The 7 commandments of monetizing your subscriber base146 views
by Susan Kuchinskas
How proper content monetization can greatly increase your bottom line
Despite innovation in other forms of online advertising, email remains the most powerful tool for generating ad revenue. With the near-global adoption of personal mobile devices, combined with the fact that users are checking their phones as much as 150 times a day, email remains the heavyweight champion of digital advertising.
However, email is very often the most poorly executed means of monetizing one’s audience. There are pitfalls to simply increasing the ad-to-content ratio: subscriber fatigue, deliverability issues and user attrition. But there are big rewards for those that get it right.
For example, earlier this year AdStation began talks with Prime Publishing, a women’s lifestyle publisher that reaches more than 7.2 million subscribers. All of these subscribers receive daily newsletters about cooking and crafting tied into 28 different websites that attract over 20 million page views per week.
Prime Publishing wanted to increase newsletter ad revenue, but had serious concerns regarding subscriber attrition. They were also worried that increased ad volume might impact the deliverability of their newsletters and the reader relationship.
The challenge was to help Prime Publishing achieve their revenue goals without sacrificing the extreme care they had historically shown their user base. By following the guidelines laid out below,
Prime Publishing found that they were able to enjoy a sizeable — and entirely new — stream of revenue, without impacting their users in any negative way at all. (Read the full case study here.) Here’s how you can do the same while making subscribers happier than ever:
1. Maintain your look and feel
No matter what you’re sending to your users, they need to know that it’s coming from you. Ad content that maintains the look and feel of your site or newsletter increases engagement and ad performance.
Sharethrough found that consumers looked at native ads 52 percent more frequently than at banner ads. When done well, they seem less invasive and more interesting.
Ads delivered with your branding also seem more trustworthy to your users. If someone tells you that your advertising doesn’t need to match your brand, you shouldn’t be working with them.
2. Control your cadence
Your most-engaged users may like hearing from you every single day; others might hit that spam button if they get a second email in the same week. Because everyone’s different, it’s important to work with a network that allows you to maintain total control of how often offers are sent to your subscribers.
Analyze your subscribers’ activities and then segment them in order to provide just enough and not too much content based on individuals’ preferences.
3. Never underestimate the human touch
It’s wonderful that we live in an age where everything is automated. And while it’s true that your email monetization solution should be automated as well, it’s equally as important that actual human beings are still making key decisions in the background.
Even companies like Google and Netflix have admitted recently that human brains are the “secret ingredient” that makes their recommendation engines work just right.
4. Send only relevant offers
Sending untargeted offers to your users is completely unacceptable. Reputable content monetization solutions should have at least 1,000 active advertisers on hand at any given time.
Also, make sure any email ads sent to your users are powered by psychographic, behavioral and contextual, as well as geographic targeting. These advanced targeting methods, combined with a large pool of advertisers, will ensure that all of your subscribers see offers that they appreciate and engage with.
5. Do not accept increased user attrition
Remember, it was your subscribers’ love of your content that enabled you to build your subscriber base in the first place. Annoying them with untargeted free cell phone offers that drive them to unsubscribe in droves is a mortal sin.
Managing a reasonable and thoughtful email monetization program should never push your users away. Newsletter subscribers expect you to run ads from time to time, but badgering them relentlessly is a big mistake. Make sure your monetization partners respect your users as much as you do.
6. Maintain an ecosystem of constant testing
You should always be testing. You should test ad copy, time of day, offer categories and subject lines before sending them to your entire list. A best practice is to split test different subject lines on small segments of your list to see which one performs best.
And work with partners that allow you to maintain control of everything you’re sending to your audience. A good company will make this easy. You can see your response rate almost immediately and then make tweaks to enhance it.
7. Monitor deliverability
Keeping out of the spam folder is the first order of business for the successful monetization of your subscribers. Twenty-one percent of email recipients report email as spam – even when they know it isn’t.
For these consumers, clicking the spam button is easier than unsubscribing. Following the above rules will allow deliverability to take care of itself. Ultimately, it’s simple. If a user feels harassed, you’re going to encounter deliverability problems. If your users are respected and taken care of, you’ll have smooth sailing.
Content monetization isn’t a mystery – it’s a discipline. By following these commandments, you can make your great content work even harder.