Email Newsletters

The Un-Newsletter

the un-newsletter

So I am feeling bored by standard email newsletters. I’m not alone but I am most certainly not anti-newsletter either. The newsletter has been and continues to be an effective tool but maybe we should reconsider how we approach it?

Does your newsletter have to be newsy?

I suspect when we think email newsletter, we focus on the “news” part and envision something text-heavy and long. That’s still what many newsletters look like in my inbox anyway, and I suspect that’s the format you usually see too. But what if we undid the newsletter, to take the focus off the news part and put it where it should be: on the customer?

If we focus on the customer and why we are emailing them in the first place, we remember that a) they are busy, mobile and attention-challenged, and b) we aren’t sending them newsletters to educate them in general but to engage them. Keeping these two points in mind, we can totally rethink the email newsletter and create something totally new but still get the results we all want.

Some un-newsletter ideas to get you thinking.

I don’t have dozens of wonderful un-newsletters to share with you. That’s because most of what ends up in my inbox is just what I am suggesting you avoid: the text heavy and lengthy format. Nevertheless here are some ways you could consider un-newsing your newsletter to create something totally new that still serves the customer and engages them:

  1. Digest it.
    Rather than send a couple truncated, or worse full, articles to your subscribers, consider doing a digest instead. We do a digest of blog posts from time to time, which enables us to send a very digestible mobile-friendly newsletter. Running short of content or ideas? You can also do a digest of others’ content, or take the dedicated approach of Hacker Newsletter or theSkimm and pull together a digest with your own editorial slant.
  1. Down-and-dirty surveys.
    What if your email newsletter was intended to easily solicit and share feedback? And then you shared the answers in the next issue? For example, a brand could ask, “What is your biggest challenge to ____?” make the survey quick, tell them them it will be quick, deliver on that promise and in the next issue, share the answers. People like to know what others are going through and how they address those challenges.
  1. Drop the verbiage.
    OK, I don’t mean leave all of the words, but what if your newsletter was a comic or illustration or photos or a short video? Instead of asking people to read 500 words, you got your point across in a 60-second video? Or you hired an illustrator to do a weekly comic? Or you created a chart or infographic to visualize the information you’d otherwise use words for?
  1. Rethink the look.
    Even if you decide the text-heavy-handful-of-articles approach is still the right one for your brand and your customers, you can make it more appealing with design that doesn’t actually look like a newsletter. A great email designer/thinker can do a lot to make content easier to consume especially in the mobile age.
  1. Ask for the money.
    Often times a marketer’s email newsletters are actually too educational. Ask subscribers to take the next step logical step. After all, ‘marketing’ is the email marketing newsletter’s middle name.

In my business, I get—and send—a lot of email newsletters, so we’re pushing clients and ourselves to rethink the email newsletter and take a different approach, one that takes the emphasis off the news and puts it where it should be: on the subscriber and the sender’s ROI.

About the Author: Scott Hardigree is Founder of Email Industries (the folks behind IndiemarkBlackBox, Formswell and Email Critic). Connect him everywhere, here.

Are Curated Email Newsletters Right for You?

curated email newsletters

No one can possibly sort through let alone digest all of the information that comes our way each day. But it is the Information Age and we need to keep up with the latest news and developments. That’s why we subscribe to blogs and newsletters or in the first place, right?

So if we need all that information yet we don’t have time for all of that information, what is the answer? The answer is, the curated email newsletter—a newsletter not of original content, but of content you deem worthy of putting in front subscribers.

For the recipient, the curated newsletter can be a blessing, saving them from sorting through all kinds of emails and searches to find up-to-date information. Plus a well-curated newsletter will include information they might not have come across on our own! It’s like news you can use in a nutshell. Curated newsletters can keep us informed and save us time, all at the same time. What’s not to like about that?

As for the curator of such an email newsletter, what’s not to like about pulling together content rather than creating it? Again and again, studies show that B2B businesses struggle with content creation.

With a curated newsletter, on the other hand, you’re seeking out content that’s shareworthy, which can certainly be a lot more efficient than creating content from scratch. Not only is that a huge time saver for your team, but think about the brand impression you make when you go to that kind of trouble for your audience (assuming your curating only the best stuff). That’s the kind of goodwill marketing any brand can benefit from, but especially in the B2B world where people are so challenged to keep up with news.

There are obvious benefits of a curated newsletter but, truth is, I’ve always been a huge fan. One of my all-time favorites is Hacker Newsletter, which we’ve featured before. Simply read the testimonials to see how much people appreciate the time saved by it. Another favorite, which is not tech or marketing related, is Next Draft. Where else can you find an article on turkey bowling alongside an article on the Supreme Court’s pending hearing on free speech online?

Is your business producing a curated email newsletter? If so, let me know in the comments section. I want to check it out and perhaps feature it. And if you have any suggestions for others on how to get started with this kind of newsletter approach, post those comments too.

About the Author: Scott Hardigree is Founder of Email Industries (the folks behind IndiemarkBlackBox, FormSwell and Email Critic). Connect him everywhere, here.

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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