I’ve been on vacation in Hawaii and was whale-watching the other day (shout-out to Captain Dan McSweeney and his crew for giving us an unbeatable view of the humpbacks off the shore of Big Island). We were a captive audience of 20 or so people, on the boat for three hours, learning about the whales and their environment, and they made sure to take advantage of that – not only did they offer us merchandise to help fundraise for whale research, but they passed around a clipboard offering us their complimentary e-newsletter so we can get updates on what the whales and their followers are up to.
It made me think: are we as publishers taking full advantage of our captive audience when building our lists? Sure, we may have newsletter sign-up forms on our sites and mention the newsletters in-mag, but what about other situations? For instance, if your publication has a tent at Word on the Street, you should also have a computer set up so people can get your (complimentary!) newsletter. Hosting an event? Again, set up a computer, or at the very least have a sign-up sheet people can write on. The best way to develop an email list of readers engaged in your product is to take every opportunity to remind them of how it will benefit them, and to make it easy for them to sign up. (Not sure why you should be building a database of email addresses? Find out why your site/publication needs a newsletter.)