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How To Use beehiiv For Private Publications (Quick Guide)

Why Launch a Private Newsletter & How to Get Started

In June 2023, beehiiv launched Private Newsletters — a feature launched in direct response to requests from beehiiv’s users.

How To Use beehiiv For Private Publications (Quick Guide)

In this article, we’ll break down what private newsletters are, how they work, and how you can use beehiiv to create your own private publication in a few simple steps.

Let’s dive in!

What Are Private Newsletters?

Spend enough time on Instagram and you’ll notice that some users require you to follow them to see their content. But, that’s not all. Before you can see their content, they’ll also need to approve you as a follower. Once they accept your follow, you can see their posts.

Private newsletters follow the same idea. Rather than being open to the public to any subscriber, they require approval from the newsletter operator in order to access the content.

Once a reader is approved for a private newsletter, they’ll automatically be subscribed to it, enabling them to see every new publication that’s released.

Why Are Private Newsletters Useful?

In 2022, there were over 4.2 billion daily email users. Every day, over 319 billion emails are sent around the world. 

Nowadays, it’s hard to ignore the power of email, especially when it comes to newsletters.

How To Use beehiiv For Private Publications (Quick Guide)

Small businesses rely on email more than any other channel. According to Emarsys, 81% of small business owners use email as their primary customer acquisition channel while 80% of them use it for retention.

We know the benefits of public-facing email newsletters. But, what about private publications? What are the benefits and how are they best used?

Private newsletters are beneficial when you want a reliable way to communicate with a specific group of people but you may not want it to be accessible to the public.

Private newsletters are most commonly used for staying in touch with friends, building private niche communities, and testing the effectiveness of a new newsletter.

Testing a New Publication

One of the most common ways private newsletters are used is to test out a newsletter idea. For example, let’s say somebody wanted to start a newsletter on mini pigs called Tiny Oinkers.

The writer could test out their mini pig content with a small batch of subscribers to see if it resonates with them before taking it to the public. If the audience is engaged and gives solid feedback about the Tiny Oinkers newsletter, the newsletter operator could introduce the newsletter to the public and spread their piggy love around the world.

Think about it like a restaurant that’s in the process of opening. Usually, they do a “soft launch” where they open their doors to customers before they publicly announce they’re open.

This is a way they can do some early tests and gather feedback quickly to optimize the menu and restaurant experience before they officially open.

Private newsletters can be used in the same way for writers to conduct a test of their content-audience fit with a sample audience size before reaching out to a wider audience.

Exclusive VIP Communities

How To Use beehiiv For Private Publications (Quick Guide)

One of the most common ways to build a VIP newsletter is to create a premium version of the newsletter you offer as a paid subscription. This is a great way to add more value to your readers, create a VIP community, and create recurring income streams.

However, let’s say you want to create a VIP community, but you don’t want to charge your readers for it. A great way to do this is by creating a private newsletter for free. This  way you can build a close-knit community without requiring a monthly subscription.

For example, a  journalist could use private newsletters to share behind-the-scenes information with their most loyal subscribers or a small group of readers.

Private newsletters can be a great way to build a loyal following. By creating a sense of exclusivity, your subscribers will feel valued leading to increased subscriber engagement and retention.

Internal Communications Within an Organization

How To Use beehiiv For Private Publications (Quick Guide)

Another popular way private newsletters are used today is to support internal communication within an organization. 

Companies can create private newsletters for their employees to keep them up to date with the latest happenings within their organization like progress reports, upcoming projects, new hires, promotions, and upcoming company events and outings.

Organizational leaders can also use private newsletters to keep shareholders informed on important company updates and financial information.

Replacement for Forums & Communities

How To Use beehiiv For Private Publications (Quick Guide)

Another way private newsletters can be used is as a new way to stay in contact with a group in your local (or digital) community.

For instance, let’s say you’re part of a local neighborhood watch group on Facebook. But, Facebook’s posts aren’t always shown to people when they need to see them – especially for timely or critical updates.

A private newsletter for your neighborhood could be a great way to let your neighbors know of suspicious activity on a street, potential road safety hazards, or any other threats to your community.

Another way a private newsletter could be used is for a sports group like your kid’s soccer team or dance club to share important updates and upcoming events. Or, it could be used for residents of an apartment building to share about available units, changes in parking stall fees, or upcoming renovations.

Why Listen to Me? I’ve managed two ecommerce email newsletters over the years including one with 100,000 subscribers and one with 30,000. I currently run a digital media business, Hockey Question, that gets over 50,000 visits per month.

How Can You Set Up a Private Newsletter?

Now that you know the benefits and uses of a private newsletter, you may be wondering how you actually create one.

To get started, sign up for a beehiiv account (completely free) in just a few minutes.

Once you’ve completed your basic account setup, head over to your Dashboard.

How To Use beehiiv For Private Publications (Quick Guide)

Next, go to the navigation bar on the left and click on Settings. Once you’re in your Settings, click on Publication under Admin.

How To Use beehiiv For Private Publications (Quick Guide)

Under Basic Info, scroll down until you see “Private Publication” and “Require Subscriber Approval.”

Depending on the goals of your private newsletter, you’ll want to toggle on one or the other (or both).

Option 1: Turn on “Require Subscriber Approval”

How To Use beehiiv For Private Publications (Quick Guide)

If you decide to only turn on “Require Subscribe Approval” (and leave the “Private Publication” button off), it essentially just means you have a regular newsletter, but when someone subscribes to your newsletter, you’ll have to manually approve them first.

