Newsletters offer commercial opportunities for news media companies

By Mark Challinor


London, United Kingdom


Newsletters are playing a more important job in building loyalty and engagement with our readers. But where are the commercial opportunities?

Let’s take a look at how you can involve your advertisers and generate new revenue for your media company.

The beauty of newsletters is they allow you to undertake many tasks at the same time. Maybe your media company is searching for tools to create reader habits or maybe increase the overall value of subscription offerings or even to reinforce loyalty.

Newsletters are the solution to many challenges at news media companies.
Newsletters are the solution to many challenges at news media companies.

It could be to increase Web traffic to your site, or encourage registrations, or increase the profile of a media “personality?”

All these factors make for a plethora of reasons why newsletters are an important part of your content and channel mix in terms of reaching specific audiences — plus they create opportunities for us in associated advertising. Newsletters can be a significant revenue stream, maybe via sponsorship, promoting events, and “straightforward” advertising.

That is why media companies across the world are investing so much time and money in such. 

Newsletter types 

There are varying types of newsletters, two of which are:

  1. Converting/subscriptions newsletters. Targeted content with an offer/special deal as an enticement into becoming a subscriber. Could be a specific vertical re: the content and sent just to people we know like the topics covered, with more of the same/similar “goodies” open to you if you subscribe, some of which will already be behind a paywall.
  2. Free-to-all newsletters. In effect, a shop window for more generic content, encouraging future engagement. Possibly personalised to the content viewed by the registrant already, e.g. content about a specific area where they live or a specific content vertical.

The trick is getting the content right/relevant to the target reader and in the right volume (not too many, which may annoy). 

Good, recent newsletter examples are:

  • The Washington Post’s “The 7”: concise news round-up via app, audio … and their newsletter.
  • Yahoo’s “The Yodel” newsletter, targeting 18-21 year olds with daily news with a slant on irreverent humour. (The subscriber take up has risen by a factor of eight in just one year. Impressive).

Revenue opportunities

So, how can we best make money with newsletters? Two obvious ways:

1. Selling your ad space. Ads in newsletters can be annoying. However, delivering e-mail newsletter ads that are relevant to your readers is how to balance that. Your monetisation strategy should always be a balance between your revenue stream and your user’s experience. You therefore keep readers engaged while enhancing their experience. Simple!

Relevant ads delivered via a newsletter in an effective space, like mobile, should be part of your ad revenue strategy.
Relevant ads delivered via a newsletter in an effective space, like mobile, should be part of your ad revenue strategy.

And just like any Web site or maybe mobile app, newsletters can truly, effectively display ad space. An efficient and easy way is to use a dedicated solution to do your bidding for you. Hence, you can leverage existing technology to deliver more relevant ad content with multiple platforms. 

The real key to newsletter monetisation is native advertising. The more native and seamless they are, the more impact they will have as they can be seen to look like editorial content. For media companies, native ads in newsletters can be in the form of a sponsored article, a recommendation of a content piece, custom in-feed placements, and more. Just don’t overdo it. Test and re-test all you do first, and try to make it all contextual.

Then, another plus is the perceived value of your target audience. By providing content that is personalised (i.e., exclusive, relevant offers, promotions, discounts, etc.), you will be seen as a go-to authoritarian on the subject matter. Readers will feel as if they are getting exclusive deals.

2. Newsletters including affiliate links. Being an affiliate is straightforward. You are paid commission on any sales generated for an advertiser or brand. BuzzFeed has been doing this for years via a newsletter aimed at driving sales with the likes of Amazon and other retailers. 

Affiliate links are easy to execute, but success rests with your ability to select only those affiliates that share your values (just like selling ad space) and are appealing to your audience. It’s important to work with brands that your readers will most likely buy. What data insights do you have here about their preferences?

In conclusion

It’s obviously vital your media messaging reaches the target audience. To monetise your newsletter well, you must remember your readers are only there because they like your content. 

At the end of the day, it’s all about one thing, the content … and how you go about complimenting it. Newsletter monetisation is worth pursuing. You just need to make sure you are smart about doing it.

If you’d like to subscribe to my bi-weekly newsletter, INMA members can do so here.

About Mark Challinor

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