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How a literary journal boosts readership with savvy email marketing

What we learned from The Oxford American

The Oxford American is a non-profit, quarterly literary magazine dedicated to featuring the best in Southern writing. The award-winning magazine – founded in Oxford, Mississippi but now affiliated with the University of Central Arkansas and based in Little Rock – aims to document the complexity and vitality of the Southern region by collecting and distributing the original work of acclaimed writers, fine artists, photographers and musicians.

The fall issue's cover photograph is "Here," by RaMell Ross.

Most of the issues are general interest, with the exception of the annual Southern Music Issue (a favorite among subscribers), and the magazine's offerings remain incredibly diverse. Their current issue features the poet Nikky Finney (author of the award-winning collection Head Off & Split), Jamie Quatro, Padgett Powell, Beth Ann Fennelly and many more. Recent web features have included, among photos and essays, “Jason Isbell’s Ongoing Moment,” a one-on-one interview with the popular singer-songwriter and Drive-By Truckers alum.

Promoting an online presence through email 

Despite the fact that they are, at heart, a print publication, The Oxford American team recently made it a priority to develop and maintain their online presence.

“Because we’re a quarterly magazine,”  assistant editor Caitlin Love explained, “we don’t have a lot of opportunities to engage with our readers on a regular basis. So our website and email newsletter help us keep up with people during the period between publication dates. That way, while we’re waiting for a new issue to come out, we can still share stories and keep our readers informed about what we’re doing.”

“We make some pieces from the print magazine available for free online, but we also produce separate content for the website: staff recommendations, movie reviews, short essays, etc. So our weekly email newsletter usually includes a combination of the two – at least one essay from the magazine as well as exclusive, online-only content.”

Maintaining a consistent brand identity

In order to maintain consistency between the branding of their print publication and their online identity, the team decided to make their email newsletter better reflect the look and feel of the magazine. And to help them do so, they turned to Emma.

“Our design services experience was incredible,” Caitlin recalled. “We had just gone through a total redesign of our website, and the idea being the redesign was to make our online home look more like the magazine. So we got in touch with your services team to create a custom template, and Meghan helped us develop an email newsletter that truly reflects our printed publication. Having that design element that mimics our magazine helps us achieve a brand consistency that we simply didn’t have before.”

Reaching more readers, online and beyond

And to get the most out of their freshly designed (and gorgeous, in our unbiased opinion!) newsletter, their team decided to use a Lightbox Form on to help them collect more email subscribers. The Lightbox Form sets a clear expectation for individuals who sign up for the newsletter, informing them that they’ll receive all the latest art, news, and stories for that week.

“The Lightbox has been a godsend for us. Before, we weren’t really sure how to keep our email list growing. But the Emma Lightbox feature has made it so easy – we made it and sent it to our web developer, and he was able to plug it in effortlessly. And we’ve seen so much list growth since we started using it this summer."

To date, the Lightbox Form has helped The Oxford American team collect over 800 new contacts for their list – and the automated welcome email they’ve paired with the Lightbox has an astounding 54.7% open and 23.5% click rate! Since their welcome email also includes links to their various social pages and a link to subscribe to the print magazine, it works double-duty to increase engagement across all of their channels.

The takeaways

• Build a consistent brand image in all the places you communicate. By maintaining a consistent image and design across all channels, you’ll be able to give your brand an identity that people can relate to and remember.

• Create an amazing first impression. The Oxford American nails it during every step of the subscriber journey. From signup to welcome email to weekly newsletter, it's a great brand introduction that's packed with value.

• Don’t be afraid to ask for help. You may need a little assistance to get your emails where you want them to be. But never fear – we’re here to help!

Interested in all the amazing content The Oxford American has to offer? Sign up for a one-year subscription and receive the upcoming fall issue free!