The world of ad revenue is changing for publishers. While ads used to be displayed primarily on media sites and on social media, they’re now displayed in email as well. In fact, email newsletters filled with ads and sponsored content represent a huge opportunity for publishers who want to drive revenue.
There are plenty of ways to increase revenue as you craft and curate your newsletters. You can get paid for your content via subscriptions, sell ad space within your emails, and host sponsored content—all with the aim of generating revenue.
Today, we’re sharing how you can generate revenue using your email newsletters. We’ll focus on three primary opportunities: subscription models, ad space, and sponsored content to highlight 6 ways to drive revenue with highly relevant email newsletters.
Use a subscription model
One of the most popular methods to drive revenue for publishers is to charge a subscription for content. After all, it costs money to receive a newspaper or magazine in print, and that method was translated to the internet long ago.
Even though we’re in the digital age, content subscriptions still represent an opportunity for revenue. But you have to create email marketing campaigns that highlight paid content to encourage readers to subscribe.
1. Balance freemium and premium content
If you’re using a paid subscription model, then you must balance what you give away for free with premium content. The goal is always to encourage more casual readers, those who read the free content, to sign up for a premium subscription.
One way to inspire the transition from free to paid content is to show the beginning of an article or post in the email body. This entices the reader and makes them feel like they have privileged access to the content.
After the intro or first half of the article has been reached, then a CTA is placed below, prompting to read the rest of the article by clicking through. Once the reader is on the website, the rest of the article is hidden until they sign up for a subscription. If the article is really good, the reader will hopefully convert and add to your revenue.
Another way to drive revenue is to offer a mix of free content and paid content. Your email could contain the copy from a free post, for example, then give links to paid posts either at the beginning or end of the email. The same effect occurs: people will see the free content and may be more inclined to click through to the paid content, thus increasing the chance of converting to a paid member.
Either of these methods can work extremely well if you have premium content. The New York Times does this to drive not only 12% of their website traffic but to increase subscriptions as well.
Here’s a great example of sending a free article, with opportunities to view premium content—which would require a subscription to view.
If you’re a content marketer or publisher, you’re probably already following one of these methods with your email marketing campaigns. The crux here is to make the content relevant. Using a preferences center to sort out types of newsletters can guide your content to extreme relevance.
2. Send automated content
Automation makes everything easier. Integrating your email marketing platform with third-party services will make everything smarter and segmenting easier. On the heels of talking about sending free content, it’s important to speak to using an RSS feed or blog integration to automatically pull content into an email template.
Most blog hosts provide RSS abilities, so you just need to pull the details from those and place it into a recurring email (see how here). Automatically push published content into an email, and then provide relevant suggestions based on the topic you’ve designated for that post.
By sending out content automatically, and bringing in similar or supporting content that might be premium, you can increase engagement with your audience, relevance with supporting articles, and conversion from the combination of both.
Sell ad space in your email marketing campaigns
Publishers and content marketers have long relied on print and website ads to create revenue. The world of ads has opened up to email marketing campaigns, potentially making your emails even more profitable.
There are a few models of newsletter ads that you can implement into your email marketing campaigns. We highlight more in our Guide to Cultivating Loyal Readers, but summarized below are some ad opportunities you can put into action today.
3. Create dynamic content banner ads
Banner ads have been huge sources of revenue on websites for ages. Now you can utilize banner ads in your email content to make even more from your email marketing campaigns.
The key here is relevance. We’ll continue to highlight relevance as we speak to other types of ads because this is hugely important if you want to get results for your advertising partners.
When it comes to banner ads, they need to be appropriate for the recipient. It doesn’t make sense to have ads for cosmetics in an email marketing campaign that highlights home improvement.
Apart from matching the content, it’s also important to match the recipient. Utilizing demographic information based on gender and location is a great start. You can tailor your ads to fit the type of person you’re emailing to. Going a step further, if you can incorporate these demographics with past campaign information—emails opened, content clicked on— you can begin incorporating dynamic banner ads based on segments you’ve created.
4. Send a series with next-step ads
Challenges and mini-series can be really successful spots for ads. These are series of emails centered around a very specific topic, like a challenge to “Lose 10 Pounds in 30 Days” or a series on “Planning Your Next City Exploration”. Series are typically sent at a different cadence than your normal newsletter, helping people hone in on these pieces, especially if they’re relevant to what the person is looking for.
Because these series are so specific, they’re perfect placements for relevant ads.
There’s opportunity at the top or bottom of every email in the series to include an ad directly tied to that topic. Using the two mentioned above, you could sell ad space to a company that sells at-home workout equipment or shipped meals that are low-calorie for the weightloss series. Likewise, you could sell ad space to hotels, printed guides, or city passes in a city exploration series.
Utilizing content relevance to drive your ad spots serves your email marketing campaigns in multiple ways:
- Ad buyers should see better results
- You can create more revenue because of better ad results
- People don’t get annoyed by seeing completely unrelated ads in the midst of your content
- Your content remains authoritative because the ads are relevant
5. Use transactional emails
Transactional emails, sometimes called “system-triggered” emails, are automatic emails that are triggered by an action, such as signing up for a newsletter, creating an account, or placing an order (see our transactional email post here). Because some of these emails, like welcome emails, have such high open rates (a potential 86% lift above regular emails), they’re perfect for ad spots.
Many retailers include promo codes in their welcome emails, offering a discount as a thank you. This is a prime position for a sponsored ad. You could offer thanks to the new subscriber by including an ad at the bottom that includes a discount. You’d probably want to stay away from purely promotional ads, but discounts can be viewed as gifts if positioned the right way.
Since welcome emails (and other transactional emails) get such high open rates, these spots should be sought after by your ad partners.
Host sponsored content
You’re not cornered into sending out your content exclusively. If you have a list of decent size, other content marketers might be interested in promoting content that highlights a product or service they’re trying to sell.
6. Sponsored content posts
In the midst of your content newsletter, there are definite opportunities to include content from other companies and marketers. While it’s important to maintain your brand standards, you should be able to incorporate other content and get paid for it.
Check out this example from Apartment Therapy.
You’ll see in their list of content the promoted post in the bottom right. They serve up tons of great, relevant content, and include promotional posts in the curation. This example shows how easy and natural it can be for your email marketing campaign to incorporate sponsored content.
Notice in that same email from Apartment Therapy that they also include an extremely relevant banner ad. For an email comprised of content about home and living, a spray mop is a perfectly relevant ad to see. Relevance can lead to revenue.
The way the ads mentioned above become applicable and relevant makes them very natural to see, which leads to higher conversions. Higher conversions sell more ads, allowing your email newsletters to drive even more revenue.
It’s worth the effort to make these ads look natural in the lineup of your email marketing campaigns. If your readers are having a great experience interacting with them, you’ll be able to generate more revenue as your ad partners see the value behind those placements.