Q: Does Databack have the ability to tell us how many subscribers actually open the HTML newsletter emails that we send?

The short answer is yes. But there are limitations and considerations.

Open-rate tracking requires an HTML message, with an embedded 'tracking image'. The link to that image is unique for each reader, and each time someone opens the newsletter, that image will be served by our web server and the 'open' recorded.

Or at least that's the theory. In practice there are many limitations:

- Your newsletter must be HTML. You can't track open-rate of plain text messages.

- This technique is called a "web bug" or "web beacon" and accepted practice is that the use of them should be disclosed in your site's privacy policy.

- Several of the large web-email ISPs (hotmail, gmail, yahoo, etc.) as well as many popular email clients (Outlook) now block images in emails by default. Unless the reader specifically enables images for your newsletter, their open won't get counted.

- Outlook and Outlook Express default to using a "preview pane" and most users don't bother or know how to disable that. So even if they simply highlight the newsletter to delete it, it opens in the preview pane and counts as a "view".

- "Opened" does not equal "read". There are many scenarios in which a subscriber might open the newsletter without actually reading most or even any of it.

- Around 2022, an update to Apple Mail included a method to disable such tracking. So those who use that option and open your message in Apple Mail don't get counted.

- Finally, if you are sending mail on behalf of an organization, check your privacy policy. It may prohibit the use of web bugs in sent emails.

So the bottom line is that you *can* track open rate this way, but the actual number or percentage of opens can be misleading. The good news is that the errors are generally consistent from one mailing to the next, so the best use for this statistic is the variation between mailings.