Just a few short years ago, nearly all digital news was free, supported mostly by advertising revenue. Fast forward to today, and the situation is slightly different.
Traditional advertising revenue is down across the industry, the usage of ad blockers is on the rise, and publishers are testing a variety of alternate revenue strategies—including membership, subscriptions, affiliate links, paywalls, etc.—in the hopes that their readers will directly support their work.
And some publishers have found success with these new monetization channels. The New York Times, for instance, announced that it had reached 2.9 million digital-only subscribers and that 62 percent of its revenue now comes directly from readers.
However, while these additional revenue streams can generate meaningful income for some publishers, they’re often too time-consuming or resource-intensive to implement and maintain. But that’s not the only issue.
For one, there’s still a large subset of every publication’s readership that simply won’t pay. In fact, some studies suggest that as few as 16 percent of Americans are willing to pay for digital news, which leads them to find creative ways to get around tactics like paywalls and still consume content for free. Despite some fluctuation in that percentage, every publisher should recognize that close to 80 percent of their readers does not think it’s worth paying for news on the internet.
Plus, publications aren’t just competing with other online magazines, newspapers, or content sites for valuable subscription sign-ups. Spotify, Netflix, Hulu, and other popular services also require monthly subscription fees, which means newspaper and magazine subscriptions —print or digital— stand to be collateral damage and the first to get canceled if consumers decide to cut back on spending.
This leaves one last asset whose potential to generate revenue is often disregarded: the email database.
Email as the Future of Revenue Generation for Publishers
Email is one of the only owned channels in which the publisher has full control over a dedicated and engaged audience. With an email list, subscribers have raised their hand and said “send to me.” They voluntarily choose to receive publisher’s content, and they’re interested in the value it brings to their inbox.
Plus, the methods for monetizing email newsletters tend to scale easily and require minimal effort and upkeep on the publisher’s side. And that’s not the only benefit.
According to our recent study, “How Adults Consume and Filter Information Online,” in which 1,000 U.S. adults were surveyed, trust in the publisher is the #1 reason email subscribers open and read publisher newsletters. In fact, nearly two-thirds say trust is more important than the content itself in enticing them to read newsletters that hit their inbox.
Unlike in social media, where distrust in the platform breeds distrust in the content and advertising, when it comes to email, the opposite is true: subscribers’ trust in the publisher translates directly to the brands who advertise within them. In fact, two-thirds of adults say they’ll click on an ad in an email if they trust the sender. For advertisers, that means partnering with the right publisher can make email an outstanding channel for reaching audiences and maximizing ROI. For publishers, it means you can drive additional revenue through showcasing personalized, customized ads that your subscribers trust and will find relevant.
If you're interested in reading our additional insights on how people interact with email newsletters, check out our ebook.
Why Email is the Answer
Publishers do not need to rely solely on paid subscriptions or paywalls to ensure the long-term sustainability or profitability of their businesses. Publishers need a better way to engage with subscribers—a channel that’s trustworthy and one that enables them to control the distribution, own the audience engagement, and reap the benefits of monetization that drives authentic traffic to their brand partners. That channel is email.
This does not mean publishers should stop trying to increase their subscriptions. But, it is crucial that they place more focus on building a list of newsletter subscribers who voluntarily ask to receive content and can help drive additional sources of revenue.
Bottom line: email is here to stay, and it’s driving the future of multi-channel publisher monetization. And if you're a publisher, make sure you're not missing out on the benefits of this channel!
If you're interested in leveraging email newsletters to drive additional sources of revenue for your publication, get in touch with us today.