It may seem like short-form content is where most publishers will channel their monetization efforts in 2023, but an old contender is coming back into the fold. Despite what some marketers might believe, newsletters aren’t a dying breed. And publishers are quickly catching on. As of this year, 82% of publishers said they planned to launch at least one newsletter, with 66% saying they aimed to launch between one and five. There are several benefits to turning towards this classic, cross-functional format, but more importantly, plenty of financial gains are ahead for publishers that have a pulse on this relevant tool.
If you’re a publisher seeking a new method of increasing reader retention, this intel is worth perusing. Before we dive into how newsletters can help publishers maximize their growth potential, it’s important to understand why now is the prime time to delve into this channel.
Since the pandemic, journalists have reconsidered how they’re reaching their audiences, especially as more users are beginning to turn to short-form video for news-related content. Amidst the whirlwind of changes affecting social platforms like Twitter and Meta, it’s the perfect chance for publications to repackage and reimagine the standard batch of content that thrives on their websites. Companies and publishing houses alike are already experimenting with reader outreach by adopting a new approach to distribution by utilizing platforms like Substack and LinkedIn to hook additional readers. These new models of publishing are ripe picks for publishers looking to churn out large quantities of content but lack the time to do so.
So why are newsletters the hottest new revenue stream sweeping the industry? All signs point to hopes of higher engagement. According to a World Association of News Publishers report, 62% of publishers are investing for an overall boost in engagement. With 30% of publishers aiming to use newsletters to accumulate wider audiences and higher retention rates, churn reductions are on the minds of the industry’s top publishers. By numbers alone, it’s clear why news circuits and publications are interested.
At the end of the day, newsletters offer something that platforms focused on bite-sized, clickable video clips don’t: versatility and breadth. Newsletters have the capacity to not only increase engagement but drive traffic directly to the site, foster consumer loyalty, convert readers to long-time subscribers, and create a community that keeps coming back for the content they can count on. There’s clarity, consistency, and integrity in moving toward this composition, especially since it reinforces future reader habits. Your audience wants to keep an eye out for and return to quality writing that speaks to them. Newsletters not only help publishers adopt a customer-first focus but make them a priority above all else.
With the rousing success that publishers are seeing since dedicating more time to this format, it pays to experiment. The German publisher General-Anzeiger’s foodie newsletter, aptly dubbed Bonn Appetit, engages with its readers by promoting branded content and targeting food-related products and services. By organizing events (which later sold out) where readers can enjoy locally-made feasts made by chefs and winemakers, the publisher exceeded its 3,000 subscriber goal to 4,000. Their efforts demonstrated a commitment to their readership by curating a delicious and delightful artisanal experience.
And while newsletters are tailoring their perks to niche audiences, publishers like Canada’s Globe and Mail are expanding newsletter options to a wider subset of potential subscribers. The publisher has launched 32 different newsletters with the sole purpose of getting readers to build habits. With this span of options, there are significant advantages: specificity and range appeal to a larger quantity of users, which eliminates confines for content selection. Evidently, there are multiple ways to reach audiences that are right for your overall brand. It’s just a matter of determining core values: Is more traffic a primary focus or distribution frequency? The choice is yours, publishers.
Regardless of whatever decision is made, the key component for a thriving newsletter is a payment plan that will attract subscribers and build consistent revenue for publishers. Acquisition and retention are principal in creating a foundation that lasts, and micropayments may offer a nifty solution. Sunny Sen, CEO of content monetization platform ConsCen, believes that by letting users buy a day pass to read premium content, or a single article, publishers can broaden their acquisition funnel while piquing reader interest. And the numbers back up this innovative strategy. 20% of people that make three to four micropayments are likely to purchase annual memberships in the long run.
While they don’t account for all payments needed to keep a newsletter alive, micropayments can make up 75% to 80% of total customers. It’s an effective method, but publishers are still looking to increase profits in the new year. CNBC will be experimenting with the paid tier of one of its two subscription offerings in 2023, the first time the publisher is making this adjustment to a CNBC pro membership. With the chance of a recession next year, publishers are looking to alter their pay structures and provide more subscription bundles to prevent fallout.
Despite predictions of pitfalls, newsletters are shaping up to be the top funnel for publishers aiming to expand their offerings. Watch out, digital videos — a new medium is set to champion the media landscape.