What Do 73.9% of Email Newsletters Have in Common?

Graph TeaserNearly three quarters of all broadcasts sent from AWeber last month share a common basic characteristic.

It’s not subject line personalization (although many email marketing campaigns do indeed use this).

It’s not that the sender chose to tweet the email newsletter.

It’s not that they were created from blog content using our RSS to email tools.

Nope, it’s even more basic than that. And it might surprise some of you (at least, based on some of your responses to Bob’s recent post on HTML email design examples).

So what is it?

Most Email Newsletters Are Sent In HTML

In August 2009, 73.9% of all broadcast messages sent through AWeber included an HTML version.

For comparison, in August 2008 only 58.9% of broadcasts included an HTML version. In other words, the use of HTML in email newsletters has increased 25.47% in the past year!

Here’s how the percentage has changed over the past four years:

Graph - HTML Email Percentages Since August 2005


I’ll admit that even I was when I saw the stats. A lot of marketers still believe that plain text is the “default” format to go with (just see the comments on Bob’s post), and while I knew that the reality was different (even 3 years ago, over 53% of the broadcasts sent from AWeber included an HTML version), I didn’t expect such a strong majority of broadcasts to include HTML.

Why Has HTML Email Become So Much More Popular?

I’d like to think that at least in part this is due to the increasing number of HTML email templates we’ve released over the past couple of years.

But that certainly isn’t the only reason, and it’s probably not the primary one. If you’re going to use HTML, you’re going to do so because you’ve found it gets better results than text, or you believe it has the potential to do so.

So what potential/results might people see in HTML email?

  • An opportunity to provide an experience that more closely matches the one your customers & prospects have on your website.
  • The ability to deliver product and other images directly in the email body; to link text/images; to display content in multiple columns and take advantage of other HTML formatting.
  • Easier tracking of activity – no need to type out tracking URLs in the body where subscribers can see them; ability to track opens (even if opens are a somewhat imprecise metric, they can help you to compare the relative success of campaigns).
  • You can add a preheader to remind subscribers why they signed up, encourage them to whitelist you and take other actions that can increase response and deliverability.

More on HTML vs. plain text.

Don’t Join The Crowd “Just Because” – But Don’t Avoid HTML “Just Because,” Either

The point here isn’t “hey, 3/4 of broadcasts are in HTML, so obviously yours should be, too.”

It’s this: if you’re sending your emails in plain text only “just because” you always have, or because the people you receive email campaigns from send in plain text, then try HTML – run some tests with it to see how your subscribers respond!

After all, you never know until you try…

More On Email Newsletters and HTML

Your Thoughts?

Were you surprised to find that so many broadcasts are sent in HTML?

Have you been sending yours with an HTML version, or as plain text?

Share your thoughts below!


  1. Gobala Krishnan

    9/24/2009 12:26 pm

    HTML is better, much better. I think there are several myths about email marketing that need to be busted.

  2. Bob The Teacher

    9/24/2009 1:58 pm

    Even when sending a plain text "looking" email, internet marketers are well served to use the HTML version for exactly the reasons you mentioned: better stat tracking, call to action text links, font choice selection, and ease of layout.

    When using the HTML templates (Aweber’s or one you design yourself) make sure you keep to the size dimensions, or else your right hand column may wind up at the bottom of the page (mistake I learned the hard way!).

    And also remember that many will not have their images turned on, so be sure to use the alt-text (screen tip) in your images too avoid awkward spaces.

    Awesome article Justin – can’t wait to hear more tips on our call this afternoon!

  3. Brian

    9/24/2009 3:13 pm

    I’m starting to feel like I’m not really taking full advantage of my HTML emails. For the most part I just throw in text and then I’m done with it.

    At this moment I feel like the only thing I’m taking advantage of is the click tracking. Although, that’s certainly a great benefit.

    Now if I could just get more people to subscribe!

