Teletoon uses e-mail engine to draw in dedicated subscribers

Canada’s 24-hour animation network is using permission-based e-mail to protect the privacy of its newsletter subscribers, while targeting its viewer base more effectively.

Teletoon has English and French television programming, with classic cartoons and new animation from Canada and around the world for kids (and adults after 9pm).

It is using ThinData’s Email Marketing System (EMS) to distribute a monthly newsletter for kids with a preference centre that allows them to make changes to their profile or cancel their membership.

ThinData is an application service provider that will send – on behalf of its clients – 500 million e-mail messages this year. It offers software that allows clients to build targeted messages through personalization, dynamic content and triggered e-mail. ThinData also monitors if e-mail is going where it’s supposed to be going.

The teletoon.ca site is geared to kids and has 1.5 million visitors each month. Kids can subscribe to the monthly newsletter, called Teletoon Insider, which gives them a heads-up on programming schedules and special features. Teletoon sent out its first newsletter using EMS in February.

“Because we’re a broadcaster and we’re working with kids, it’s all about safety and responsibility,” said Susan Nakhle, director of communications with Teletoon in Toronto. “So it’s embedded in our culture – we’re very careful about scheduling programs appropriately, abiding by all the regulations both from a broadcasting and advertising perspective.”

Teletoon is also subject to PIPEDA, Canada’s privacy legislation. In the U.S., the government has access – without permission – to all data stored in facilities within U.S. borders as part of the Patriot Act. “There’s a contradiction between Canadian law and U.S. law where Canadian companies are compelled to protect access to their private information,” said Wayne Carrigan, vice-president of client strategy with ThinData in Toronto. By working with a Canadian company, he said, Teletoon is compliant with PIPEDA.

“We’re very concerned about making sure we protect the privacy of our subscribers,” said Nakhle. “Because we have registered users, the onus is on us to make sure that we’re only collecting what is necessary.”

Subscribers must register to receive the newsletter through a double opt-in process. A preference centre allows them to update their information, edit their preferences or cancel their membership in a secure manner.

“E-mail communications are a reflection of the quality of your organization and recipients are affected by e-mail – they have an emotional response,” said Carrigan. “If you don’t get the message when you expect it or if you get multiple messages, then it can create a negative situation.”

The double opt-in process is only half the equation, though. The other half is ensuring that appropriate content is sent out. “Just because you’ve opted in doesn’t give anyone the right to send you anything,” he said. “Today the consumer is in control of their permission and in control of the relationship, and today’s good companies recognize that they have to provide relevant and timely and valued content.”

Teletoon is using EMS’s reporting capabilities to gather information about its subscribers so it can offer appropriate content and customize e-mail messages. EMS provides granular reporting around response rates, delivery and retention, said Carrigan, which allows clients to calculate their return on investment.

“Through the reporting mechanism we’re able to check things like click-throughs,” said Nakhle. “We have data that tells us how successful that was.” Subscribers can also choose to get periodical e-mail updates on items of interest, such as special programming. If there’s an all-day Looney Tunes special, for example, Teletoon can alert subscribers ahead of time.

EMS also helps Teletoon maintain its database by keeping account information up-to-date and performing “list hygiene” (where a subscriber is deleted from the database after so many bounce-backs).

“We can see how many people got our newsletter and opened it, and this supports our strategy to grow the newsletter,” said Nakhle. So far, Teletoon has several thousand registered subscribers, but it has plans to significantly grow that number. Over the coming year, it will redesign the site, conduct research into the content that kids want, and work on a promotional plan to generate subscribers. It also plans to expand the newsletter to other demographics, such as older viewers.

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