Email newsletters are pretty much ubiquitous, but when’s the last time you gave a fresh look at how you might monetize yours? Successful publishers employ a smart monetization strategy that mixes these models in multiple newsletters that offer in-depth content, promote events, drive traffic and otherwise fill the gap left by the uncertain future of advertising models.

That future is especially uncertain in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. Many advertisers have paused campaigns; others opt not to be featured near coronavirus content, which is most of it at the moment. However, publishers are experiencing a surge in both readership and subscriptions. Since March 16, The Daily Beast’s Beast Inside has experienced nearly 100% growth in signups, compared with the period between January 1 and March 15. Similarly, Tribune Publishing’s subscription growth increased 293% from February to March, CMO Mark Campbell told Digiday. Tribune is the third-largest newspaper publisher in the U.S., with titles including Chicago Tribune, New York Daily News and Baltimore Sun.

With that in mind, here are eight email newsletter best practices: 

1. Web Traffic Generation and Subscription Conversion

Emails that offer a simple set of links can boost total web page views and support broader business goals by increasing advertising revenues and subscriber conversions. According to a Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism study, email-generated traffic won’t reach higher than 10% of the total. Still, these newsletters can be a great hook to potential subscribers by offering a taste of the content they’ll receive once they pay up. Learn in-depth best practices for how to increase traffic from email in this Sailthru best practice guide.

Publishing about 200 pieces of journalism every day, The New York Times has something for everyone. This is just a sample of its various newsletters.

2. Standalone Subscription

For publishers, email drives an average of 10% of overall website traffic, which largely comes from subscribers. These people consistently generate the highest page views and return rates. And sometimes, the newsletters they’re subscribed to function as publications themselves, complete with subscription fees.

3. Donations and Differentiated Contributions

Email newsletters, especially those aimed at specialized audiences, may offer free subscriptions but also ask for donations. Johnson’s Russia List (JRL), for example, grants subscriptions through direct emails to founding editor-in-chief David Johnson. It also has a donations page with a suggested annual donation of $50. This is a smart move, as it puts a value on the information. Often newsletters like JRL differentiate their audiences, providing content free to academic audiences and charging business readers.

4. Add-on to Subscription Package

Some email newsletters are an added perk for subscribers to another product. The Financial Times’ premium subscribers can choose Free Lunch, a daily analysis of a leading global economic policy issues, from five newsletter choices.

5. Advertising

Many email newsletters are sustained through advertising, which increasingly takes the form of native advertising or sponsored content. Quartz, for example, is a completely digital news outlet that differentiates native ads by adding the words “sponsored content” next to the title.

6. Cross-Selling

Newsletters can bring in revenue with teaser content that compels readers to click to a subscription paywall or page, or to a paid event landing page. Affiliate links to retailers, such as Amazon, and options to opt-in – or out – of messages from advertisers and partners also provide non-advertising revenue.

7. Brand Awareness

For today’s publishers, email newsletters are de rigueur for building brand awareness, particularly for web-based news sites. They can engender broader interest in a news organization or product, or provide a way to promote new content and services. BuzzFeed, for example, has more than 40 email newsletters about every topic you could imagine, including recipes, style, quizzes and staying sane during quarantine.

8. Community Building

Newsletters that target particular interests or themes develop deep connections to communities of special interest audiences. Food52 provides editorial on everything food-related as well as shopping for exclusive cooking and home product deals. The publication also sends out special issues, such as a Thanksgiving version with tips that goes out twice a week until Thanksgiving Day.

For additional tips on how to monetize email newsletters or for expert advice on your marketing strategies, contact us today!