  4. Jorge Diaz

    9/24/2009 4:54 pm

    Great stats, thanks for the info. This will only grow and many people will look in newsletter design.

    More complex ways of designing your newsletters using CSS ( Cascading Style Sheets).

    Tracking open rates is a big thing with HTML i generally send in HTML because of that.

    Talk to you soon!

  5. Bob Ricca

    9/24/2009 6:00 pm

    You’re absolutely right.

    Although, I noticed you mentioned using CSS. I just wanted to make sure it’s clear to everyone that CSS has limited support in the world of email… so some CSS is ok but some of it gets stripped out by certain email clients.

    If you retain any knowledge about HTML it should be – Test, test, test!
    Create multiple accounts with different email clients (gmail, yahoo, hotmail, outlook, thunderbird, etc…) and send your newsletter to each so you can get a glimpse at what your subscribers will be receiving.

  6. Charles Kirkland

    9/24/2009 8:39 pm

    For a long time I never used HTML because I thought that plan text was just as good. But last year I stated testing the 2 formats and HTML emails typically created 57% more actions then just plain text emails.

    For me it really comes down to being able to put a real call to action in the html emails. People are just programmed from years of surfing to click on the call to action.

  7. Angela Wills

    9/25/2009 12:27 am

    I found it surprising. Didn’t think so many marketers would be using it since so many recommend against it.

    I think another reason why I use it is because of Aweber’s deliverability is awesome. I’ve used other programs where the open rates and clicks are so much worse and I’ve wondered if it had to do with a combination of using html and the service just not getting html delivered as well. Of course that’s just a guess but I just feel ‘safe’ using html in Aweber and still know it will get there without any difference.

    Of course I also like to use it for the reason you also mentioned. The main ones being ease of click tracking and keeping the brand experience consistent (and adding my pic for a personal touch).

    Thanks for another great article ๐Ÿ™‚

  8. Yee Shun Jian

    9/25/2009 4:29 am

    I use both versions when I’m sending out emails…

    Generally, I prefer the HTML version because I can use keywords as anchor text for my links. It definitely helps with clickthroughs…

    "Click here to…"

    always looks better than

    "Click on the link below to…
    (ugly link)"

  9. Tom Kulzer (AWeber CEO)

    9/25/2009 7:59 am

    Yee Shun Jian makes a great point that I’d like to stress. When using HTML format for your messages you should *always* send both HTML and a plain text version. The recipients email program will automatically display the version that they prefer and hide the version that they do not.

  10. Marco Ruschioni

    9/25/2009 9:14 am

    The biggest reason everyone should be always sending an HTML part and TXT part in a MIME format is for deliverability.

    Spammers use only HTML, or only TXT…very rarely MIME. So in other words, if you do the same, you are effectively risking being seen as a spammer which may result in your email being junked, or your IP reputation being negatively impacted.

    So ALWAYS send both ๐Ÿ™‚

  11. LoneWolf

    9/26/2009 1:19 pm

    I like the look of HTML messages more than plain text. It lets you set things up for an easier read in addition to the benefits mentioned above.

    It is still important to remember that there are e-mail clients that don’t handle it, and people that turn it off in the clients too, so plain text still needs to be there.

  12. Gary Huynh

    9/26/2009 4:41 pm

    This statistic is surprising for me as I’ve always preferred plain text emails. I do see the value in sending html emails now after reading the comments above.

    It makes sense that having graphical call to actions would increase click through rates. Time to do some testing…

  13. John

    9/28/2009 1:32 pm

    Since I began the use of your AWeber services, I simply thought I’d cover all bases by using both the HTML & text formats. But for me personally, I have always subscribed to receive the "details" – the graphics, live links – the whole bundle!

  14. Kevin McClelland

    9/28/2009 3:36 pm

    Good article, thanks for the read. I just got my first newsletter form on my website today and I am excited to finally build a list.

