How To Monetize a Newsletter

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As an ex-marketing manager for various high-growth startups, email lists are among the highest returns on investments from any channel.

Why?

Because it’s a direct connection to your audience that you are 100% in control of. No company can take away your CSV file.

And a newsletter is one of the best ways of monetizing email lists. It can get as high as 22% open rates on average.

So in this article, you’ll learn how to monetize a newsletter through various methods and some other interesting tips like:

  • When is the best time to monetize
  • Why you should do it
  • What software tools or services to use

Let’s get started.

Best Ways of Monetizing a Newsletter

1) Paid Memberships

Paid newsletters are exactly what the name implies. Content is hidden behind a paywall, and readers have to pay a monthly or yearly subscription to access it.

There’s a perceived value in premium newsletters and people want to get their money’s worth.

So, your content has to deliver some form of exclusivity by ensuring it does not appear on public web pages or other free newsletters.

Here are some exclusive content ideas you can add to your newsletter:

  • Access to gated content like case studies, ebooks, articles, marketing reports, and courses
  • Trend forecasts
  • Member-only events and communities
  • Early access deals
  • Live updates
  • Exclusive content like essays, videos streams

2) Promote Sponsored Content

Another effective way to monetize your newsletter is through sponsored content which is a common monetization strategy for content creators.

You can dedicate specific sections of your newsletter or even the entire issue.

To figure out how much to charge, you can look at CPM, which stands for “cost per mille” or per 1,000 impressions.

CPM = (Cost of the ad / No. of newsletter subscribers) x 1,000

The amount to charge really varies between niches, but an average newsletter earns a CPM of $15 to $30.

After finalizing your pricing model, it’s time to look for partners to work with.

Give potential sponsors different options to add their content to your newsletter:

  • Classifieds are 1-2 sentence blocks of text in your newsletter.  
  • Shoutouts contain multiple links to your sponsor’s desired CTA. They’re typically positioned in the middle of a newsletter. 
  • A deep dive is where you dedicate the entire newsletter to a sponsor. 

A good rule of thumb when promoting sponsored content in your newsletter is to disclose it in the header and probably the footer as well.

You should also match your ads to the theme and tone of your newsletter to keep your audience interested.

3) Sell Products and Services

The most direct way to make money from your newsletter is by selling products.

These can include digital products, merch or even your own e-commerce brand.

Remember, a newsletter needs to provide value. So don’t go slapping products in every issue and call it a day.

That’s a one-way ticket to getting a ton of un-subscribes.

Follow these tips when selling products in your newsletters:

Emphasize Benefits and Value

Customers want to see the value in your products. 

So, you will have to answer the age-old question: What’s in it for them? 

Make sure you understand what your subscribers want before marketing your products.

Start by crafting their buyer’s personas to determine their needs and interests. You can also check their past buying behavior if you’re trying to upsell new products.

Include a Clear Call to Action

Don’t keep the reader guessing. Telling them EXACTLY what to do by including a clear call to action. 

Are you looking to discuss your offer via a quick call? Or maybe you want them to visit a landing page to learn more about your product or service.

Your call to action should immediately tell the user what they should do next. 

Timing Is Everything

When selling products, you have to think about the timing. Try to tap into impulse buyers by creating a sense of urgency around your emails.

If you’re selling branded merchandise, you could offer limited edition products. People love items that are hard to get. Tap into this opportunity to promote a sense of exclusivity.

Signing up for an affiliate program is a common monetization tactic used by content creators.

You typically earn commissions for these referral programs via affiliate links.

If you are inserting them in your blog posts or social media profiles, your newsletter is just another traffic source.

A good rule of thumb is to only promote links that are contextual to the topic you are writing about for that issue.

If your newsletter is about dog products, it doesn’t make sense to promote cat stuff right?

5) Advertise Seasonal Promos

As the name implies, seasonal promos are offers or discounts tied to a particular event in a year.

You’d want to plan out seasonal campaigns ahead of time. This way, you can prepare the promotional assets for that specific period.

A seasonal promo can celebrate various events. You can run promos for traditional holidays like Black Friday and Christmas.

Or even for non-traditional celebrations like your newsletter’s 1st year anniversary.

