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The Open Rate

by Keith Bond on 10/4/2010 9:24:50 AM

This article is by Keith Bond, Regular contributing writer for FineArtViews.  You should submit an article and share your views as a guest author by clicking here.

Let’s face it.  People are busy.  Their email inboxes are full.  Are they really going to read your email newsletter?  Some will, some won’t.  I subscribe to several that I am truly interested in, but I don’t always have the time to read them all.  I assume you are the same.  It is the same with your subscribers. 

Just out of curiosity, I recently looked at my open rate for my email newsletters.  I discovered some interesting things. 

First, let me explain what the open rate is.  It is the number of emails opened divided by the number delivered to inboxes.

__________Opened_________ = Open Rate

I noticed that I average about 55% for an open rate.  My data only goes back so far.  But I noticed that when I had only a few subscribers, I had around 60% open rate.  Now that the number of subscribers has increased substantially, the rate has only decreased slightly. 

What does this mean?

First, it is hard to determine what an average open rate is.  There are so many variables, that it is nearly impossible.  {Editor's Note:  'Opened' means someone actually opened the email rather than reading it in the 'preview pane'.  Tracking 'open' rates is not a perfect science. Not all opens are able to be tracked for a lot of reasons including image blockers and preview panes. Also, text versions of the newsletter can't have a tracker embedded so if the client prefers plain text we have no way to track open rates.}  Having said that, as a general guide, I found a source that suggests that in the art industry, an average open rate in the 45% range is average.  Most other industries had a lower average.  Again, this is only a general point of reference.

Also as a general rule, the larger the subscription rate, the lower the open rate.  Thus my decreased rate.

But this is not what I found most interesting.  As I browsed through the list of subscribers who open the emails, I found that there are a few core fans who read every newsletter.  Among the rest of those who read the newsletters, it changes from time to time.  This suggests that many subscribers occasionally read your newsletters.  Some this time.  Some next time.  And yet others the time after that. 

Again, remember, we are all busy and we simply don’t have time to read everything in our email inbox. 

So, this leads to my main point: timing.  When will your subscribers have the time to read what you have to say?  You don’t know.  And it won’t be the same for all of your fans.  Some will have time today, some tomorrow, some next week. 

So, it follows that if you send newsletters more often, you will eventually have more of your subscribers open your newsletter. 

Let’s look at a simple example.  I am not a statistician.  The following example has serious flaws, but I keep it simple to illustrate a point. In reality, the math is much more complex.

Suppose you have 100 subscribers.  You have an open rate of 50%, which means 50 subscribers open any given newsletter.  Of those 50, 25 open every one (let’s call them “Core Fans”).  The remaining 25 viewers change from time to time (let’s call them “Busy Fans”).

Suppose that you send your newsletter quarterly.  50 people will open it each time.  Let’s break down who is viewing.

Core fans: 25 view each time.

Busy fans: 25 the first quarter; 25 the second quarter; 25 the third quarter.  Let’s pause here.  We have reached your total fan base at this point (25 “core fans” plus 75 “busy fans” equals 100 fans).  So when you send the fourth quarter newsletter, you are reaching 25 of your “busy fans” a second time.  Thus:

25 fans = 4x each

25 fans = 2x each

50 fans = 1x each

So half of your fans only read your newsletter once a year.  You send it 4 times.

What if you sent your newsletter monthly?  Out of an open rate of 50, if 25 read it every month and the remaining 25 readers change from month to month, the math works out to:

25 fans = 12x each

75 fans = 4x each

So, let’s look at the respective increases:

Frequency newsletter sent – increased by 3 times.

Core fans exposed to your art – all 25 increased by 3 times.

Busy fans exposed to your art – 25 increased by 2 times.

Busy fans exposed to your art – 50 increased by 4 times.

This means that half of your total subscribers quadrupled the number of times they were exposed to your art through your newsletter.  But you only tripled the frequency.  So for half of your fans, the increased result was greater than the effort.  For a fourth of your fan base, the increased result equaled your effort.  For the remaining fourth, the increase wasn’t as large, but it was still an increase.  Again, this example is far from perfect.  But it illustrates an important point.

So what would the increase be if you sent them bi-weekly or even weekly?  We won’t do the math here, but I hope you get the point.

