How long should email newsletters be? [Data!]

People average 51 seconds on e-zines

The No. 1 advice email newsletter subscribers have for e-zine senders? Keep it short.

How long should email newsletters be? [Data!]

What’s the right length? Email newsletters of about 200 words get the greatest clickthroughs. So why not write 200-word e-zines? Image from iStock

This according to the Nielsen Norman Group’s 6 rounds of email newsletter usability studies conducted over 16 years.

People spend just 51 seconds, on average, with an email newsletter after opening it, according to an NNG study.

Indeed, participants in these surveys (and, presumably, your audience members) put their eyes where their mouths are: People spend just 51 seconds, on average, with an email newsletter after opening it, according to an NNG study.

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“The rule for web content is to keep it short,” writes Jakob Nielsen, principal of the Nielsen Norman Group. “The rule for email content is to keep it ultra-short.”

So how long should email newsletters be?

People read about 200 words per minute. So figure Average Reading Time, or A.R.T., a concept created by The Poynter Institute’s Roy Peter Clark.

If people will spend an average of 51 seconds — let’s call it a minute — with your email newsletter, you’ll want to multiply one minute by 200 words per minute to get the recommended length of your e-zine in words.

1 minute
x 200 words per minute
200 words

The answer: 200 words per newsletter.

This recommendation is borne out by another study.

Emails of about 20 lines of text had the highest click-throughs, according to study of more than 2.1 million customers by Constant Contact.

Twenty lines is about … 200 words.

Would your email newsletter be twice as good if it were half as long?

Learn a system for writing effective email newsletters and e-blasts.

“How to write a good email: 1. Write your email; 2. Delete most of it; 3. Send.”
— Dan Munz, senior advisor, U.S. Department of State