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Open Rates Are Dead: What Is Apple Mail Privacy Protection and What Should You Do About It?

We have entered a new era in newsletters

Welcome to Newsletter Operator!

In today’s edition:

  • Why open rates are dead, who killed them, and what to do about it

  • The pros and cons of newsletter ad networks

  • And much more…

Deep Dive

Open Rates Are Dead: What Is Apple Mail Privacy Protection and What Should You Do About It? 

Many newsletter operators still don’t know what Apple Mail Privacy Protection (MPP) is.

And many that do know, don’t understand:

  • How it works

  • Its impact on email opens

  • How to measure their metrics in a post-MPP world.

We have entered a new era in newsletters.

The #1 metric newsletter operators still measure is opens…

But that’s dead wrong.

Here’s why and what you should do now:

What is Apple Mail Privacy Protection (MPP)?

Apple launched the MPP feature on September 20, 2021.

When users open the Apple Mail app for the first time after downloading IOS 15, they receive a prompt to choose if they would like to “protect their privacy”.

If they select “Yes” this enables MPP which anonymizes email opens and hides their IP address.

It’s likely that 97%+ of Apple Mail users enable this.

(The 97%+ number is based on data from the adoption of Apple’s other privacy initiative: App tracking transparency “ATT”).

How does MPP work?

When a mailbox with MPP enabled receives an email, Apple fetches the message.

(This fetching doesn’t necessarily happen immediately at the time of delivery).

When the email is fetched it causes the tracking pixel to fire. This tracking pixel displays to the email sender that the message has been “opened”.

However, it’s still sitting unread in the user’s inbox.

How does this affect email senders (newsletter operators)?

MPP prevents newsletter operators from understanding how MPP users open their emails.

You don’t know if an open from an MPP user is “real” or not.

Does this affect other mailbox providers like Gmail or Yahoo?

Yes, MPP isn’t limited to Apple Mail.

If a user connects the Apple Mail app to Gmail or Yahoo Mail mailboxes can generate false opens.

This makes it hard to pinpoint MPP protection users.

You can’t exclude sending data from Apple Mail email addresses (icloud.com, me.com, and mac.com) to get reliable open rate data because Gmail and Yahoo users can use MPP too.

That said, the adoption of MPP is much lower in other mailbox providers.

According to SendGrid only 4.6% of Google opens were generated by MPP.

How much are open rates inflated because of MPP?

It’s important to note the impact of MPP has increased overtime.

When MPP launched in 2021, it was only available for IOS 15 users. At the time, many users didn’t have the latest operating system.

Now nearly 100% of Apple devices run on IOS 16 or 15 and it’s likely 97%+ of users opt in to MPP.

The MPP impact is huge:

According to litmus, MPP is impacting 55.82% of opens as of September 2023.

What should you do about MPP?

Here’s how to operate your newsletter in a post-MPP world

First, realize that open rate metrics are not reliable.

As newsletter operators, we’ve been trained for years to look at open rates by send and by subscriber source.

You have to stop using open rate as your primary metric!

You need a new North Star.

Here are the metrics you should track and prioritize (in order):

  • (1A) Product purchases

  • (1B) Leads generated

  • (1C) Sponsor clicks

  • (2) Clicks and CTR

  • (3) Poll responses

  • (4) Reply rate

  • (5) Open rate

(Always use unique clicks, CTR, replies, and opens).

Note: There are 3 “number one” metrics because newsletters have different monetization strategies.

  • Some newsletters focus on sponsors/advertisers.

  • Some drive leads to a product/service.

  • Others sell their own product(s).

  • Some do all 3.

Pick the metric that drives the most revenue for your business.

7 Things You Must Do Now To Combat MPP

1) Track all the metrics above

This may take some manual work.

Make a spreadsheet and record these metrics 48-72 hours after each send.

Also, track these metrics by subscriber source so you know which growth sources you should invest more into.

2) Always value clicks over opens

The only reliable way subscribers add value to your newsletter is by clicking a:

  • Sponsors link

  • Product link

  • Or any link (which improves your deliverability)

You have no idea if a person who opened actually read the newsletter – or if that open was automated by Apple Mail.

3) Use more links in your newsletters

Here’s how:

  • Add more contextual links to other content/products (ideally your content).

  • Add more call-to-actions for your products/sponsors.

  • Include a curated link section in your newsletter.

  • Use a poll (more on this below).

4) Use a poll in every newsletter send

Use a poll to see how people liked your newsletter.

Polls collect your reader's rating and allow you to easily request testimonials.

Use the "5 star, 3 star, 1 star" format (as shown below).

Aim for 80%+ 5-star reviews and more poll responses each send.

Beehiiv’s poll feature makes this easy to add and track.

5) Ask for replies often

The best way to measure how many people like your newsletter is their replies to your email.

Ask for replies, questions, and feedback on a regular basis.

Keep the conversion going in the replies. You’ll learn a ton about your readers.

6) Make your list cleaning practices based on clicks, not opens

Remove users from your list who haven’t clicked in 45-90 days.

Also, send re-engagement (aka win back) emails to users who haven’t clicked in 7-21 days.

Do not base your list cleaning and re-engagement on opens alone.

7) Avoid paid acquisition channels with low CTR

There are many paid acquisition channels with low CPAs (<$1 per subscriber) and high open rates of over 40-50%.

However, they often have low CTRs, sometimes less than 1-2%.

Don’t use these.

They’re inflating your newsletter with MPP users they look like they’re opening but are not.

Here’s an example:

  • Subscriber source #1: $1 CPA, 50% open rate, 1% CTR

  • Subscriber source #2: $2 CPA, 35% open rate, 8% CTR

Many people assume source #1 is better because of the lower CPA and higher open rate.


Subscriber source #2 has a:

  • 700% higher CTR

  • Cost per clicker of $25 (half the CPC of source #1 at $50)

The Best Links

📈 Growth

5 growth levers you need to reach 10,000+ subscribers (link)

The power of FB ads and newsletter recommendations (link)

💰 Monetization

The pros and cons of newsletter ad networks (link)

📬 Engagement

10 subject lines that always get opened (link)


8 ways to get newsletter subscribers to buy (link)

📰 Newsletter News

Jeff Zucker will acquire a stake in newsletter startup Front Office Sports (link)

A breakdown of how SparkLoop was acquired by ConvertKit (link)


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