In closing, the more often you send your newsletters, the more your fans will be exposed to your art.  And for many, the benefits are greater than the effort.  That is a plus in my book.  In future articles we will discuss how to increase your open rate and what the open rate really means in terms of increased business. 

Best Wishes,


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Backstory: About Clint. Email EditorTwitter. Republish. ]

Related Posts:

Regular, Compelling Newsletters are King

Art Marketing: Inbound vs. Outbound

Newsletters...Trust Me, You Can Do This

The Advantages to E-Newsletters

Topics: art marketing | FineArtViews | sell art 

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Helen Horn Musser
Hi Keith, Those statistics are very interesting and would suggest more newsletters be sent. Thank you for clueing us in to this.

Margaret Bobb
Hi Keith,

Well, this article is definitely going into my save file. I hope to reach a point where I have a newsletter one day. Thanks for enlightening us!

Tuva Stephens
I send out my TUVART newsletter every 2 months with pictures of winning works (suggusted by a fan). I encourage my readers to let me know what they they think and to even offer suggestions. It doesn't matter to me who reads or does not read my newsletter.

It only takes one to want to buy a painting or become a follower of my work at shows! I have learned it does not matter the size of a show who will have the money to purchase a work they admire.

Just because I buy a newspaper doesn't mean I will read it. They have a option to delete my newsletter if they do not want to have updates about shows, awards, etc.

Ellie HArold
I'd just recently checked this stat on my newsletter and was pleased to see an open rate of 99 percent. I promised my subscribers I wouldn't bombard them with a lot of mail. I post every 3-4 weeks and only when I have some actual news. I wonder if being true to my promise might have something to do with my high percentage open rate. Thanks for the thoughtful post.

Tuva Stephens
I try to make my newsletter have meaning more than just posting events, awards, etc. I usually start with a favorite quote to motivate just to catch their attention. Many of my subscribers are artists so I enjoy sharing tips to that core group.
It is great to receive input from subscribers! Sometimes I share a personal story about myself to let people know about my journey and to inspire them.

Barb Stachow
Isn't it interesting however that with all the things our fantastic computers can do that we cannot pinpoint just exactly whom reads their emails and how many times. Just a thought.

Tuva Stephens
I am constantly editing and adding to my newsletter. It does take time but I feel like it is worth it. TUVART is a way of connecting with fans and other artists. The newsletter offered from FASO is a valuable tool to me. I recently did my first and last outdoor show, but I had a list of new subscribers and many who picked up my business card with a photo of me and an image of a work on the back. It was great exposure. I have had a few more people subscribe since the event. EXPOSURE, EXPOSURE, EXPOSURE.

Carol Schmauder
Your article is certainly food for thought! I know I don't send a newsletter often enough. I need to set a goal to send one more often. I didn't realize you could check to see how many people actually open your newsletter. Thanks for the info.

a note to Barb, unless I am misunderstanding what you mean, we DO know. When I send my newsletter, (using FASO email marketing)I go back to the link for "details about newsletters sent" and down at the bottom of that list is a line about who opened and when. Regarding that, I can tell by a lot of the email addresses who the person is, when people get cryptic with their addresses, it does becomes harder. I just sent a newsletter last week, and noted with interest that several people opened the newsletter more than once--don't know how that affects the percentages.


tom weinkle
Keith, In general, I agree with your thinking and analysis. You have to promote yourself, and enewsletters are a great way. I agree with the above comments that you have to spend time on including meaningful content.

To me, there are a couple of variables that probably should affect the frequency number. I'm not really disagreeing with fact, I've seen the same trends you identify with my own enews mailings.

I think a few other factors we should consider when deciding on frequency:

Ӣ How often do you fans really want to get the news? My base says once a month is good, more is too much. (that's just for me though, some of my listings are galleries, or collectors who get so much mail, they prefer that I not add to the epile more than once a month.)
ӢIf your list is also getting your news on FB or twitter or some other blog, I think we have to factor that in, or perhaps create sublists that reflect the frequency of all the tools we use.
Ӣ Special announcements - If you have a special announcement, say an award, or notice of acquisition, or a seasonal sale.
Ӣ Content - As you or Clint have written before, content is king. The work should be great, and the message as well. If we don't have much to say, then I believe we should pause, or work harder to make better news more often.

Ironically, The FASO newsletter comes out daily, and I for one, appreciate it...every day. But that's because it is filling an unmet need in my art life. Twice a day may be pushing it. (hah)

Thanks for sharing, your experience is clearly beneficial.


