Publishing a profitable e-mail newsletter (or ezine) is easier than you think.
I’ve been publishing profitable e-mail newsletters since 1998, and you can too.
I made about $20,000 in my first year as an e-mail publisher, which is chicken feed for most entrepreneurs.
But I’ve learned a lot of new stuff since then, like how e-mail publishing really works - and I have the bankroll to prove it!
Granted, the economy is in a depression right now. I knew this was coming and that’s why this book on advertising sales is considered the “standard”:
Amazing Formulas Guarantee Advertising Sales: How to Increase Advertising Sales in a Recession, Depression or Raging Bull Market.
The ad market is different today than it was in 2001.
But believe me when I tell you this….
Companies are still buying advertising!
On top of that, some experts say there are more than 500,000 active Google AdWords advertisers spending an average of $500 month on keyword ads.
So…there are advertisers.
And contrary to what you may have read on the Internet - you don’t need a boatload of money to increase ad sales, technical expertise, or even writing skills!
You’ll need a few things though - and that’s what I’ll show you today.
Mel Strocen has been publishing profitable e-zines since 1997. His e-zine (SiteProNews) is mailed to more than 500,000 opt-in subscribers (twice a week).
All of Mel’s subscribers have requested his newsletter. (That’s what the term “opt-in” means.)
Look, publishing a profitable e-zine - one which makes a net profit after expenses - probably sounds hard or even impossible - but I’m here to tell you it can be done!
On top of that, you can start publishing an e-zine by the end of the day... I’m not kidding, and you can do it even on a shoestring budget.
I’ve done it, Mel Strocen has done it, and thousands of other people are doing it as we speak. You can too.
And listen… all this junk about e-zines being replaced with RSS feeds, YouTube videos, and iPodcasts is a bunch of hogwash.
Granted, those channels, including the iPhone, are changing the way content is delivered to subscribers.
But believe me, e-zines and e-mail newsletters are NOT dead.
Do you think email communication will die, or be replaced with texting?
In some cases YES. Twitter has proven this.
But email newsletters and discussion lists are alive and well.
A profitable e-zine can produce a nice side income, even when you start out small. If you devote more time to it, it can bring in even more money.
There’s no doubt in my mind that applications like RSS (Really Simple Syndication) - which bypasses e-mail filters because it’s not e-mail - will have an impact on Internet publishing, but there are still unlimited opportunities for entrepreneurs to make money with e-mail newsletters and e-zines.
How to Launch a Profitable E-zine in Your Spare Time
Grab a copy of Amazing Formulas That Guarantee Advertising Sales.
The book has become an underground bestseller.
There’s a chapter in the book devoted to a technology-publishing icon and advertising sales master by the name of Bill Ziff.
If you Google Bill Ziff, you’ll get an idea of what he accomplished. His publishing empire was worth almost a billion dollars when he retired.
Bill Ziff’s formula for increasing advertising sales has become legendary in the publishing industry.
You see, there are basically only two basic types of e-zine or e-mail newsletter that can make you money:
1. A free e-mail publication that attracts paying advertisers
2. A subscription-based e-mail publication, where the readers pay an annual or monthly fee
Most publishers love the paid-subscription model, because it’s almost entirely automated and it’s fairly simple to set up the e-commerce (recurring billing with PayPal or credit card billing).
But, as we all know, people are hesitant to pay for an e-mail newsletter or for exclusive access to a website. It’s much easier to get subscribers to opt-in to a free publication - and with Bill Ziff’s formula, you can make yours very profitable.
Ziff developed a way to make free publications extremely attractive to advertisers by mastering the art of “controlled circulation.”
The idea of “controlled circulation” is that only “qualified subscribers in a particular job or industry” will receive it.
You’ll need to decide which of these two methods works best for your situation. Both models depend on attracting subscribers in order to increase revenues - and both models work.
I’ll let you in on a secret. You can make A LOT of money with a free e-zine by selling products on the back end, too. (The back end is all the products you can sell to people who are already customers or readers of your e-zine.)
For most start-up entrepreneurs, a free e-zine is the fastest and easiest way to get started in this business - and it is probably the fastest way to profitability.
10 Proven Ways to Build an Active Subscriber ListOne reason most e-mail publications fail to rise above “junk status” has to do with a lack of salesmanship on the part of the publisher (or writers).
If you want people to subscribe to your e-zine, you have to “sell them the benefits.”
There are very few e-zine publishers that can compare to Early to Rise (ETR) when it comes to “selling the benefits” of subscribing. ETR has built a subscriber list of more than 400,000 LOYAL readers by mastering the basics.
Here are the FASTEST WAYS I know to build an opt-in subscriber list:
1. Build a companion website for your publication, newsletter, or RSS feed and submit (and resubmit) it to the top 15 search engines.
2. Buy similar subscriber lists from other publishers or from publishers who are going out of business. This is tricky because of privacy policies - but it’s done every single day.
3. Promote. Promote. Promote. Advertise your publication in similar publications. Buy keywords on the top five search engines. Rent subscriber mailing lists for similar hard-copy publications.
