Do Overly Specific Subject Lines Impact E-mail Response?

I just got my weekly e-mail newsletter from Ticketmaster Canada and — like it does every week — my mouse went back-and-forth between the “delete” and “open” buttons as I decided what to do. Take a look at the newsletter as it appears in my inbox:

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Now that the kids are older there isn’t much chance we’ll be going to Disney on Ice, so my first inclination is to hit delete. But, if I decide to open the message despite it looking like a completely unappealing offer to me, I find something very different:

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I wonder how many Billy Bragg or Kris Kristofferson or Violent Femmes or Rob Thomas fans will be missing these shows because the subject line turned them off?

This problem isn’t unique to Ticketmaster — it is a fundamental flaw in newsletters. Because you are addressing more than one topic per e-mail, the subject line can never be both explicit and concise. One Degree faces this problem every week. We send an e-mail digest that provides lines to a week’s worth of articles. Usually, we pick a few hot topics and highlight those in the subject line, but we can never mention everything that might be of interest to all readers. Has anyone come up with a solution to this problem, or is it just something we have to live with and test to minimize the impact?

Originally published at on February 1, 2006.