Nancy Pingree Hoover
I am just starting up a newsletter of my own and I have received many great tips from these newsletters concerning how to do it.

Question: I will not be using a newsletter service but sending them out on my own from my own email. Is it possible for me to see the open rate from somewhere like Yahoo email? I agree that being able to know your open rate is a helpful tool, but I simply cannot afford to use a newsletter service. Any suggestions???


Tuva Stephens
I believe in creating a quality newsletter. I had planned to complete my newsletter today. I just received 2 emails with good news so I will add on to my news. My goal is to have people say, "Wow!"
I need to go paint...the newsletter will have to wait!

Fred Bell
I appreciate this article very much. I don't send out a newsletter but now I am thinking about it. I will look through your past articles to figure out how to start.

Sharon Weavers
If someone signs up for my newsletter it means they are interested but it is my responsibility to keep them reading with great content and wonderful images.

Tuva Stephens
What I am saying is I save up the announcements to present all at once on my newsletter within a month or two.

Karen Winters
Good analysis ... I'd only be concerned that people would be getting too much mail and might unsubscribe. Like Ellie said, I told people who sign up for my list that I wouldn't send too much. On the other hand, maybe some people would like a reminder of what I'm doing more than once a month when it's in the most intense show season. This is a tough question.

Sophie Ploeg
Interesting...I subscribe to some artists newsletters. But a few increased the frequency of their mailings and it started to annoy me. I did not need to see their latest painting every week. So I unsubscribed. I find it difficult, but important, to find that balance between not being forgotten and not annoying your list members. People will have different ideas. Some might find once a week too much, while other subscribers will enjoy it. I currently send out around 4-5 mailings a year. I find that quite a few artists with weekly or more mailings are overdoing it....

Karen Winters
I agree, Sophie ... I could never imagine sending a weekly mailing just to announce new work. I only use mine to announce new shows/venues. If someone wants to see new work they can subscribe to the RSS on my blog and see several new paintings every week.

I'd be curious to know what proportion of artists are sending out weekly or more frequent mailings.

George De Chiara
Interesting post Keith. I've been looking at my open rate and wondering how I've been doing. I noticed as my subscribers increased my open rate actually went up a little, but I'm still in that 65-70 percent open rate. Currently I'm sending about 3 a month, but I tell my subscribers that I will be sending that many when they sign up so I don't think I'm spamming them. I usually try to have some content that I only post via my newsletter.
I know with the newsletters that I subscribe to I have a few I almost always read (like this one) and some that I only look at when I have the time.

Jo Allebach
The statistics make sense. I guess I better get writing more newsletters.

Esther J. Williams
My ratio is with newsletter opening is currently 56 percent and that is fine with me. I also notice that individual people open the newsletter up numerous times, that is a compliment I believe. I not only announce and post images of new works, I add a little story or description for the painting. I start out telling a personal story or two to capture their interest, then tell about paintings. I post images of painting trips, not just the paintings I did. I have a lot of things happen in one month in my life, which is my scheduled send out, so stories will add up. I probably should increase to bi-monthly since I can make a long newsletter each month. Shorter newsletters with good stories of interest and new paintings, awards and exhibits might make more sense. I add links to websites, mention other artists I learn from or am inspired by. I link Google maps to exhibit locations.
I can`t stand the daily newsletters or emails from companies advertising the latest sales. We as artists need to distinguish ourselves from that genre of marketing. We are unique, creative individuals that people want to learn more about. What inspires us, what we are planning in the future, how we produce our art, what is going on in our art world and so on. We are producers and writers of our own script. The newsletter we send paints a story for our readers. There needs to be a combination of stories, images, links, page design and a thank-you for reading.
Now I will get to writing one for send out in the next couple of days, I am feeling the energy.

Max Hulse
Keith My question is about the "open" remark.
The editor added that this is different from
reading it in the preview pane. Is this referring to the
email list that gives a subject? It seems to me
that this is not a "read", but that if clicked
on the email is "opened". Am I overlooking

Max Hulse

Donna Robillard
I really enjoyed reading about the open rate as well as the frequency of sending out newsletters. I have slacked off a little. I was sending one about once a month, but it has been less frequent. the past few months. Therefore, I will try to get back to mailing once a month. I, too, like reading these newsletters often because they are very newsworthy.

