When we think in broad terms about sending emails to our audience, the first concept that might come to mind involves traditional email marketing. There's certainly nothing wrong with an email marketing campaign, and in fact, your overall marketing strategy won't be successful unless you're utilizing one, but let's face it - there is absolutely more than one way to engage your audience via email.

What if you could send content-driven newsletters that engage your audience AND create an additional, recurring revenue stream? Sounds good, right? Introducing the paid newsletter.

What is a paid newsletter?

A paid newsletter is a subscription-based email campaign that offers audiences access to unique content not available anywhere else. It's similar to Patreon, but the content is delivered via email.

Rediverge is an example of a paid newsletter. In addition to its blog, you can also join its paid newsletter that includes exclusive content and a members-only Q&A. Subscribers can pay $8 per month or $39 per year.

An alternative to a paid newsletter could be sending free content-driven newsletters to your audience, but they contain paid ads or sponsorships. This allows a publisher to still earn revenue from emails without asking their audience for money.

Morning Brew follows this model. The newsletters are free to subscribers, but they are sponsored by various companies. 

Just like with social media, companies are willing to pay to get in front of your engaged audience. What’s not to like about that?

Why should you create a paid newsletter?

The biggest appeal to a paid newsletter is recurring revenue. Once a person subscribes to your newsletter, they are paying you monthly (or yearly) to continue to create content on an ongoing basis. This is an outstanding way to establish an intimate, one-on-one relationship with your users.

Does a paid newsletter fit into your business? It depends on your audience, but people have demonstrated they are willing to pay for premium content delivered directly to their inbox. Exclusivity is king!

Many publishers opt to limit the content in their free newsletters, delivering their premium content exclusively via their paid newsletters. For example, Scott's Cheap Flights will send a limited amount of flight deals to their free subscribers while reserving the rest - and most attractive - of their flight deals to their paid subscribers. The important thing to keep in mind is that the content you're reserving for your paid newsletters MUST be compelling enough for people to want to pay money to receive them. 

Should YOU create a paid newsletter?

One of the key indicators that a paid newsletter will be successful is whether or not you already have an active email subscriber base. If you don't, start there - your free newsletter can give you insight into your subscribers' interests and how they engage with your content. About 5-10% of subscribers can convert from a free to a paid newsletter.

You should also consider how your paid newsletter will differ from your free version. An ideal paid newsletter will cover something people want or need and can't find elsewhere.

The important question to answer when deciding if a paid newsletter is right for you is "Am I delivering value to my audience?" 

How do you create a paid newsletter?

Creating a paid newsletter doesn't have to be complicated. It breaks down into several basic steps:

  1. Decide on your purpose: What will be the focus of your paid newsletter? What type of content will it feature?
  2. Create a place to sign-up: This can be as simple as a subscribe button on your website or a fully built out landing page.
  3. Decide on a pricing model and schedule: What will you be offering, to whom, and for how much? Most paid newsletters feature both monthly and (discounted) annual subscription packages. 
  4. Set up an email platform to send emails: The easiest way to send emails to the masses is with an email platform like MailChimp, MailerLite, or similar platforms.

There are two routes to creating a paid newsletter: Choose an email subscription platform or set it up yourself.

Email subscription platforms

Email subscription platforms make it simple to set up payments and send newsletters. They take all of the guesswork out of creating a paid newsletter and get you up and running quickly.

Some popular email subscription platforms include:

Here's the catch: email subscription platforms take a fee every month. While the fees seem nominal in the beginning, they can add up quickly as your audience grows (and grows...).

Set it up yourself

While it may seem intimidating to start a paid newsletter without using an email subscription platform, you may end up saving money in the long run.

The most important decision is which email marketing platform you use. Some email marketing platforms include landing pages, payment processing, and email capabilities - and others don't offer some of those features. You will need to set it up yourself, but most of these platforms have a large knowledge base to help you.

Some email marketing platforms to look into include:

ConvertKit and MailerLite have all the tools you need to create a paid newsletter without needing additional software. You may find that the overall fees are also more affordable than email subscription platforms.

Now what?

If you have an active email audience, it may be time to brainstorm ideas on how to convert them into paid subscribers. Asking your audience what content they would like to see from you is a good first step to establishing a target audience for your paid newsletter.

If you've been blogging but don't have engaged email subscribers, consider first building your list with free newsletters. Disqus Pro comes with a handy email subscription tool that lets you prompt your audience to subscribe to your email list, allowing you to build a network of engaged subscribers.  Then you can implement email strategies to improve engagement.

Now get out there and begin creating your paid newsletter!