Google-funded ‘digital butler’ still delivering winning mail

Aug 23, 2023 at 04:26 pm by admin

The ‘digital butler’ introduced five years back to automate the personalisation of newsletters has scored a new success with a Finnish media group.

Founded in 1870, Keskisuomalainen Oyj is the largest publisher in central Finland with more than 60 regional and local newspapers.

But having realised their newsletters were underutilised, and with concerns about high digital subscriber churn, they have scored an award-winning success from a project with James developer Twipe.

The technology, developed initially for News UK’s Times and Sunday Times in 2019 with the help of a million Euros (A$1.68 million) of Google Digital News Initiative money, uses interest based, one-to-one personalisation to engage readers.

Newsletters automatically surface the right content to the right readers with personalised reading lists, activate readers for increased conversion rates and developing habitual reading.

In a project at Keskisuomalainen Oyj, ‘James’ algorithms were tailored to blend local and national news, with a focus on delivering more local news to subscribers, with half of new subscribers are exposed to James emails, and the other half acting as a control group.

With smaller newsrooms sometimes having only tor or three people, automation plays a key role in saving time.

Chief digital officer Kirsi Hakaniemi (pictured) says the automatically-created emails outperformed Keskisuomalainen’s editorially produced ones: “On average, we have observed a five per cent increase in open rate and 4.5 per cent increase in click rate from readers receiving the ‘James’ mails compared to readers receiving an editorially produced email,” she says.

Overall higher activation and evolution of habitual reading on exposed cohorts when compared to control groups, across all regions, with 4,700 more readers turning ‘habitual’, reading emails on ten or more days in past 30, while 6,500 more readers were ‘activated’, meaning they evolved from no interaction in the past 30 days to at least one day with interaction.

Some 40-50 per cent of on-boarders were converted after their three-month trial, with some regions seeing more than 50 per cent of onboarded readers turning habitual.

A survival analysis of on-boarders showed reduced churn on readers exposed to the automated emails, with continuing positive results predicted for the future for Keskisuomalainen, which won a ‘best initiative to retain subscribers’ prize in this year’s INMA Global Media Awards for the initiative.


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