Updated: February 11, 2020
Email isn’t the newest marketing channel on the block, but when it comes to audience engagement and monetization, it still remains king. Ninety-three percent of publishing and media firms now use email marketing, with many looking for new ways to monetize email newsletters for an additional stream of revenue.
Email-first publishers like TheSkimm are generating as much as $75,000 per daily newsletter send, with a base of more than 1.5 million subscribers. Smaller independent publishers can maximize revenue, as well, using a mix of high and low-tech monetization strategies.
If you’re a digital publisher who wants to make money off of email newsletters, then you’ll want to follow these steps.
How to Monetize Email Newsletters in 2020
Pick the right email marketing platform
Choosing the right email marketing service provider can make all the difference in a publisher’s quest to monetize email newsletters. MailChimp and Constant Contact are two of the most popular options for publishers in 2020, however there are hundreds of smaller service providers with similar features. One of the reasons why MailChimp has become so popular among online publishers is because the email service provider integrates with many other technology platforms, which makes it easier to place displays ads and affiliate links directly into emails.
Generate premium content
You can’t monetize email newsletters without first developing a great product. Regardless of the revenue generation strategy or technique you choose to implement, it’s the quality of your email newsletter that will determine whether advertisers are interested in buying in.
The best email newsletters are sent out at regular intervals, and they provide enough value to generate high open rates. Advertisers will be interested in the number of subscribers, email frequency, open rates, and click-through rates when they evaluate whether to advertise in the newsletter, so make sure to keep those metrics handy.
If your email newsletter is providing subscribers with real value, then businesses will spend money to be mentioned in your content. That’s why we recommend that publishers who are interested in learning how to monetize email newsletters work on developing the best products possible before initiating any monetization efforts.
Sell ad space
Finding the right balance between editorial and advertising is always challenging. Although publishers often worry that placing ads in email newsletters will cause readers to unsubscribe, that simply isn’t the case. As long as publishers deliver ads that are relevant to their audience, they will not see a drop in subscription rates. The key to successfully selling ad space and placing ads in email newsletters is to find the right balance between generating revenue and continuing to develop high-quality editorial content.
Reach out to existing advertising clients to gauge their interest in advertising in your email newsletter before turning to larger networks. Local businesses will typically pay more to have ads placed in relevant newsletters than what a publisher can expect to earn through display advertising networks. If you are worried about your ability to scale, then you can turn to a dedicated solution for delivering relevant advertising content to email newsletters. (We’ll discuss how to find the right ad management platform for email newsletters later in this blog post.)
Find the best ad management platform
While some publishers prefer taking a DIY approach when adding advertising to their email newsletters, many of those publishers hoping to monetize emails newsletters will use an ad management platform, like Broadstreet Ads. With Broadstreet Ads, niche media organizations can manage newsletter advertising through a streamlined dashboard. Broadstreet offers a library of ad formats, providing opportunities for publishers to capitalize on their subscriber lists in a number of different ways. The company also offers a sponsored content tracker, which advertising clients can use to measure the value of their own campaigns.
Automate the process with RSS feeds
Publishers who are interested in selling display ads as a way to monetize email newsletters can use RSS feeds to pull their advertisers’ latest content—including blog posts, press releases, and product lists—into their newsletters. Publishers will want to create ad zones within their newsletters to mark the positions where ads should be displayed. RSS feeds also make it possible for media companies to generate the content for their own newsletters in a seamless way. For example, MailChimp’s RSS-to-email feature will automatically send new articles to a publisher’s email subscribers.
With an RSS feed, material is constantly updated, so the content generates more click-throughs, and publishers can demand higher rates from advertisers.
Offer native advertising options
Email newsletters are an ideal place for native advertising, a type of paid media that often resembles a publication’s editorial content. A media company’s own subscriber list can be its best sales tool, as advertisers favor quality over quantity. Native advertising gives businesses a way to reach a publication’s targeted, loyal audience. Technology vendors like Gold Lasso provide email automation and monetization services for publishers, with native ads for email. In addition to the sponsored articles, which tend to be most common, these technology platforms enable publishers to offer content recommendation blocks and in-feed custom placements for advertisers.
Add Affiliate Links
Affiliate links are URLs that contain a publisher’s unique ID or username. When readers click on the affiliate link and purchase a linked item, the publisher generates revenue. Many large retailers work with publishers through affiliate programs and networks. When publishers mention the retailer’s product in web content or in email, and they link to the product using the affiliate link, they earn a commission based on the price of the sale.
Some of the most well-known publishers to generate revenue through affiliate linking in email newsletters include Buzzfeed and The New York Times. Unlike display advertising, publishers don’t need a ton of traffic to start seeing results when they add affiliate links to their email newsletters. When it comes to affiliate marketing, quality is more important than quantity. Affiliate linking can be used in conjunction with native advertising and display advertising, for publishers who want to utilize as many revenue streams as possible.
Charge readers for premium newsletter content
Outside of display advertising, native advertising, and affiliate programs, one of the best ways for publishers to monetize email newsletters is by charging readers for access. Publishers can sell paid subscriptions to email newsletters using WooCommerce’s free WordPress plugin. They can also use a service like Memberful, which collects membership fees for email newsletters. To monetize email newsletters in this way, publishers need to provide paying subscribers with valuable content that they can’t get for free elsewhere, like extended articles, exclusive educational modules, or even invitations to in-person meet ups.
Use analytics to find the best times to send
Open rates and click-through rates are the lifeblood of an email marketer. Although the number of subscribers in a publisher’s database is important to advertisers, click-through rates paint a much more complete picture of the value of ads placed inside email newsletters. Email tracking and measurement tools like Google Analytics measure open rates and clicks inside emails against days of the week and time of day, allowing publishers to schedule email newsletters to go out at the precise times when they’re most likely to be opened.
If you need help setting up automated newsletters, building custom newsletter designs or anything else related to newsletters, contact Web Publisher PRO.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in September 2017 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.