Try to envision an email newsletter for engineers. It would consist largely of specs, and have a gray, industrial tinge, right?
Not so far. Open an issue of Engineering in Motion, a new newsletter from IEEE GlobalSpec, and you might see an animated bipedal robot doing knee bends.
Granted, this isn’t typical of the company’s many newsletters. IEEE GlobalSpec uses video in other titles, but this is the first to be wholly devoted to video.
And there’s a reason for this. The company wants to cultivate Millennial engineers, who like others in their age group tend to view content on mobile devices. And video is perfect for smartphones.
To start with, the team looked at a propensity model to find “the people we actually knew who interacted with video or webinars in the past,” said Don Lesem, VP and chief design officer. The team came up with a circulation of 145,000.
That circulation is small compared with those of other IEEE GlobalSpec newsletters. The flagship title, Specs and Techs, goes out weekly in multiple versions, and probably reaches a million readers.
But it seems to be working. The open rate for Engineering In Motion averages around 30%. Some months it’s higher — up to 35% — and some months it’s lower. The click rate is about 24%. These stats represent a 30% leap over the company average.
Thanks to this delivery of video and text, “we are seeing vast improvements in open and clickthrough rates,” said Bryan DeLuca, senior director of audience development, user experience and content.
What’s more, all the advertising slots are sold out. (The company runs on an ad-based revenue model). “We’re almost out of inventory unless we increase editions or deploy newsletters on more vertical engineering topics,” Lesem said.
That’s impressive, given that the newsletter has increased in frequency from monthly in March to having three issues in June.
Founded around 20 years ago by former GE engineers, GlobalSpec serves as an a primary information resource for “the practicing engineer, the bench engineer, the people that are taking things from R&D and actually delivering a finished product into the market,” Lesem noted.
But that group is starting to age out. “Some surveys say as much as 45% of the engineering staff is going to be turning over in the next ten years,” Lesem said. A lot of this institutional knowledge is walking right out the door.”
This kind of turnover is called “the big crew change,” in the oil industry, he added.
In essence, IEEE GlobalSpec serves two audiences, with different needs. The older engineers seek referential material — they know what they want, and go right to it. Younger engineers want how-to and application content — and, yes, video.
Young or old, engineers are a tough audience, trained to be skeptical and to triple-check everything. “You have to offer some real meat to engage this audience — you can’t be frivolous or you’ll really alienate them,” DeLuca said.
Solid content helps to eliminate that skepticism, but even the videos have to be presented with supporting information. “Nobody’s going to watch without context,” said DeLuca. They have to be engaged to devote up to five minutes of their time to a video.
DeLuca added that most Engineering in Motion readers watch the videos to the end, contributing to an 80% engagement rate. He added that engineers “are by nature very creative, very curious.”
The first issue appeared in March, and it featured the robot doing squats and bends. The context? “Agility Robotics, a spin-off from Oregon State University, have demonstrated its first prototype that offers range of motion to tackle rugged environments.” The issue also had a video titled “Would You Travel In a Drone Taxi?”
The April issue featured an animated video with the headline, “Anti-Drone Competition Seeks Ways to Counter Unfriendly UAVs.”
About 30% of the readers view the newsletter from a mobile device. This is about average for the company, although the total may be lower for some newsletters, depending on the industry they serve.
That percentage seems to have plateaued after jumping from around 10% in only a couple of years. Why the leap? Probably because the audience is getting younger.
What’s next? GlobalSpec was acquired last year by IEEE, and now has access to that firm’s vast information resources. Look for IEEE GlobalSpec to extend its already vast reach in the engineering community.
Meanwhile, the younger audience is creating another change. Only 20% of the overall engineering audience is female. But that number jumps to 43% among the Millennials.