Joanne Benson
Hi Keith, Thanks for the tips on the "open rate". Interesting and informative post. I don't send a newsletter but perhaps I should. However, I do agree with the school of thought that says "Too many newsletters can be annoying.

Michael Cardosa
Hi Keith,

Aren't statistics amazing! For baseball fans out there you know that there is a statistic for every imaginable combination of occurrences. That only begs the question at times of... why! I think there is a hidden factor that might come into play if you increase your newsletters from quarterly to weekly or even daily. You might have more statistical openings but unless you are being relevant you take the chance of losing your reader base. Obviously it's possible to do some thing weekly or daily otherwise we wouldn't have newspapers and the like but I'd certainly suggest caution when cranking up the numbers that what you post is good or it could all turn bad...

Thanks again,


Teddy Jackson
Thanks for this great article. My open rate ranges between 55 and 60 percent. I enjoy looking to see who has opened them; but, I had not attempted to count the Core Fans.
After posting a painting a week in 2009, my 2010 goal was quarterly newsletters. I have done a few more than originally planned, when I have had special events to share. I will be increasing the frequency of my newsletters, as your points are well taken.
Really enjoyed all the comments, too.

Maureen Sharkey
Keith, you can always count on me to be a "Core Fan". I always look forward to anything you write--your insite is always great.

Sue Martin
Keith and all, reading the article and all the responses has given me some new ideas for a more frequent newsletter. Thank you all!

Barbara Mitchell
I'm thinking what title heading that you send out with your email newsletter, could be interesting enough to make your subscribers curious enough to open them. I always try to tell a short but interesting story as well.

Sharon Weaver
I think Micheal is correct. A blog is where you send out daily or every other day. To me a newsletter is better saved for special happenings; shows, exhibitions, or prizes.

Judy Mudd
Keith, thank you for taking the time to work this out. It is valuable "facts" that show us what we need to do. I really need to increase my number of newsletters I send out. Once a month doesn't cut it.

Carol McIntyre
I just sent out my monthly newsletter and am interested in the Open Rate I will get. Cannot wait to learn how to increase the percentage.

Idea for anyone's newseltter -- My husband writes a short article in most of my newsletters and people really like it. He writes it from the perspective of being the "husband of the artist."

Barbara Mitchell
"Husband of the Artist"...great idea Carol!!

Carol McIntyre
Then after I wrote my previous comment, I was thinking that one could include an article by the "Studio Cat" or "Studio Dog". People love that kind of humor and it also gives them a little insight.

Esther J. Williams
Carol, that is hilarious and a great idea to have a commentary by one of your pets. In my case, it would be my Chihuahua who insists on sitting on my lap while I paint. She gets too hot and I place her behind me and sit half way off the chair. She thinks, "Who does this woman think she is booting me off a soft lap?" "I own her!"

Sue Martin
Esther, your dog and my cat must have studied at the same school! I've dot ten many a butt cramp from sharing my chair!

Tuva Stephens
Carol and Esther,
Eli, my cream colored Persian, runs up the stairs and jumps into my tall chair in front of my drafting table before I can sit. As Esther I sit on the front of the chair, and Eli is behind me. I have to be careful and sit my work up so he will not walk across my paintings if I leave for a bit.

I have a picture of him taking my place for a recent public television interview.

Esther J. Williams
Sue, I know what you mean, I have one now! I just had to get up and do leg stretches to loosen up the leg cramps.
Tuva, your big kitty is beautiful and smart! I have to put all my oils palettes away each night or the persian cats I have will walk all over them. I had a colorful carpet one year and it took hours to clean each spot.
I need to get back to my painting but had to comment. Our pets rule!

Tuva Stephens
Thanks, Esther! Eli once walked across a large wc painting of purple irises with red watercolor on his paws. I could not remove the stain so I had to be inventive to make the painting work by using rice paper and gouache.

Barbara Mitchell
Speaking of open rates...about every third response to the comments on this subject is going to my spam folder. This morning I had two in my inbox and one in my spam folder. I figure about nearly half of my email newsletters are going to spam. Many of my regular openers, did not open this last time, but I really hate calling them to see why, just in case they're busy. I have decided to do a twice a month newsletter instead of once a month.

George De Chiara
I have noticed the something similar Barbara with my newsletters. I have them sent to my gmail account and every time google puts them in the spam folder. I've often wondered how many of my subscribers don't see my newsletter for this reason.

