- beehiiv Blog
- An Overview of Email Newsletter Business Models
An Overview of Email Newsletter Business Models
Monetize your publication with a smart business model for the newsletter space
Table of Contents
Admittedly, we’re biased, but it seems like we live in the age of the email newsletter. 90% of Americans subscribe to at least one of these publications, and new success stories continue to pop up.
But is it possible to make a profit in such a crowded field? Sure. All you need is the right email newsletter business model.
Newsletter Purpose Differentiation: Understand the contrast between newsletters for promotion and those as standalone businesses.
Starting a Newsletter Business: Follow key steps like niche identification, audience building, and content creation.
Revenue Strategies: Explore ad-supported, subscription-based, freemium, and curated content models for monetization with beehiiv.
First, a distinction — there's a difference between newsletters created by businesses to promote their products and services, and newsletters that are, themselves, the business.
Email marketing is a tool with well-documented power. Businesses leverage it to drive sales and develop their brand community. This includes content businesses that use newsletters to sell other forms of content. For example, an author might sell more books by creating a popular free newsletter.
But this article is about something altogether different.
When a newsletter is a business, it promotes itself rather than some other product. It makes money off of this content in one way or another.
That’s where our interest lies.
If you're looking to venture into the world of newsletter business, it's essential to have a well-thought-out plan. Here are some crucial steps to help you get started:
Identify Your Niche
Before launching your newsletter, you need to identify a specific topic or area of interest you're passionate about and where you can add value. This could range from technology trends to health and wellness advice or even in-depth analysis of comic books.
The key is to find a niche with a sufficient audience interested in the subject matter that’s willing to pay for exclusive content. It's also essential to research potential competitors in your chosen niche to understand how you can differentiate yourself.
A great example is co-founder Ryan Schneider and the Thrive25 newsletter. After turning 40, Ryan and his good friend Max, a veteran healthcare consultant, started to feel changes in their bodies.
They noticed they were slowing down — but they weren’t ready for that. They created Thrive25 to help provide the insights and tools you need to take control of your health and extend your lifespan.
“I want to be playing sports and going on hikes with my family when I’m in my 70s. I was looking for what I can do today so that I don’t feel like my health is ever getting in the way of my life,” said Ryan.
Build Your Audience
Once you've identified your niche, the next step is to build your audience. You can leverage various channels, including social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn, personal blogs, or guest posting on other sites.
Providing valuable, engaging content on these platforms is crucial to attracting potential subscribers to your newsletter.
For example, Cody and Cole Hock creators of Enjoy Basketball, a newsletter taking a unique approach to basketball media — cutting out the negativity and instead focusing on the good of the game, with a targeted approach towards the younger generations.
“We cover basketball without clickbait, hot takes, or tearing someone apart. We love basketball and cover all aspects of the sport in a fun, positive way, including memes, gifs, and fun takes.”
The creators of Enjoy Basketball were able to build an audience that eventually led to the creation of a community.
Create Valuable Content
The content of your newsletter is what will keep your subscribers engaged and encourage them to stay subscribed (and even recommend your newsletter to others).
Your content should be unique and offer something your subscribers can't find anywhere else. This could be deep-dive analysis, expert insights, actionable tips, or exclusive interviews. Remember to keep your content relevant to your niche and target audience.
Analyze and Refine
After launching your newsletter, you must monitor key performance indicators (KPIs) like open rates, click-through rates, and subscriber growth. This data can help you understand what's working and what needs improvement.
To establish a strong foundation for your newsletter business, find your niche, grow your audience, provide unique value, and analyze data.
Independent email newsletter publications have revolutionized publishing revenue streams. Suddenly, writers can monetize their content and create direct lines of communication with their readers.
Ad-Supported vs. Subscription-Based Newsletters
Newsletter revenue comes from two main sources: ads and subscriptions.
Ad-supported newsletters bring in money through sponsored content and paid ads. A subscription newsletter business model charges users an upfront fee that may be based on different levels of access or offerings.
In truth, many successful content-preneurs combine the two sources of income — though they may prioritize one. Ask yourself which you want to make your initial target and develop your content strategy accordingly.
Should you produce more free content with a larger reach? Big subscriber numbers will make it easier to secure a sponsor. Or should you reserve more material for paid subscribers, enticing readers to pay for your hard work?
Most online publications use a “freemium” or paid business model.
With the freemium model, readers enjoy access to some content at no cost, but they pay for premium content or other benefits. A paid newsletter requires an upfront subscription fee.
If you're reading this article, the odds are that you'll at least start with a free or freemium publication on your way to a profitable paid newsletter. You need to gain some momentum and credibility before most people will fork over their money.
Even paid publications usually provide samples or trial subscriptions to give their audience a no-risk taste.
Original vs. Curated Content
Most online publications feature original content created by their writers. They own this material outright and can package it however they like.
However some of the most successful online publications curate content instead or in addition to providing original articles. They source interesting articles and stories, package them together based on themes or topics of interest, and share them with readers.
Curated content requires an upfront investment and may be out of reach for beginning publications. If your dream lies in this direction, start by looking for chances to survey and distill debates or emerging trends in your field.
Success in the newsletter business hinges on more than just great content. It's about implementing effective strategies that resonate with your audience and drive consistent engagement.
Here are four key strategies to consider:
Consistency is Vital: Consistency in delivering content is crucial in keeping your audience engaged and ensuring a steady revenue stream. A regular newsletter schedule helps establish your brand as a reliable source of information, encouraging subscribers to stay tuned for your next update.
Quality Over Quantity: While sending out newsletters frequently to stay at the top of your subscribers' minds may be tempting, it's important to prioritize quality over quantity. A single, well-crafted newsletter can have a more significant impact than multiple low-quality ones.
Personalization is Essential: Personalizing your newsletter content to match your audience's preferences and needs can significantly boost engagement rates. Using a strategy that focuses on providing targeted, relevant, and valuable content to your audience can keep your subscribers engaged and loyal.
Collaboration is Essential: Collaborating with other businesses or influencers in your niche can help expand your audience reach and increase revenue. This could involve cross-promotions, guest features, or sponsored content.
By implementing the best strategies, such as consistency, quality over quantity, personalization, and collaboration, you can establish yourself as a trusted source of information and build a profitable newsletter business.
There’s no business model that doesn’t include a well-defined product or service. Most newsletters sell one of four things:
Access — behind-the-scenes looks at industries or events
Convenience — easily digestible tidbits in a crowded and confusing field
Insight — expert analysis and predictions
Voice — entertaining or food-for-thought pieces
You might offer a blend of these things, but your primary value proposition probably rests in one of them. Define your offering.
To scale your newsletter into a profitable business, you also need a clear niche. What topics do you want to cover–and how do they interact with your value proposition? Make sure to pick an area that excites you and has a clear audience. Your niche should also be the right size. Too narrow a focus will be exhausted quickly. Too broad may come across as generic or bloated.
You now know your options. But how do you decide which is right for you?
First, consider your niche, type of product, and ideal frequency of publication. Different approaches will better serve different publications.
What do I mean? Well, a crowded niche might require you to produce more free content as you struggle to gain traction.
As for a voice-driven publication with short daily issues, it’s more likely to develop a broad but casual readership and generate income from paid ads than high-paying subscribers.
At the other end of the spectrum, a specialized expert could charge a small but loyal readership hefty fees for a detailed weekly newsletter.
beehiiv offers you tools and proven strategies to create a successful email publication no matter your interests or newsletter business model.
But to carve out your place in the diverse newsletter ecosystem, first define your product. What can we help you create?
Join beehiiv today for free to find out what newsletter business model works best for you.