Digest email critique #1 - Umano

Welcome to our first “digest email critique” on this blog. We plan to regularly look at samples of good and bad digest emails sent from some of our favorite apps and give ‘em the old Siskel & Ebert treatement (with the goal of advancing the art of email engagement, of course). Our first subject…


Umano app

I am a bike commuter, so audio content is super important for me. I spend at least 1hr/day consuming audio content - so I was super excited to be recommended to Umano. Umano is a mobile app that records people reading articles so that that you can consume audio versions. It’s great. 

So, when I received my first “digest” email from Umano this week, I was also super excited. Given all the competition (podcasts, audio books, music) for my ear canals on my daily commute, this kind of engagement is really, really important for Umano.

So, I applaud the team at Umano for putting together these emails in the first place. Their mere existence is great thing (for them and their users).

Now, let’s look at their digest email in more detail:


The good: Nice clean layout and great action buttons

First of all, the email was well designed - clean layout. I liked seeing the default images that defined each article and the clear headline for each. It made the email very easy to scan.

I also commend the email for the action buttons under each article - they give the user has the opportunity to LISTEN to the article or ADD it to his/her Umano playlist. By far, the most valuable action for me was ADDING TO PLAYLIST given that that is how I consume the content on Umano. I would have liked this to be the most obvious button on the screen (vs LISTEN NOW).

On a side note, I really hope the Umano team is measuring the engagement of these two buttons closely. These metrics could represent the key to making these emails truly effective. It may be the case that the LISTEN NOW button is never used and it would make sense to highlight the ADD button instead; or replace it with a “Refer article to a Friend” button (or something like that).

The “could be better”: Relevance, Length & smarter actions

By far, the biggest issue I have with this email is its relevance to me (or lack thereof). The email is simply showing me the “Most Popular” articles on the Umano platform. I’m assuming that every user of Umano received this same exact email - and it felt that way. Generic. I looked through all the articles in the email (there were 8 featured) and I only added one to my playlist.

The good news is that I engaged with this email and added an article to my playlist. To that degree, this specific email was ‘successful’. The bad news is that 1 out of 8 articles isn’t a great percentage, so I may not be so fast to open the next email I get from Umano (mind you, I will b/c I’m me, but other users with the same experience may not).  

The better approach would have been to deliver me more relevant articles. Umano has data around my preferences in their system (I entered them manually when I set up my account) as well as a history of the articles that I have listened to and liked. I also have friends that I am connected to in the app that are generating their own data. I would have loved to see Umano use that data to deliver me a more relevant email digest. Show me the articles that:

  1. I will like {based on my profile/preference/usage data};

  2. my network is engaging with; and then

  3. generally popular or trending content

This would have made this email much more engaging for me.

I also was missing data around my ‘network’. Has anyone else from my Facebook network signed up? If no…why not an action that helps me grow my network - good for me and Umano. 

The email was also a little long. It’s a small point, but I think it’s hard to get people to scroll down and engage with a long email. If they were to cut down the article “excerpts" to 2 lines, instead of 3, they could shorten the email quite a bit.

Finally, I didn’t really know what the three social icons are at the bottom of the email. They are links to Umano’s social profiles, but they seem a little strange just floating there and not really providing any value. Personally, I would recommend some kind of referral message/action here - “Love Umano? Refer a friend" which would allow me to post to my networks. This strategy loses value over time, but it’s something you could use for early users and depreciate it over time.

Again…I’m very grateful that Umano has started with their digest emails. With a little tweaking, these messages can prove to be essential to their ongoing user engagement.

Anything I missed?

Until next time, "I’ll see you at the movies."