  15. Robertino

    9/28/2009 8:45 pm

    I use both HTML and Text. Some prefer one or the other but the most important point is deliverability. I open an account with another auto responder service provider, won’t name it though he claims to be in high tech but the fastest arrived after 2 hours other the next day other email never made it.

    I am amazed of how fast Aweber works /delivers email. I click send and by the time I close the browser and click receive in my email client it is already there. That is money in the bank for me and I wonder what took me so long to open an account. Thanks Guys ๐Ÿ˜‰

  16. Paula

    9/29/2009 7:28 am

    I’ve always prefered to send HTML emails rather than text emails.

    They are much nicer looking and it’s so much easier to drive attention to the desired features.

    I was not surprised with the increased numbers.

    Great article.

  17. Steve Trojan, CPA

    9/29/2009 8:12 am

    I much prefer HTML over plain text. Plain text emails are very fifficult to read and, in my opinion, look unprofessional. I will read HTML over plain text any day.

  18. Reuben

    9/29/2009 8:26 am

    Wow, this is really something new to me.

    Time for me to learn to send HTML mails instead.

    Thanks for the great info!

  19. Joe

    9/29/2009 8:54 am

    Make the customer as happy as possible, that’s my motto. Give them whatever version they want, which in some cases translates into whatever the customers computer wants.

    Some people have older machines or just prefer the text version. Making them both available is you best bet. Survey to find out which versions your customers prefer and give them whatever they want.


    Do a three sample test: text, HTML or both. See if there is a significant difference, but you need a big list for it to work, I’d imagine.

  20. Chris

    9/29/2009 9:39 am

    I’ve always sent out html emails, and simply copy and paste (and add the necessary links and graphical dividing lines) for the plain text version. Very few of my subscribers view the plain text version, but I will likely always send both for maximum flexibility (and 0 spam scores).

  21. Rodney

    9/29/2009 12:45 pm

    This is interesting speculation about why more people use html wouldn’t it be good to know more data before coming up with several hypotheses?

    For example, what percentage of the people using html are sending an html message that looks like a text message? I have no idea but I know that I send my messages as html but they look like text messages.

    I send messages as html so I can get open rates for the messages. That’s it.

    It might be useful to poll users to ask them why they are using html or poll users that started using html in the last year who weren’t before to find out why.

    I just felt like I was reading someone’s theory about people’s behavior who hadn’t bothered to actually find out why people are doing what they are doing with email.

  22. James Hamilton

    9/30/2009 10:07 am

    I’m very excited about HTML… It’s so easy to create professional looking, eye catching email messages. God Bless You Aweber!

  23. Akash Sharma

    10/1/2009 10:43 am

    Great Post thanks for sharing, HTML is always better because if you are sending simple text emails it looks too old fashioned also that sending HTML messages enables people to take action on the email as they can easily surf through.

  24. Phil Jones

    10/2/2009 9:44 am

    Very useful.

    Is there a way to tell, for my campaigns, how many people are opening with HTML and how many with text?

    I have some clients "behind the corporate firewall" who only get the text part.

    Eitehr in teh old package is it possible to get the percentage of each?

    Or even with the new package is it possible to identify which are which?


  25. JLR

    10/2/2009 2:27 pm

    My first question is, is there default setting to send both a text and html version? Was this setting the same as it was last year? Are you comparing the stats from last year as follows: last year x percentage of users sent an html format and this year x % sent and html newsletter? Do you take in consideration the increase or decrease in users of your system. If you had a 25% increase in the users of your service last year and your default setting was to send both html and text messages at the same time, you couldn’t claim necessarily that people are moving to send html because they "apparently" like it more. You would need to do a proportional / ratio comparison to truly get any sense of an increase in use of html. Furthermore, if people are not forced to choose a setting, then how can you assume it is their choice to send html. Many marketers know they are suppose to send both an html and text version. So, I really dont see the relevance–especially if you are included those who select both html and text.

