How Artifact helped Wiland cut the cost of composing daily newsletters by 64%…

…and enabled them to meet their goal of increasing newsletter output.
“It really did change our work-lives, for both our jobs. It’s the most useful tool we’ve been given.”
Adrienne G.—Content Editor, Wiland

The Client

Wiland specializes in building and delivering digital audiences for some of the top brands in the world. By predicting the consumer response to campaigns, they help advertisers, agencies, and non-profits improve their click-through and conversion rates, increase their return on ad spend, and increase revenue from direct mail prospects.

The Need

23 email newsletters were being sent out daily, each with a unique brand and audience, and each with 4-6 unique stories from around the web tailored their respective brands. Two content editors were tasked with aggregating relevant stories from Feedly and then populate them into HTML email templates to be showcased in the newsletters. This involved manually copying and pasting each story’s headline, short description, thumbnail image, and URL into the appropriate positions within the HTML, all the while ensuring the email newsletter’s syntax remained intact.

“Using the old method, my average time per newsletter was about 11 minutes.”
“Our previous process was laboriously repetitive (and on a system with unreliable performance). Karen and I were both experiencing a significant amount of hand, arm, and shoulder pain from it (not a pre-existing thing). Mentally, it was really hard to not burn out on that process as well (compounded because we could feel it physically).”

The Two-Phased Approach

Phase 1

The priority for phase 1 was to build an application that remedied the cumbersome labor of populating the HTML email templates. For our first task, we rewrote the email newsletter templates to improve deliverability to various email clients—they were especially rendering poorly in multiple versions of Outlook. During this process, we added syntax that would signal to the application where each content element needed to be positioned when a story was inserted.

The application allowed the team to select a brand and then view a list of all the existing newsletters for that brand as well as a preview of what the selected newsletter looked like. We then built a content scraper whereupon a URL was entered, the tool would automatically scrape the title, description, and all images on the story page (up to approximately 8) and present this data in editable fields for the team to either confirm or modify as needed. If the data looked good, they would choose a position (slots 1-6) and click an Insert button and the story would be inserted into the newsletter. The newsletter would refresh to display the change.

The scraping functionality alone had a significant impact by:

  • Reducing the number of copy and paste operations
  • Removing the need to store html templates on the file system
  • And eliminating the burden of conserving the integrity of the HTML syntax when editing a newsletter
“Using the scraper takes us somewhere between 2-4 minutes each. So the scraper is saving us 7-8 minutes per layout.”

Time cost savings: ~3 hours per day.

We also built an image store that gathered the images and preserved them for 6 months, even if the source link became unavailable.

Phase 2

The priority for phase 2 was to improve the organization of the 100+ brands and respective newsletters and aggregate the feedly stories into the application itself. When the second phase was complete, the content editors were then able to select a brand and see all of the newsletters currently being composed vs. the ones that were already sent.

We then connected the application to the feedly API and two mailing APIs. The team was able to prepare a newsletter through either the scraper, the feedly aggregator, or a combination of both. When a newsletter was ready, they could select which mailing API to send it through, choose the appropriate recipient list(s) with all relevant inclusion and exclusion rules, and schedule the send for a future date.

“It has also consolidated our process as we were using 2-3 applications to do what we can now do in 1. It has also centralized our storage for everything related to these layouts.”

The relief was felt.

“In addition to the time savings, the application has given us actual physical and mental relief. The physical ailments cleared up once we could use the application and it wasn’t long before we came insistent on having it (not wanting to revert back to the old method when the application was undergoing maintenance).”