4. Write articles in newsletters that reach a similar audience to yours. Use a tagline at the end of the article that includes a link to your website or e-zine sign up page. Do a search on Google for “article marketing,” and you’ll get an idea of how big (and effective) it is. It works!
5. Establish a relentless press release strategy. (Online press release services like PRWeb and URLWire are good ones to use for this.) Develop a snail-mail address of key editors, writers, and columnists. If a major media outlet picks up your story, you could obtain thousands of subscribers overnight.
6. Advertise your publication. Advertising can be costly and a waste of money - but you can find deeply discounted remnant space (advertising units that are not as popular as other ad units on a site and are unsold) all over the place.
7. Attract movers and shakers who will invest in your publication or promote the heck out of it for you. Ask marketing guru Joe Vitale if this approach works for him. His News You Can Use e-zine reaches more than 50,000 people every week.
8. Develop e-mail publications for other people, especially well-known experts, celebrities, or “digerati.” Not only will you gain experience, you may be able to promote your own publications in them.
9. Launch a major publicity event. When publicity master Richard Branson announced Virgin Galactic’s intention to carry commercial passengers on space flights, his newsletter subscriber list exploded.
10. Encourage your subscribers to forward your publication to others. (If your content is really that good, people will do it even if you don’t ask them to.) That’s exactly how Phillip Kaplan grew the subscriber list for his newsletter to more than 276,000!
Oh yeah... and you can also develop your own search engine! I’m not kidding. Developing a search engine with the objective of building a subscriber list is one of the best kept secrets on the Internet today.
Mel Strocen developed a search-engine network with a view to building his opt-in subscriber lists. It was a stroke of genius.
When people submit their website URL into Mel’s search-engine database, they’re given an opportunity to opt in to receive his e-zine. His e-zine focuses on issues and topics that are of a concern to webmasters, site owners, and Internet marketers.
This method still works wonders for him (and hundreds of others), but it’s becoming increasingly difficult. People are now so inundated with e-mail, spam, publications, offers, etc., they just don’t bother opting in.
It’s one thing to get subscribers - but it’s something entirely different to KEEP THEM on your list and reading your e-zine.
Most e-zines are boring, and so people ignore them like the plague.
But developing a search engine with an eye toward capturing subscribers is not as hard as it may seem, nor as expensive. I’ve done it three times - and all of my search engines continue to produce a steady stream of new subscribers every month.
Massive Subscriber Lists Aren’t Everything
Granted, most big-time advertisers still have a mass-marketing mindset. That means they won’t even look at your publication (or respond to your e-mail) unless you have impressive subscriber numbers.
But advertisers will usually listen to a “controlled circulation” or “qualified audience” pitch - even if you don’t have hundreds of thousands of subscribers.
Subscriber numbers will always play a part in attracting top brands and advertisers. But for small e-mail publishers like Debbie Weil, massive subscriber counts aren’t that big a deal.
Debbie publishes the WordBiz Report (wordbiz.com). She has subscribers in 87 countries - and her newsletter enjoys an impressive “open rate” (the number of messages that are opened by recipients, divided by the number of messages sent). A high open rate is a powerful selling point for advertisers.
The average open rate for e-zines is about 35 percent today. I’m aware of some e-zines that have 60 percent to 70 percent open rates. If your publication has an open rate above 70 percent, you probably have a very loyal audience... and you have a goldmine at your fingertips.
Advertisers love to hear about “loyal followers,” because it means your subscribers will read or see their pitch - which, in turn, means they can sell their products to them.
The NEW Advertorial ApproachOnce you’ve got your e-zine up and running, you can consider another way to make it hugely profitable. It involves writing and publishing “advertorials.”
I’ve been involved in e-mail newsletter publishing since the mid 1990s.
In 1996, I began writing a column and reviewing websites for a venture called Yahoo! Unplugged. I reviewed more than 8,500 websites over a four-year period.
Yahoo! Unplugged was an HTML e-mail newsletter, website, and interactive CD that eventually became a hard-copy book. Yahoo! Unplugged was one of the first HTML e-mail newsletters on the Internet.
In 1998, I developed the first e-mail newsletter advertorial. An advertorial is similar to a regular article, but its goal is to promote a product or service. The advertorial approach made a lot of publishers (and direct marketers) a lot of money - and I was able to stuff some cash into my pocket, too.
The reason publishers made so much money with advertorials is because they could charge advertisers a premium for them. Ad sales gurus (like me) made money because direct marketers and advertisers bought advertorials in droves.
Anyway, it took time for some publishers and editors (and especially ad agencies) to embrace the “advertorial” concept. Advertorials were definitely “outside of the box.”
Advertorials are similar to infomercials. The best ones are actually “edutainment.” (Don’t worry… I won’t start throwing new techno jargon at you. I can’t stand it either.) Edutainment is a neat concept and definitely a rising trend. Edutainment is simply educating and entertaining people at the same time, but with a very specific goal in mind.
Advertorials have come full circle. Companies and direct marketers are embracing advertorials, infomercials, and edutainment now because they usually produce phenomenal results (and sales).
Today you can find advertorials, infomercials, and edutainment everywhere. What’s more, advertorials can be very profitable for e-zine publishers.
