistakenly think that an Outlook user opened your email. However, it’s hard to know if this overreporting outweighs the underreporting. Perhaps you just shouldn’t rely too much on open statistics.

Image courtesy of hywards at

2 replies
  1. Kristin Harad
    Kristin Harad says:

    Susan, you hit the nail on the head. I have many subscriptions I keep so I have the provider on my radar. I do glance at subject lines. When I’m ready I reach out. If we were doing direct mail and paying for print, lettershop, and postage we may want to reconsider keeping these folks. Yet another benefit of digital.

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