Readership stats for online employee newsletters don’t exist

Posted on December 10, 2004 8:48 am by | Internal

At least once a week, I get e-mail from a communicator under pressure to show that readership of the online newsletter she produces for employees is acceptable. “Do you know where I can find any statistics about readership of online newsletters?” the e-mails usually ask. “I was hoping to get some perpective from other companies.”

I make a dedicated effort to stay on top of communication research, but I’ve never seen a study that assesses readership of online employee newsletters or bulletins across multiple organizations. I suspect the need for an apples-to-apples comparison is behind the lack of statistics. If I work for a company where only half the employee population has access to computers, I could never achieve the levels of readership enjoyed by one in which all employees are networked.

There are other factors that keep any such analysis from being meaningful. Employees are more likely to read online newsletters they can scan in a minute versus those that require 20 minutes of focused reading. The relevance of the news is also a factor. It would be tough to measure up to statistics of companies that produced effective newsletters while mine was filled with corporate rhetoric and fluff.

If anybody were to undertake such a study (Melcrum Research, are you listening?), it would need to incorporate these differences into the research instrument. It would be valuable for communicators to know what works in getting employees to read online newsletters in different work environments; it’s research that’s long overdue. Convincing a research institution to understake so unsexy a study, though, may be as great an effort as conducting the actual study.

If anybody knows of such a study, please fill me in!



  • 1.The other day I saw an employee on-line newsletter editor's report that her most popular features were the daily cafeteria specials and the employee buy&sell; want ads. And the weather.

    So if an editor puts enough of this kind of content into a newsletter, it will build readership but not do much to help the employer meet its goals, unless it is overstocked on beef stew..

    But it will also make it impossible for a "serious" on-line employee publication to match the stats.

    And, speaking of analysis... I don't trust the questions the researchers ask. I bet that "do you have access to a computer at work" is a lot more common a question than, "do you have time and permission and computer access to allow you to spend 5, 10, or 15 minutes a day reading an internal on-line publication?"

    One of my clients is a retail cosmetics department with internet access on the in-store computer by the cash register. But no-one has time to surf the web or even visit the headoffice web site, unless he or she needs a specific piece of product info.

    The useful research might be to ask on-line editors, " Do employees take the actions you want them to after you run stories in your on-line newsletter?" Most of the time, you only want part of the audience to do each thing anyway.


    Brian Kilgore | December 2004 | Toronto, Canada

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