And that’s where you come in.
Whatever angle you pursue with regards to e-zine publishing, be sure to include advertorials and dedicated e-mails (an e-mail ad that a third party sends to their subscribers on your behalf) in the mix.
To give you an idea of the kind of money you can make with advertorials and dedicated mailings, let’s consider Mel Strocen’s SiteProNews. A dedicated mailing or advertorial to SiteProNews subscribers costs about $5,500 - and they’re usually sold out six months in advance.
Most publishers realize there’s a limit to the number of dedicated mailings or advertorials that you can send to subscribers.
If you barrage subscribers with irrelevant dedicated e-mails and advertorials seven days a week (or more), they often become irritated and delete them before opening them. Not good.
If you track the open rates of your e-zine and/or advertorials (which is easy to do), you’ll notice a drop off in openings if too many “irrelevant” mailings are sent too often.
That’s a technical side of e-zine publishing - and I said you don’t need to know all that stuff. But it’s a good idea to moderate dedicated and advertorial e-mail promotions to your subscribers. Mel Strocen only sends two dedicated e-mails to his subscriber base each week.
Some of the time, advertisers like to write the advertorials themselves because they can boast about their products “in the third person” and get away with it.
But the best advertorials are usually written by seasoned copywriters who understand an advertiser’s audience and market.
The Focus of Your PublicationI’ve talked about ways to make your Internet publication profitable: by building your subscriber base, by attracting advertisers and/or paying subscribers, and by selling dedicated stand- alone e-mails or advertorials to direct marketers and advertisers.
But now let’s talk about the focus of your publication.
It’s always better to focus on something that you’re passionate about. I know you’ve probably heard that 1,000 times, but it’s a valid point.
If you’re passionate (not just excited) about something, you’ll stick with it for as long as it takes to make it work. (Of course, the flip side of this is that your idea may be really stupid or one that advertisers won’t support.)
I started an e-zine in 1997 that focused on contrarian investments and bear market angles. This, in the face of a major bull market! That e-zine is still being published, and we have three advertisers that have been with us since the beginning. The point is, I kept the e-zine focused. That kept subscribers - and advertisers - happy.
Profitable Publishing Made EasyThe key to profitable e-zine publishing is to target a niche or topic that has some legs to it.
What types of e-zines are making money today?
What types of e-zines ALREADY attract advertisers?
For example, Angela Hoy lives in Bangor, Maine and publishes an e-zine called Writers Weekly. It is one of the best e-zines on the Internet that focuses on how to get paid writing jobs and projects. She has a constant flow of paid advertisers. Angela also offers courses on the Web and via e-mail. She calls this venture Writers Weekly University - and offers courses for between $25 and $745!
Another example of profitable e-zine publishing is Matt Mickiewicz. He launched his e-zine, SitePoint, in 2000 - and currently has more than 97,000 opt-in subscribers. He offers advertising in the e-zine and on his website - but Matt told me he also makes a nice profit on his “How To” e-books and courses.
Both of these entrepreneurs started with very little capital. But they’re passionate about their niches - and they continually build their opt-in subscriber lists using the 10 methods that I mentioned above.
Matt and Angela consistently attract quality advertisers, and they also sell great back-end products to their subscribers - increasing their cash flow.
That’s it - profitable e-zine publishing in a nutshell.
It’s a good idea to have a companion website for your e-zine - for many reasons.
For one thing, if you have a companion website, the major search engines and directories are more likely to “pick it up” and include it in their index.
If Google, Yahoo!, MSN, Lycos, LookSmart, or any of the other top engines includes your website in their database - you could receive a constant flow of new subscribers for your publication. Free targeted advertising is a good thing!
If your companion website is featured on the first or second search-results page, there’s a good chance you’ll receive monster traffic to your site.
You can also create a blog and bypass the companion website approach because most of the top search engines are now indexing blogs (with unique domains) in their databases - that’s a big deal and very cool!
If you want to attract advertisers - you will need a substantial (but not necessarily huge) subscriber list. Prospective advertisers will often ask about your subscribers (who are they and what do they do?). Advertisers often like to know how many subscribers are on your list.
Your first goal should be to reach 500 to 1,000 subscribers ASAP - and you can use the tools that I listed above to do it.
Whether you decide to go with a free publication or one that is subscription-based, your subscriber list is king. So building your subscriber list should be your first priority.
The King of Business Opportunities
Constant Contact (do-it-yourself e-mail newsletters)
iContact (do-it-yourself e-mail publishing and RSS)
E-mail Universe (publishing strategies)
E-Newsletters Network (hundreds of free advertising-supported e-zines)
Lockergnome (Chris Pirillo - one man e-zine machine)
SiteProNews (Mel’s webmaster e-zine)
MailDog Manager (for help formatting e-mail newsletters)
Fagan Finder (everything you ever wanted to know about RSS publishing)
O’Reilly XML.com (another great RSS resource)
Dennis Kennedy (a great resource, period)
ETR’s 2007 Info-Marketing Bootcamp
The E-zine Directory (hundreds of free e-zines)
Ad Sales Guru (increase advertising sales for your e-zine quickly)