Quick Tip: Ensure your seasonal promos align with your newsletter’s theme.

For example, if you’re running an Easter promo that month, insert some resources related to Easter.

It can be an article about how Easter celebrations happen around the world. Or, you can add an Easter checklist to give subscribers tips on making the holidays more meaningful. 

6) Sell Ad Space

Display ads are one most common tactics in email monetization.

Position your ad copy as a banner image, a text or image combination, or a simple call-to-action.

Here are a few tips to ensure that your display ads are seamlessly added to your newsletters:

Avoid Cramming Too Many Ads in a Small Space

Use space wisely to keep your messaging concise. The last thing you want is to have your ads become too distracting or spammy for your newsletter subscribers.

Positioning ads correctly on your newsletter also allows for easy viewing on mobile devices.

Make Your Call to Action Visible

You have limited time to entice your subscribers. So, make sure your ads have a visible call-to-action so they’re guided on what to do next.

Define Your Ad Goals

The goal of your campaigns dictates your ad’s content and design.

A brand awareness campaign, for example, will have different messaging and creatives compared to a lead generation campaign.

7) Pay-per-Click Ads

Ads are another ideal way to monetize your newsletters. You get to charge advertisers for positioning their ads directly in your subscriber’s inboxes.

Unlike website ads, newsletters are a more personal way to promote a product or service which results in higher conversions.

Advertisers will be more than happy to pay the price as they don’t have to compete in a bidding war with others.

8) Selling Paid Courses

In 2021, online course platform Coursera reported that they managed to sign on 92 million subscribers.

More users are willing to pay a premium to access quality online learning materials. 

If you’ve spent time creating a quality online course, a newsletter is one of the best ways to promote it. 

You can use your email newsletter to announce a new course you’ve added or offer a free trial.

You can also use it to promote other valuable learning materials like eBooks, infographics, etc.

9) Request Donations

Finally, there’s no more direct monetization method than by asking for donations.

Not my favorite because it seems desperate. But that’s just me.

There’s nothing wrong with encouraging your fans to donate. If they are happy to do it, that means they appreciate your work.

After all, you’ve managed to develop a growing number of subscribers for your newsletter.

Why not just shot your shot?

You can share different means for people to donate. It can be through Patreon, PayPal or Buy Me a Coffee.

Make sure to add a visible link and a clear CTA for people to donate.

Also, it’s good to disclose where the money will build trust in your community.

When Is the Best Time To Monetize a Newsletter?

With all these tips for monetizing your newsletter, you’d know by now that this isn’t an impossible task. 

Creating a profitable newsletter can be done by virtually anybody. You just need to plan well and ensure that you have the resources to commit to this long-term. 

So comes the next question: When is the best time to monetize your newsletter?

Here are some tips to answer this:

Monetize After Building a High-Value Audience

Like any business, you should never start selling before building interest around your product.

After all, it’s easier to convert an already-engaged audience.

You should have already been offering value before you asked for something in return.

This means giving away valuable content for free which allowed you to build up a sizable subscriber base before monetizing.

This would have given your fans sufficient time to be nurtured and interact with your brand.

Have the Content Resources To Scale

That newsletter isn’t going to write itself, right? 

You need to ensure that you have the resources to maintain and eventually scale your newsletter.

Whether you employ an in-house writer or use AI to write, it’s your responsibility to be able to pump out content consistently before you even think about monetizing.

Do You Have High Engagement Rates?

Seeing healthy subscriber growth rates is great. But a bloated subscriber list doesn’t necessarily mean you’re ready to start charging them. 

Before taking the plunge, take a look at your email engagement rates.

If you have a high number of unopened newsletters, then your content might not be valuable. Low-engagement emails also have difficulty in getting sponsored content.

So, work on building those engagement rates first!

Why Monetize Your Newsletter?

The most obvious benefit of monetizing your newsletter is increased revenue for your business model.

Businesses can’t thrive on engagements alone.

You need to innovate to boost your bottom line. And what better way to do it than with your newsletter?

