July 26


Written by

Meagan McGinnes

Assistant Managing Editor, Newsletters, WBUR

Ben Eagle

Senior Product Manager, WBUR

WBUR case study

newsletter stats

+3

Newsletters

2x

faster publishing

SUMMARY

WBUR needed a faster, more flexible newsletter system that let them publish newsletters quickly for big news moments.

Newsletter Glue cut their production time in half so reporters and editors can really focus on the content. It has also lowered the training bar for their newsroom.

Inflexible Mailchimp templates made it hard to react to breaking news

Our former templates were time consuming to build, and slowed us down during big news moments.

Prior to Newsletter Glue, WBUR had purchased customized hard-coded newsletter templates so we could keep our email sizes smaller and make it harder for reporters/producers to accidentally break templates. However, the templates weren’t flexible, which meant the newsletter team needed a developer every time we wanted to add a new component or spin off a new newsletter. Using the MailChimp drag and drop features did allow us to move quickly with our Coronavirus Update newsletter and some news-of-the-moment special sends, but we were frustrated with the fluffy code and truncation it caused.

From an editorial perspective, this forced us to make compromises during big news moments, be it formatting or the speed with which we could create a newsletter. This made us search for a better system that could help us design templates quickly, on the fly.

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The other tricky part of our former templates is that it was very time consuming to build out. We had to copy and paste every headline, excerpt and hyperlink, which meant our reporters were spending precious time doing production work instead of writing, editing or finding stories. Our business partnerships team had to manually add and link banners as images. All this manual work left a lot of room for human error. We wanted something that would cut production time and help automate some of this work.

"It has lowered the training bar for our newsroom and production time has halved."

Why Newsletter Glue

We can build templates and publish newsletters quickly.

The WBUR newsroom is already familiar with WordPress so using a plugin for a system our editorial team was already familiar with was a big win. The templates are easy to build and change on the fly.

But the favorite feature of the newsroom is the Post-Embed block, where you can add a link to a story and it automatically populates with the headline, excerpt and image. This has saved our team so much time. It was the first migration and training I ever hosted where no one had questions and there were no complaints about the change.

After a year of using Newsletter Glue, here's what we value most about it:

  • Flexibility with templates
  • Reduced production time
  • Ability to create and easily modify or move patterns for fundraising / business partnership opportunities

"The favorite feature of the newsroom is the Post-Embed block, where you can add a link to a story and it automatically populates with the headline, excerpt and image. This has saved our team so much time."

Our daily publishing workflow

Here's how WBUR publishes our 10+ newsletters.

  • Templates and flexible patterns are made in advance by our newsletter team.
  • Reporters and editors use these templates and saved patterns to make their own newsletters and write into them / add content. 
  • Upon saving and exiting the newsletter, an editor hops into the file to make edits from a content and newsletter format standpoint. Test emails are sent to check size and function. 
  • Newsletters are usually sent directly via Newsletter Glue.
    • Newsletters used in automations (like newsletter courses) are saved as a draft in Mailchimp. 
      • These emails can’t be edited within MailChimp so if you need to make an update, it needs to be made in Newsletter Glue and resent to MailChimp.
    • All newsletter performance data is pulled from MailChimp.
  • Our templates include Jeeng code for ad units, which are controlled via that third-party provider platform. 

Initial concerns

Can a small team in a different timezone handle our needs?

Since Newsletter Glue is operated by a small team in a different time zone, I was worried that the customer service would be difficult. But any workflow issues we’ve had, Lesley has made it a point to try to rectify quickly. 

We also were worried about accidental sends, but user permissions help to rectify that. 

Our WordPress account does require maintenance that we weren't expecting in order to keep Newsletter Glue working to the best of its ability. We are in the process of evaluating how to solve this with our technical team.

Set up and onboarding

Set up was smooth. For the first time, no one had questions or concerns during a training.

Set up was easier than expected. We utilize WordPress in the newsroom, but it’s a headless version that doesn’t support Gutenberg Blocks. So to use Newsletter Glue we needed to set up a new WP site. While this negated some of the CMS efficiencies of Newsletter Glue (as of right now, we can’t easily publish a newsletter to our main site), once we had the new site set up, installing the plugin was simple and we were immediately up and running.

Onboarding was also easy. Lesley was readily available for any and all questions we encountered in setting up templates, be it questions about CSS or component capabilities. 

And as noted earlier, because our newsroom was already comfortable with WordPress, production training was easy.

Support has also been great.

Lesley and Co have been prompt and diligent when bugs or questions arise. Because we had to set up a new WP site for Newsletter Glue, we’ve had some unexpected tech challenges that we needed/need to manage on our end. But Lesley has been helpful in pointing us to the right places when these issues arise.

"We launched no new newsletters in 2021, but in 2022 we launched 4 new email products and have added new rotating content sections into our existing newsletters."

Impact on the organization

Our production time has halved and we're able to launch new email products.

This helped cut our production time in half so reporters and editors can really focus on the content and take time with the edit, without having to worry about the production work in the same way. It has lowered the training bar for our newsroom to be able to try writing a newsletter and work with the team. It also allows us to work with freelancers and have them create content in a system that is not also where our donor email database is held. 

We launched no new newsletters in 2021, but in 2022 we launched 4 new email products and have added new rotating content sections into our existing newsletters. This helps us keep the products new and fresh, and attract new audiences. This is exceptionally important since WBUR is trying to grow its newsletter audience substantially over the next three years.


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