Building an audience and creating long-term loyalty is one of the building blocks of content marketing. So why did we just remove 30 per cent of ...

Why we deleted 30 percent of our mailing list

Building an audience and creating long-term loyalty is one of the building blocks of content marketing. So why did we just remove 30 percent of our newsletter subscribers? And why did it prove to be a very good idea?

Many businesses measure vanity metrics. As long as the marketing manager can show the CEO (who in turn can show the board) that the number of Facebook followers and likes and the number of email subscribers has grown, everything is fine.

But what does this actually mean? The fact is that it matters very little.

Most marketers who measure vanity metrics realise after a short period that these figures are pointless. The number of Facebook followers say nothing about how many of them engage with the content, and the number of email subscribers say nothing about how many people read your emails. How many people your campaign reaches says nothing about how they experience your brand over time.

30 % inactive subscribers

Spoon’s newsletter has for the past four years gained more and more subscribers. But just as steadily has the opening and click through rates gone down. This happens at the same time as we have – at least in our own opinion – created more relevant and engaging content.

After digging a bit into the statistics, we started to realise why: about 30 per cent of our newsletter subscribers haven’t clicked in any of our emails for at least six months. The other 70% are extremely active.

These results can depend on many factors. Some have changed jobs, others are on leave, some have a fine-tuned junk mail filter and many are simply no longer interested. Counting the number of subscribers – regardless of reason – is uninteresting. And that subscriber figure makes other metrics more blurry. The question was therefore: do we want to reach many, or do we want to reach the right people?

The answer, of course, is that we want to reach those who are interested.

Fewer, but better, subscribers

During a few days last week, we sent out an email to the inactive subscribers and informed them that we’ve removed them from our email list. We explained why and encouraged them to re-suscribe once again if they changed their mind. The results showed that we got it right.

First of all, we now have a report that corresponds to reality. Was the content in our newsletter engaging or not? Second of all, one in four recipients chose to re-subscribe to the newsletter.

Finally, and perhaps most important, my email inbox started to overflow with positive responses. Some realised that our emails ended up in their junk mail by mistake, some re-discovered our content and certain people thanked us for this time with happy cries about how our email represented the antithesis of all bulk mail that is almost impossible to unsubscribe from.


By drastically decreasing the number of email subscribers and focusing on the right recipients, marketers can create better and larger engagement, get more accurate statistics and – most important – prove that quality comes before quantity.

If you haven’t already subscribed to our newsletter, we think that (maybe) you should. You can subscribe here.