How do publishers make money from email newsletters? If you’ve asked yourself this question before, you’re not alone. However, the answer is not straightforward, as there is more than just one path toward successful email newsletter monetization.
Strategies that publishers use to monetize their newsletters:
- Selling ad space
- Charging readers for premium content
- Accepting sponsorships
- Embedding affiliate links
Selling ad space, charging readers for premium content, accepting sponsorships, and embedding affiliate links are just a few of the strategies that expert publishers are using to monetize their email newsletters. Of course, some of these strategies are more successful than others, and a publisher’s ability to implement a monetization strategy hinges on his or her expertise.
While there is no exact formula to start generating revenue from newsletters, there are some common paths that publishers can take. In this blog post, we’ll talk about some of the newsletter monetization strategies that publishers are having the most success with right now, with advice that’s geared toward both beginners and experts.
Beginner Strategy #1: Selling Ad Space
By far, the most common way for publishers to generate revenue through email newsletters is by selling advertising. The larger the subscriber list, the more profitable this strategy will be.
How do you know whether your subscriber list is large enough to start selling ads? Ask yourself these questions:
Do I have at least 2,500 subscribers?
While there is not a specific number of subscribers that you must reach before selling ad space, most experts recommend holding off on this strategy until you have at least 2,500 subscribers. If you have fewer than 2,500 subscribers, then it might not be worth your time to set up an ad buy and track the necessary analytics. Once you’ve reached that threshold, though, you will likely have a large enough audience to begin generating real revenue through advertising.
What are my open and click-through rates?
If the open rates and click-through rates on your email newsletters are at or above industry averages, then you’re an excellent candidate to start selling email advertising. In the U.S., the average email open rate is 18% and the average click-through rate is 2.78%. The averages may be higher or lower for your specific industry, so dig into the analytics and see how you compare.
Are readers engaged in my content?
As a publisher, you should have a good sense of how your newsletters are being received. Are you seeing more readers request to subscribe than to unsubscribe? Ideally, you should wait until readers are really engaging with your newsletters before you start selling advertising.
Expert Strategy. While it’s technically possible to sell newsletter advertising directly, most publishers find that the cost-to-benefit ratio is more advantageous when they work with an outside vendor. inboxAds is a complete email newsletter monetization platform that gives publishers a way to combine native advertising with advanced email monetization tools. Using such a platform helps ensure that you’re delivering optimal content to your readers and that your traffic distribution is managed in a way that maximizes the revenue out of each conversion.
Beginner Strategy #2: Charging Readers for Content
Subscription products can seem like the low-hanging fruit of email monetization, but there is a good reason why so many publishers have started charging for premium email content. Whether you choose to create a separate newsletter subscription program or bundle newsletters together with existing subscription products, charging readers to access premium email content is a strategy that requires very little in the way of overhead cost or management expense. Even better, when your program is setup right, it can provide you with incremental revenue all year long.
Before making the decision to charge existing subscribers, make sure to run a cost-benefit analysis and gauge reader interest. You need enough readers who are willing to pay for this strategy to work. If reader interest is low, then go back to basics and try improving your content until you reach the point where readers are willing to pay for the work you produce.
Expert Strategy. If you are set on the idea of charging readers for your newsletters, but you’re nervous that existing subscribers won’t stick around if they’re forced to pay, then consider creating an off-shoot newsletter. Premium newsletters can be setup in a few different ways. You could reserve your best, most in-depth articles and HD videos for your premium newsletter. Or, you could create a premium newsletter that’s ad-free. Either way, make sure to promote your premium subscription program extensively in any free emails that go out to your existing subscribers.
Beginner Strategy #3: Sponsorship Deals
Have you ever opened up an article and seen a small headline that says “Sponsored by,” followed by a company’s name? What you’re seeing is a sponsorship deal, and it’s a monetization strategy that has grown in popularity among newsletter publishers over the past few years.
Rather than placing a handful of ads from individual businesses throughout their email newsletters, publishers can “sell out” their entire inventory to a single company. That company is agreeing to “sponsor” the newsletter in exchange for promotion. Sponsorship deals can run for days, weeks, or months. The opportunity is completely flexible, depending on the terms that the publisher and the company come up with.
Expert Strategy. While business sponsorships can be lucrative, they’re not always easy to come by for smaller newsletter publishers. If you don’t have companies jumping at the opportunity to underwrite your email newsletters, consider letting your readers sponsor you. Platforms like Patreon offer newsletter publishers a way to sell memberships or sponsorships to their fans. For example, She Spends offers three membership levels to readers. For $5 per month, readers get a shoutout in the She Spends weekly newsletter. Depending on how many readers you have interested in sponsoring your newsletter, you might find that it’s actually more lucrative to solicit sponsorships from readers than a single organization.
Beginner Strategy #4: Affiliate Links
Just about anyone can embed affiliate links in email newsletters, making this a great entry-level strategy for novice publishers to try out. When people click on an affiliate link and purchase the item you’ve recommended, you get paid a commission based on the price of the sale. Large publishers like The New York Times and Buzzfeed have been embedding affiliate links in articles and newsletters for years. Your ability to be successful with this email monetization strategy depends on your audience’s engagement and willingness to trust your recommendations.
Expert Strategy. Ecommerce retailers like Amazon have made it easy for publishers to earn commissions from their product links, but what if your audience is a bit more niche? If you’d like to generate revenue from more custom products, consider signing up with an affiliate marketing company. Many of these companies offer portals where advertisers post their best sales or offers. Larger companies even offer ways for publishers to partner with recognized brands directly. In many cases, the trade-off is that the platform or the affiliate company takes a cut from each sale.
Some of the most well-known affiliate platforms, outside of Amazon Associates, include:
Whether it makes financial sense to work with an affiliate platform depends on the specific way your program is setup and the product categories your readers are most interested in purchasing from.
If you are interested in learning more about email newsletter monetization, then check out inboxAds. The plug-and-play platform offers a simple and intuitive guide to help you through the process of adding advertising to your newsletters. Check out how it works.