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Smaller email lists have higher open rates, says email list manager

Howard Lake | 24 July 2006 | News

Tom Kulzer, CEO of Philadelphia-based email communications service AWeber Communications, Inc, has found that publishers sending email communications to smaller distribution lists achieve higher open rates than those who send to larger lists. His findings are based on two and a half years of data and “thousands” of his companies’ small business clients.

Writing in his new blog, Tom Kulzer said: “You can see that the smaller the list the more tuned in the subscriber base is to the message.” This is good news for smaller charities and for those who have just started building up their email subscriber base.

The bad news is that it gets more difficult to sustain these open rates as the subscriber base grows.


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The range of results, according to Kulzer, is quite striking. Emails sent to lists of fewer than 1,000 subscribers have achieved open rates of between 60 and 95%, whereas those sent to more than 50,000 subscribers achieve open rates of between 18 and 41%.

Looking at the 105,922 text/html email campaigns that his company has handled for clients, Kulzer suggests three reasons for this relationship between list size and open rate.

First, smaller lists tend to mean newer subscribers, who are more likely to be interested in the emails’ content.

Secondly, it can prove increasingly difficult to make sure messages offer something to everyone in a large subscriber base.

Thirdly, as email lists grow it is easy to lose focus on the individual subscribers and consider them more as a group rather than as individuals.