There are also other benefits to monetizing your newsletter, including:

  • Fulfillment. There’s nothing better than profiting off something you love. And if it goes well, you’ll be able to do this long-term. Not everyone gets to live off their passion, so keep working towards improving your newsletters.
  • Diversifying your income source. You don’t want to rely too much on a single channel for income. Once that dries up, you should at least prepare another safety net to rely on. You also get a monthly recurring revenue if you’re charging subscribers monthly.
  • Reach different devices. Email is a lucrative channel on its own. A big reason for that is its reachability. You read emails on almost every device, from desktops to mobile phones. So, monetizing your newsletters helps you tap into a large market.

Are Newsletters Profitable?

The short answer is yes. 

High-profile newsletters can earn as much as millions of dollars per month. 

Here are a few successful newsletter creators:

  • Yoga Journal might center on the ancient practice of yoga. But their monthly newsletter also includes mental and physical health tips.
  • Women 2.0 is a women-centered newsletter that focuses on tech. The newsletter also highlights women in tech as well as workplace diversity.
  • Buzzfeed segments their newsletters by niche. For example, Buzzfeed Shopping contains recommendations from staff and partners. As you might have guessed, the newsletter has Amazon affiliate links for anyone looking to purchase the products mentioned. Buzzfeed also offers Tasty for popular cooking recipes and Bring Me! for travel tips.
  • CSS Weekly and Hackers News Digest are some examples of successful tech newsletters. 

Note that these companies have not disclosed how much they earn from newsletters.

But it’s safe to assume that they earn big from affiliate links and sponsored content.

How To Monetize a Newsletter (FAQs)

What Makes a Newsletter Valuable?

Newsletters are valuable because they are an essential touchpoint to reach a target audience. It allows brands direct access to their ideal customers. By implementing effective newsletter marketing techniques that prioritize delivering exponential value and fostering authentic relationships, creators and companies can enhance conversion rates while also accomplishing their objectives.

How Can Offering a Paid Community Benefit My Newsletter Monetization Efforts?

If you’re keen on boosting monetization through your newsletter efforts, introducing a paid community is one way of achieving this goal. The allure lies in providing added value via an exclusive space only accessible by individuals who pay for it – such as heightened interaction levels with you directly or receiving preferential treatment in terms of discounts and premium offerings.

An active and engaged paying community will lead to increased earnings while elevating the status of your newsletter too. It all about delivering quality expertise that pays dividends!

How Do I Start Getting Paid Sponsors for My Newsletter?

Start by doing research. Do your target sponsors align with your newsletter content? Can your audience relate to the products they offer? Don’t just go looking for sponsors because you want to earn. Ensure that you partner with brands that deliver value for your community.

Once you’ve narrowed down your newsletter requirements, it’s time to hunt for sponsors. Here are a few directories to get started:

Who Sponsors Stuff has an extensive list of companies that sponsor different newsletter genres and industries. 
Hecto is a global marketplace that helps you start selling newsletter ads and seeking sponsors. Although you’ll need to pay a percentage fee for successful transactions, Hecto is free to join.
Swapstack is a marketplace that connects brands with newsletters within their industry or niche.
Paved is a marketplace for sponsored content. The platform helps you build sponsored campaigns for your newsletter or website.

To Sum Up

So now you know that there are many ways to monetize a newsletter.

You can offer a paid membership, attract sponsors, or sell ads. Or use more direct methods such as selling products, promoting seasonal offers, and even requesting donations.

What’s important is that you focus on sharing valuable content.

Don’t let your profit-centered initiatives sidetrack you.

Remember, engagement should be your priority. Look at reports on impressions, clicks, and other metrics. Then, use this data to optimize and improve your newsletter content.

After spending some time priming and nurturing your audience, then go ahead and pull the trigger on monetization.

It will convert way better. Trust me.

Alright, that’s all for now!

If you liked this article, share it or leave a comment below telling me about your newsletter!

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About the author

Brendan Aw

Brendan is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief at brendanaw.com™, where he helps others grow their creator business like a startup. Before launching his blog, he was the marketing manager at various E-commerce, NFTs, Crypto, Marketing Consultancy, Finance, and E-sports high-growth startups. He now works on scaling his family’s 7-figure luxury lighting business in Cambodia while documenting his journey as a creator online.

Learn more about me.

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