  26. Tom Kulzer (AWeber CEO)

    10/2/2009 2:59 pm


    There is no default setting to send either HTML or Text. A customer decides at each send time which version they would like to publish. The number of users of the service has no affect on the statistics as we’re far beyond the number needed to make sure the results are statistically significant.

  27. Jay Gumbs

    10/6/2009 2:33 am

    I always send both but I honestly (and I don’t know why) thought that very, very few people have plain text as their default email setting. I prefer HTML because that’s what *I* personally use.

  28. Alex Sysoef

    10/6/2009 12:03 pm

    I think HTML, when sent to targeted list that expects it – is also much more productive. People love HTML formatted emails as it helps them access information they subscribed to receive in format similar to what they see on my blog.

    HTML helps us build recognition, not only deliver results

  29. Tinu

    10/7/2009 12:57 pm

    My one reason to move in that direction was US broadband adoption. Most people can still download my HTML emails no matter how fancy I get. Two years ago the chance was too high that it would download even a few seconds too slowly. I’ve just started testing higher end graphics in my sales letters as well – my plainer, faster-loading sales letters ALWAYS outsell the ones that look fancier, even with the exact same content.

  30. Ted

    10/10/2009 12:40 am

    For some reason I find I get about double the percentage of "opens" with HTML vs plain text – but I get a much higher click through rate with the plain text version – so I am leaning toward more plain text.

    Those stats are for broadcast as I don’t know the data for the autoresponders -I guess I need to alternate them back and forth?

  31. Jans

    10/11/2009 1:18 pm

    I have always used the HTML rather than plain text. Since all of my subscribers are opt in I have no problems with the HTML not being delivered (thank you Aweber). My readers love the photos in the newsletters along with the layout. I like having my newsletter look like a magazine and so do my readers.

  32. Sean

    10/13/2009 3:19 am

    I prefer html over plain text. Having the option to use either is a big plus!

  33. Todd Heitner

    10/14/2009 10:48 am

    Thanks for the great information! It definitely gave me a lot to think about. I’ve been leaning toward text only for a few reasons, but I’m rethinking that.

    One reason was that I was under the impression e-mails containing HTML would be more likely to be classified as spam. I remember doing spam checks on e-mails before and getting points for HTML in the message. I haven’t tested that in a while and I’m not even sure specifically what HTML it was that I included in the messages before, so time for more testing. It seems apparent from this discussion that’s not the case, especially if you include both text and HTML versions.

    The fact that most e-mail clients and mail services disable images by default was another reason I steered away from it. While it is important as Bob mentioned above to keep that in mind in your use of images, it doesn’t mean you should never use them or never use HTML e-mails. Just make sure users can get all the important information easily without enabling images.

    To some extent I was also thinking that text e-mails will more closely resemble a personal e-mail you might get from a friend, which I thought might increase the chance of people reading them. However, there’s probably not much to that theory, especially since most e-mail clients like Outlook and web-based mail services send HTML e-mails.

    So again, thanks for a great article! (Also, good use of curiosity in the article title to get me to read it!)

  34. Mary Collier

    10/25/2009 3:40 pm

    It may be interesting to track the statistics as more people do business through their iphone and blackberry. HTML designed emails can be annoying on such small screens.

  35. Nial Fuller

    11/1/2009 11:21 pm

    I prefer the HTML version because I can use keywords as anchor text for my links. It definitely helps with clickthroughs?

    "Click here to?"

    always looks better than

    "Click on the link below to?

  36. » 20 Top Blog Posts on Email Marketing Spotlight Ideas

    11/9/2009 5:20 pm

    […] What Do 73.9% of Email Newsletters Have in Common?

  37. Mr.Dan

    11/11/2009 1:55 am

    HTML over text. That is obvious why its done. HTML looks beautiful compared to plain text. But most marketers still use text for a good reason. They want the message read for what they want to persuade not how good it looks.