Accessibility Weekly and Tracking

Published on by David A. Kennedy

Back in October 2022, I turned off tracking in Accessibility Weekly, the popular newsletter I run. I haven’t missed any of the data—yet.

When I did, I told my readers:

…I’ve turned off all tracking in the newsletter. You deserve a private reading experience after all. A number of you have requested this, and I hope to keep it that way while still maintaining support from sponsored content.

I don’t know the open or clickthrough rates for emails I send. I can’t tell who opened what email and what links they’ve clicked on. Sponsors can still add UTM parameters in their content, which feels like a fair tradeoff for sponsored content.

I wanted to do this for a long time. I’ve never had any tracking on the website, but the newsletter always had it, through both providers: Mailchimp and Buttondown. The imbalance got to me. I removed most of the tracking because the open and clickthrough rates never informed any of my decisions around the content in the newsletter. What matters to me more? Getting emails from subscribers telling me what they’ve found helpful. People sharing links they’ve found or written themselves. People giving me a few bucks in the “tip jar” link I include in each newsletter. All those tell me I’m delivering value better than tracking does.

The analytics produced from the tracking did help land my first sponsors though. I’ve been thinking through what’s next sans tracking:

  • Accessibility Weekly isn’t about growth at all costs. It amplifies the work of others for the sake of knowledge and learning.
  • Thankfully, I have sponsors interested less on the existing tracking analytics and more because they’ve seen success sponsoring the newsletter.
  • If a new sponsor wants numbers, I plan to offer them one free issue to try it out.
  • I hope to form longterm relationships with sponsors, and engage ones that align with the work my subscribers do.

Buttondown has anonymous tracking on its roadmap, and that may be a better solution for email analytics. Jeremy Keith wrote eloquently about the tracking issue in our industry. It prompted Chris Coyier to examine tracking in some projects. Both of those posts informed my thinking and made me want to write about it here.

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