Monetizing Email Newsletters: A Guide for Bloggers and Niche Publishers

Influence is no longer the exclusive domain of media moguls. Eyeballs and marketing budgets are being diverted toward an army of micro-publishers; be they content curators, bloggers, vloggers, or podcasters.

Given the increased demand, these publishers are rightfully looking for ways to thoughtfully profit from their audience, and their effort.

Profiting from Email Newsletters?

Along with other with the monetization tactics that bloggers use currently, like website display ads (ex: The Deck) and social media sponsorships (ex: Izea), today’s specialty publishers have a couple of noteworthy options for monetizing their email newsletters too.

Monetization of a publisher’s email assets is nothing new but until recently there were considerable barriers, such as minimum list size, which excluded smaller publishers from participation.

As a full service email marketing company with a passion for publishing, we’ve recommended several tactics to help modern day media moguls grow their email revenue — without having to sell directly or increase their workload. Here are two of our favorite approaches:

Display Ads in Email Newsletters

We have seen that display ad inventory, wrapped in or around emails, is a strong performer relative to price; for advertisers and publishers alike.

Hacker Newsletter, which is published by Kale Davis, tapped LaunchBit to dynamically inject a single ad in each newsletter. Kale uses MailChimp as his email service provider which is integrated with LaunchBit; making ad selection easy and injection automatic.

hacker newsletter ads

Conversely, Dan Lewis with Now I Know displays multiple ads in his newsletter. Dan uses LiveIntent as well as LaunchBit. Both of which also integrate tightly with his email service provider.

Now I Know - Email Ads

Dedicated Emails (a.k.a. Email List Rental)

The email list rental space has changed in recent years, for the better. Don’t get me wrong, there are still hoards of list companies that are renting, or even selling, worthless email lists but it’s also true that real email list rental continues to be a strong performer. Even so, many small publisher’s are reluctant to even consider email list rental as a monetization strategy.

Maybe it’s because niche publishers have a closer, more personal connection with their subscribers and don’t want to look like profiteers. Maybe it’s a lack of understanding of what list rental really entails.

Or maybe it’s simply the stigma of the name that turns off new publishers. Instead of “email list rental” we’ve always referred to it as Dedicated Emails or Sponsored Emails which, considering that the advertiser’s offer is typically wrapped in the publishers email template, is more fitting.

Here’s a dedicated email from DailyWorth; a publication which delivers practical tips on personal finance daily to women. In this example the advertiser is ShoeMint.

Daily Worth Email List Rental

Below is an example from Wilson Web, who publishes Web Marketing Today a newsletter which consists of ecommerce, email marketing, and website marketing tips. The advertiser is Lyris, an email marketing service provider.

In my experience, today’s email list management companies do a really good job of aligning advertisers with niche audiences. The technology and marketplace has advanced too allowing the advertiser, or their list broker, to easily rent lists, execute campaigns, and test performance.

What Are The Publisher’s Responsibilities?

Email display networks and email list rental companies make newsletter monetization relatively easy for publishers. From prospecting and sales to reporting and payments, they pretty much do it all.

The publisher’s ongoing responsibilities are limited to selecting/approving the advertiser’s ads/offers and continuing to engage their subscribers.

How Much Can Publisher’s Expect to Make?

Email Display Ads

Email display ads are typically bought on a performance base, such as cost-per-click or cost-per-impression, therefore the measurement most commonly used for projecting and calculating revenue is effective cost-per-thousand or eCPM. eCPM is calculated by dividing total earnings by total number of impressions in thousands.

When asked about their average eCPMs, Elizabeth Yin, Co-founder at LaunchBit, states “that there’s quite a range, from a couple dollars to nearly $100 eCPM (on opens).”  She goes on to say that “the best newsletters like Thrillist, who sells their own inventory, earns up to $275 eCPM depending on the ad format.”

Dedicated Emails

Dedicated emails are usually bought on a cost-per-thousand basis, or CPM, meaning that publishers receive a flat fee for every thousand emails sent, plus additional fees for any targeting requested by the advertiser. Payment is not tied to performance, however poor performing lists will quickly be dropped by any list rental company that is worth their salt.

Dedicated emails are averaging $80-$250 CPM, according to Worldata’s List Price Index, with certain business-to-business and international email lists raking in as much as $400 CPM.

Based on current numbers the payout for dedicated or sponsored email is greater than email display ads, but thoughtful publishers will be selective with how frequently they send these dedicated emails; therefore there are fewer opportunities to profit from email list rental.

Revenue Splits

Both email display ad networks and email list rental companies work on a performance basis; meaning that there is no fee to the publisher, instead they simply share in the revenue generated from the advertiser.

For example, with email list rental, the publisher will keep 50%-80% of every list rental order. The revenue split for email display ads, however, is a bit harder to pin down.

My Two Cents

If your audience is in high demand, you can and should get paid for access to it. You can always sell your email inventory yourself, but experience has shown me that you’ll probably receive less revenue while working harder for it. Especially in the email list rental realm.

The more publisher’s effectively market themselves, the more demand there will be for their content. That in turn will drive list growth, which they can monetize directly and indirectly, no matter if they choose to use display ads, email list rental, or any other method.

I say that busy publishers might be better off leaving indirect monetization to the professionals and test all audience-appropriate tactics. What say you?

About the Author: Scott Hardigree is the Founder of email marketing agency, Indiemark. He can be reached at scott@indiemark.com or indiemark.com

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