Content Monetization: Driving Revenue with Email Newsletters

content monetization with email newsletters

Print revenue is on the decline. Facebook and Google are devouring the lion’s share of digital ad revenue. How can publishers monetize their content as the old revenue streams continue to dry up?

The key is diversification of revenue. In an ever-changing publishing world where platforms hold the power and algorithms shifts can single-handedly derail business models, publishers must be able to adapt. Fortunately, email can help, both driving revenue directly and generating more money in your other revenue streams. Here are 7 ways to boost your content monetization in the inbox.

1) Drive traffic to your owned channels with email newsletters.

In the past, publishers could count on Facebook to deliver site traffic and generate ad impressions. Unfortunately, Facebook is far from the steady stream of traffic it used to be.

Publishers who have built ad-driven business models around Facebook traffic are now in a pinch. Parse.ly data shows that Facebook referral traffic fell 25% from February 2017 to October 2017. It’s hard to believe that Facebook’s latest changes to their algorithm (or potential future tweaks) will do anything but make things worse.

As Facebook continues to cut publishers off from their audiences, email ensures that your dedicated audiences see your content (and the ad impressions that monetize it). You can grow your email list by:

  • Promoting newsletters on your social media channels, such as Facebook or even Apple News
  • Grabbing first-time site visitors with email capture widgets
  • Offering newsletters that cover content like that of the current page to increase the chances of conversion

Visitors from email view more pages per session (2.5 to 1.2) and visit far more often than visitors from Facebook. In fact, Vox Media’s newsletter growth lead found that their visitors from email are more engaged than those from any other platform:

I pulled the numbers last month and newsletter readers were spending about a minute fifty seconds [1:50] on the site, and about a page and a half, usually a little bit more. Whereas Facebook readers would spend 40 seconds on the site and weren’t even reading an entire page. They’re just zipping in and out, they’re clicking a link and then gone. 

More engaged readers view more pages, which leads to more ad revenue.

2) Sell advertising space in your newsletters

Publishers know how good email is at driving traffic, but it’s not just a way to serve up more ad impressions. You can make revenue directly in the inbox.

The email inbox is a self-contained space, free from the noise of the internet. That’s one of the reasons that email audiences tend to be more attentive. It’s also a reason in-email advertisements can be attractive to advertisers.

When you have multiple newsletter products based around narrow verticals or topics, the audience subscribing to each newsletter has indicated an interest in that topic by opting in. With that in mind, you can then sell advertising space in each newsletter to brands who cater to similar interests.

This is particularly important for B2B publishers, who tend to have work-related data on their subscribers upon signup, such as their company and title. Advertisers can be sure they’re reaching relevant audiences who work in a particular field or industry, so these publishers can command top dollar for their ad space.

By placing ads in your emails, you can supplement your revenue with ad real estate that routinely commands higher CPMs than advertisements elsewhere in the digital world.

3) For major publishers, newsletter sponsorships drive major revenue.

You can take it one step further and sell sponsorships in your newsletter offerings.

Some publishers and news aggregator newsletters with large followings find brands to sponsor their newsletters directly. Advertisers pay $75,000 per week to sponsor the Axios AM newsletter. When advertisers know they’re reaching 200,000 attentive email subscribers, they don’t mind paying the price tag.

4) Serve programmatic advertising in your emails.

Still, selling ad space directly is no less time-consuming in the inbox as it is on the rest of the internet. That’s why many publishers over the last decade or so have turned to programmatic advertising. The advent of programmatic eliminated the need for costly ad sales, allowing even the smallest publishers to monetize their content with advertising.

Just as programmatic advertising lowered the bar of entry for ad revenue on the web, you can also sell ads programmatically in your email newsletters. Not only do in-email programmatic ads tend to get higher CPMs than their non-email counterparts, they’re also less likely to be affected by the growing use of ad blockers. PostUp partners with PowerInbox and LiveIntent to offer publishers these powerful programmatic monetization solutions from our platform.

5) Send promotional emails.

For more revenue in the inbox, you can use dedicated sends to put promotional content from advertisers on full display. For these promotional emails, publishers rent their list to partners, allowing them to send marketing emails to a publishers audience.

Renting your list to advertisers can drive revenue without turning away your audience, as long as it doesn’t make up a large proportion of your total send. If you send a daily newsletter, you should be able to send these promotional emails 2-4 per month, provided you target the right segments of your email list. By enriching your email data with onsite behavior data, you can send promotional mailings to hypertargeted audiences, rather than just your email list at large.

Partner with advertisers who can make relevant offers to your audience, and keep up your end of the bargain by keeping your audience engaged. If you can maintain high email newsletter metrics, you can charge potential advertisers more.

6) Use email to nurture audiences into paid subscribers.

As more quality publishers go behind the paywall, the newsletter has become a powerful tool for engaging audiences and converting them into paid subscribers. Not only do email newsletters drive 12% of The New Yorker’s traffic, they drive subscriptions:

“Last year, Condé Nast’s data science team built a model to predict which factors best determine whether a NewYorker.com reader will become a subscriber. Whether someone was a newsletter subscriber was the No. 1 indicator. Thus, The New Yorker can draw a straight line between the quality of its newsletter readership and its bottom line: more newsletters subscribers, in turn, means more paid readers.”

And it’s not just a way to convert paying customers. Email can help keep them around too. Take it from Hearst Connecticut’s audience development director, Kerry Turner:

“Implementing a robust engagement and acquisition email marketing program has been the single largest contributor to our improved subscriber retention. When you have a paper delivered to your doorstep each day, it’s a daily habit. Daily content newsletters are much the same concept; the goal is to build the daily readership habit in a digital format.”

Building that daily habit with email newsletters engages your audience while also building stronger relationships with them. Those relationships will come in handy, whether you’re driving ad revenue, paid subscriptions, or other revenue streams.

7) Promote events and sell items with email marketing.

When content monetization isn’t enough, today’s publishers turn to driving revenue with in-person events, ecommerce, and other revenue streams.

If you’ve got an event or a product to sell, you can’t forget the efficacy of email marketing. Email routinely grabs a higher ROI than any other digital marketing channel, and publishers can use that to their advantage, no matter the business model.

Marketing emails are an effective way to promote upcoming events, but if you want your audience to attend your events, you have to build a relationship with them first. Email is a pretty good way to do that too. When it comes to ecommerce, gift guide newsletters can be a gold mine for affiliate revenue, as Buzzfeed found when they launched their Gift Guide in 2016.

Monetization in the inbox

Email is brimming with opportunities to monetize your audience, particularly if you have actionable first-party data on that audience. To drive more revenue from your email, take a look at the Email Audience Enrichment Solution Guide.

Editor, PostUp PlayBook