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So you want to run a paid newsletter?

How to become a paid newsletter expert, grow your readership and revenue

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Parthi Loganathan

Jan 13 2021

9 min read

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Your newsletter can be a source of a reasonable steady income. Paid newsletters provide a channel for you to share your expertise and make money. Especially relevant during a global pandemic when people are stuck at home with time on their hands or have lost jobs. But more importantly, this could actually be step one to building your very own media business. 

In this post, we’ll cover the best practices for generating revenue through your writing. By following this framework and creating value for your readers, you’ll be on your way to creating your newsletter business. 

Paid newsletter best practices

Paid newsletters are popular because they create a sense of exclusive community among their readers. Readers are willing to pay for information that is not easily searchable. They are also willing to pay to access a community of experts. 

By following the framework we’ve outlined below, you can guide them through the decision-making process of choosing to be a paid subscriber.

1. Offer your readers a taste for free (a freemium model)

One way to attract subscribers to your paid newsletter is to first give them a taste of your content, for free. 

Here are a few models where that template is successful: 

Episodic Work 

If your paid newsletter is episodic in nature, i.e. each post is part of a longer series, then by offering the initial two parts for free, you can encourage subscribing to the remainder of the series. Please note that keeping only the first post free is generally not recommended. This does not allow the reader to have an understanding of how the future series may connect, and they may want more assurance of their investment.

Free Case-Studies / Specific Use Cases 

If your work is not episodic, keep in mind that the same strategies can also be effective. If, for example, your newsletter does in-depth analyses of businesses in a certain sector, then offer your new readers a few (3 or 5) examples to get a sense of what you write about. Your free material should showcase the diversity, scope, and depth of your work, so you only need as little or as much (based on your topic) for comprehensive coverage. 

Samplers 

Think of this as the Netflix trailer convincing readers into opting in to the full journey. In each piece, you write, offer a few pertinent paragraphs of your paid newsletter for free reading. Link a call-to-action (CTA) at the end that encourages them to subscribe for more. 

“Different”, not more

Newsletter guru Josh Spector covers this in detail in his monetization blog posts. If you already have a newsletter with a large audience, offering more of the content at a price might not be as enticing as offering something different for a price. For example, if you write about business development for free, you may want to use a paid channel for industry-sector trends or specific business strategies. This model also allows you to expand your versatility as a writer. 

2. Optimize your email for mobile devices

Mobile email statistics show that 85% of users access emails from their smartphones, and 47% of consumers check their email from mobile devices. If your newsletter isn’t optimized to be read on a mobile device, you could be missing out on a large portion of users. 

Before sending emails, check the readability and email design of your newsletter on mobile devices. Letterdrop can help you see previews of your posts on mobile with mobile-friendly web pages for the actual posts if users decide to go from the newsletter in their inbox to your blog.

Make sure your email’s subject line is fully visible. You wouldn’t want to craft a careful headline to lure readers in only to have half of it chopped off by your newsletter provider. Make sure that the text is properly formatted in the preview. You want your newsletter design to be as mobile-friendly as possible by making sure your images, quotes, indentations, and other text-features render seamlessly on mobile devices. In general, we recommend keeping to minimalist designs for an easier reading experience. 

3. Set expectations on your "Subscribe" page

To motivate your audience to subscribe to your paid newsletter, set some expectations, and try to create a sense of urgency. You should devise a plan for how to effectively spike your audience's curiosity, encouraging them to subscribe.

The most important aspect of a paid newsletter is the quality of the content - subpar content isn't going to attract, or maintain, a stable subscriber base. So once you've prepared quality content, think of how to market what you're offering. Does your newsletter provide people with say, the latest tech updates? Great! Then on your 'Subscribe' page, let your audience know that they'll never be out-of-touch with new advances.


Promote your newsletter on multiple channels

With the advent and evolution of social media and other internet-based platforms, digital advertising provides brands with the opportunity to reach more audiences. So when it comes to marketing your paid newsletter, make sure you're using everything at your disposal!

Social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram provide brands with the option to include CTA buttons in their advertisements. While you might be inclined to include a 'Shop Now' button following an advertisement for your paid newsletter, research reveals that the 'Learn More' button is generally more effective and offers higher click rates.

With a 'Learn More' button, your advertisement seems less like a sales pitch and more like an invitation for your readers to gain access to quality content. The Learn More button also puts less pressure on your audience to click the link, 'Shop Now' CTAs are more of a commitment.

Alongside social media, advertising your paid newsletter via SMS and email marketing campaign can help get the word out. Here, you can take advantage of the freemium model and send out teasers to your audience through email, encouraging them to subscribe to your paid newsletter.


Watch your email frequency and timing

When it comes to sending out your newsletter to recipients, you need to zero in on the right time and frequency. It can take some testing and analysis of metrics to get things right, but your ultimate goal should be to determine the best time for engagement, and how often your readers expect to receive new content.

Devising a fixed content schedule and sticking to it makes your newsletter seem more professional and organized, which appeals to consumers. Initially, you might need to experiment a bit with the timing and see when your newsletter gets the most engagement. Or you can get around this by asking your readers outright! Send a survey their way, asking what timeframe they'd like to receive your newsletter in, and use the results to narrow things down.

As far as frequency is concerned, it's important to assess how much and how often your brand can prepare content. Give yourself enough time to prepare quality content - a tight deadline means you might end up scrambling to put something together, and the resulting content may be subpar. Remember, when it comes to a paid newsletter, quality matters the most! If your brand can comfortably send out a newsletter once a week, then stick with that.


Use a referral program

A referral program is an effective way to empower your subscribers to advertise your brand. Your newsletter subscribers are paying for quality content, which means they appreciate the value of what you offer. With a little incentive, in the form of referral rewards, you can encourage your subscribers to recommend the newsletter to their friends and peers.

You can take your pick from different types of referral rewards, depending on what might appeal to your subscribers best and what you can offer conveniently. Referral rewards can be in the form of discounts, both for the referrer and the referee. Alternatively, you can offer exclusive content and features. This could be invitations to exclusive webinars, 'secret' content, access to community platforms, new products in a giveaway, coupons, and more. Letterdrop has a built-in referral program that is easy to set up and integrates with 3rd party platforms to easily reward your subscribers.


Newsletter best practices FAQs

A paid newsletter can be a great way to drive revenue, but you need to follow only the best practices. Some of these include:

How often should you send a newsletter?

Set the frequency of your newsletter after considering how often you or your team can produce quality content, comfortably. Don't give yourself tight deadlines, as this can potentially damage the quality of your content or result in delays.

What is the purpose of a paid newsletter?

The purpose of a paid newsletter is to increase revenue by providing subscribers with informative, quality content that is not easily accessible elsewhere on the internet.

How do I keep my newsletter interesting?

Keep your newsletter interesting by continually providing fresh, unique, and informative content. And feedback from your subscribers; find out what they want to see in your content!

How long is a newsletter typically?

Some research suggests that the ideal length for an email newsletter is 200 words. However, there's no real set rule on how long your newsletter should be! It really depends on what content you are providing, and what your readers expect.

Conclusion

If you follow the best practices, then paid newsletters are a great way to increase revenue and grow your brand. The most important thing to keep in mind is the content itself. Always look for ways to keep your content new, interesting, and fresh. Stale content won't attract subscribers, nor retain them! If you do things right, your paid newsletter can take off and make a name for itself!

To learn how Letterdrop can help you start and market a paid newsletter subscription, click the button below to learn more about our product:

Thanks to Taran and Piyali for this post.

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