George De Chiara
Ha, I'm glad I'm not the only one who has to put their palette away each night so the cat doesn't walk across it. I also had to build a still life set up box that she couldn't get to to avoid her being in every still life.

Esther J. Williams
We need to ask our subscribers to please add our email contact to their contact list to prevent this moving to a spam folder. But if they do not in the first place and it goes to spam, it`s a lost cause. Maybe if we send them a plain text message from the Newsletter program to request that, it will help.
I like how FASO now has a thumbnail image of some of the subscribers who are also on Facebook, so I know who they are and can see in the Detail section if they read the newsletter. Nice to connect a face to an email.

Esther J. Williams
George, speaking of the cat walking across the palette, I woke up this morning and my big fat persian cat was asleep on top of it. Thanks goodness the lid of the easel box was closed! I took some images of her for proof, she didn`t like the flash of the camera and moved off.

Max Hulse

I have a question:

When I receive an email I open it to read the
message. Is that the point that contributes
to the open rate, or must the reader go beyond
that to "open" the website?

Max Hulse

Barbara Mitchell
Thank You George, Yes, My subscribers are missing out, and most of them are family and friends who used to send me notes and comments. They all mentioned looking forward to my next letter, as I always tell a story. I am starting to amass a collector base and am really hating if they are missing my new paintings. By the way, George, your comment was in my spam folder!! Esther, will having our subscribers put us on their contact list really help? That's a good idea and will probably do so. As for studio kitty's, mine is sprawled out on my couch ... here in my studio! He's a "Rag Doll" cat and has tons of fine loose hair which I have to "lint roller" nearly daily. But I love him, nonetheless.

Esther J. Williams
Barbara, yes, it works. I just had to add a bunch of emails recently as I changed from a classic email box to an enhanced box. If you look in your spam folder, there should be an add contact button somewhere when you open a spam email from a known source. For our newsletter clients, we need to inform them to go to their spam folder and click add contact if they are emailing us saying they are not getting our newsletter.
Now my Chihuahua is alseep on my lap and I need to wake her up so I can finish painting a still life.

Carol McIntyre
To all dog and cat lovers who take up space in "their" studio: If you wrote an article in your newsletter from your animals' perspective, it could be quite entertaining as well as educating. Such as, "My artist owner was acting really strange yesterday because some important visitor was coming over. I tried to calm her down, but....." And you could get much more creative than that.

So what do you do with cat hairs that dry into your painting? :)

Tuva Stephens
I am totally confused about the Spam deal when you add people's names and email to FASO newsletter list. Could you explain? I wonder about what format subscribers are receiving? If they are not receiving the version with the pictures, I don't think the newsletter is very appealing. I spend so much time making my newsletter to be visually appealing to think people may be receiving just text is disappointing to me.

Esther J. Williams
Carol, I started my October newsletter last night and told a little story from my Chihuahua`s perspective. I am not done with it but it`s a cute idea, thanks!
Tuva, only once you can send out a text message to all subscribers stating that they should add your email to their contacts. So, when you send the next fancy HTML newsletter it will not go to their spam folder. I have`nt done this yet, but I will.
Maybe you can open a ticket with FASO and ask them to explain how newsletters may go into a spam folder and if asking people to add your email as a contact will increase the open rate.
Anyone else agree or disagree that this is a good idea?
My open rate is 56 percent and I really don`t mind. I am so busy, I am glad half the people take the time to read it, in fact some open it several times.
I need to write good stories to keep this up! Engage, engage!

Keith Bond

I will try to answer both of your questions. I don't know a whole lot about the subject, only enough to get me in trouble. :) But will do the best I can.

As the editor stated, the newsletter is considered open when the email is opened. If someone reads it in the preview pane, it is considered unopened. Going to the website has no effect on the open rate. Only opening the email.

But the problem is that some people might be reading it in the preview pane. Others might be blocking images but receiving the text. In this case it will not be counted as opened even if it is. I don't recall the computer technical terminology, but something embedded in the images is what recognizes and reports an open email.

Also, someone may open the email, but then not read it.

So there really is no way to know how many truly read the newsletter. Therefore the open rate is only a general guage. I wouldn't lose sleep over it.

I only introduced the idea in the newsletter to illustrate the more important point that increasing the number of newsletters will increase the likelihood that individual fans will read at least some of them.


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