All new signups will be in a pending “Needs Approval” state until you choose to approve (or deny) them to join your list.

This gives you greater control over who’s on your list, essentially acting as another “opt-in” step so you can vet subscribers. 

Here’s how it works:

When someone enters their email address to request access, they’ll receive an email stating their subscription to your newsletter is awaiting approval.

How To Use beehiiv For Private Publications (Quick Guide)

On your end, once someone enters their email to request access, you’ll be able to see their request in your beehiiv account. Once you’re logged into your account, go to the left navigation bar and click on Audience then click Subscribers.

How To Use beehiiv For Private Publications (Quick Guide)

Here, you’ll see a list of all of your subscribers. Your subscribers will be split between Active, Inactive, or Needs Approval. To approve a subscriber to join your private newsletter, click on their email address to go to their subscriber profile.

How To Use beehiiv For Private Publications (Quick Guide)

In the top right-hand corner, click on Approve.

How To Use beehiiv For Private Publications (Quick Guide)

You will be asked to confirm the approval of the new subscriber. Once you’ve approved a subscriber to your private publication, you’ll see them now listed as an “Active” subscriber.

How To Use beehiiv For Private Publications (Quick Guide)

On their end, they’ll immediately receive your Welcome email (if you set one up).

Option 2: Turn on “Private Publication”

How To Use beehiiv For Private Publications (Quick Guide)

beehiiv’s default settings enable anyone who views your beehiiv website to be able to view all of your published newsletters in a web-based form. If you want to only allow subscribers to view your newsletter content, you can enable “Private Publication.”

Toggling on “Private Publication” does a few things:

  • Hides all posts from your web-based archive on your site.

  • Removes all signup forms from your site.

  • Only allows subscribers to view your newsletter content.

  • Only you can add or import subscribers to your list.

  • Only active subscribers can access the web version of posts with a direct URL link.

For your subscribers to see your content, they will have to log in.

This means non-subscribers won’t be able to access any new newsletter content or any archived, web-based content when visiting your site.

A beehiiv “Private Publication” also means that your newsletters that are published on your website won’t be indexed on search engines so if someone tries to find your content in Google, your posts won’t appear in the search engine results page.

Keep in mind, that while you have “Private Newsletter” toggled on, anyone visiting your website will still be able to view all non-newsletter content. This means they’ll see your home page and any other custom web pages you’ve created like an About Me, Contact, or Resources page.

If you don’t want anyone in the public accessing your custom pages, you may want to remove them.

In this scenario, visitors aren’t able to enter their email to sign up and become a subscriber. They can only become a subscriber if you, as a newsletter operator, manually add them to your email list.

Option 3: Turn on “Private Publication” & “Require Subscriber Approval”

How To Use beehiiv For Private Publications (Quick Guide)

In addition to the “Private Publication” option, you can also toggle on “Require Subscriber Approval.”

If you decide to also turn this option on, your newsletter content will still be private, but site visitors have the option of requesting access to your private newsletter as a subscriber themselves. This is a good option if you don’t want to manually add in all of your subscribers yourself.

Keep in mind, that you’ll still have to approve new subscribers before they can access your content (by following the steps above in Option 1).

Another thing to note is that your subscribe flows will still work if someone requests to join (if you have them enabled).

How To Use beehiiv For Private Publications (Quick Guide)

You can use this as an opportunity to create a post-subscribe survey to further vet new subscribers.

How To Use beehiiv For Private Publications (Quick Guide)

For a complete video tutorial on setting up a private publication, check out this beehiiv 101 video below!

beehiiv Private Newsletter FAQ

Here are some of the most common questions regarding private newsletters:

Can I turn my public newsletter private (and vice versa)?

Yes, you can toggle your newsletter from public to private (or back to public) at any time by heading over to your settings.

If you make your newsletter private, all of your posts will be locked out to everyone (except for authenticated subscribers). If you have a private newsletter and you decide to switch it back to the public, this subscriber gating will be removed. 

Can I make only the premium tier of my newsletter private?

No, unfortunately, the public and private toggle option applies to every tier of your publication. However, you can have up to three newsletters on one account if you want to run completely separate private and public newsletters.

Can I still use beehiiv’s recommendations feature if I make my newsletter private?

No, unfortunately not. Recommendations are shown to your subscribers right after they subscribe to your newsletter through your post-subscription flow. 

Once your newsletter is private, your signup forms are removed from your site (and only you can manually add subscribers). This means your subscribers won’t have an opportunity to have other newsletters recommended to them.

However, if you turn on “Require Subscriber Approval,” your subscribers can request access to become a subscriber, which will trigger the subscribe flow, enabling recommendations to occur.

Can other publications recommend my newsletter if my publication is private?

No, unfortunately, you won’t be able to have your newsletter recommended to subscribers of other publications.

How Can You Get Started With beehiiv?

How To Use beehiiv For Private Publications (Quick Guide)

With a private newsletter, you can test out new publication ideas, set up exclusive VIP communities, and create streamlined internal communications for your organization.

Private publications allow you to have more control over your audience and your content and gain new opportunities to build a loyal community all within the beehiiv platform.

This new feature is one of many recent updates from beehiiv that gives creators the freedom to align their newsletters with their goals.

If you’re ready to launch your newsletter or you’re thinking of switching to a creator-friendly platform, then beehiiv is a great choice.

Built by the same team that scaled the Morning Brew to millions of subscribers, our intuitive platform is built by creators, for creators.

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