How are you using E-mail?

by Jason Preston on October 2, 2008

Those of you who are paying close attention may have noticed that I recently started the Eat Sleep Publish E-mail List (if you sign up you get a free mp3 recording of The Pitch!), partly as an experiment to see what publishing possibilities there are in e-mail.

There’s good reason to be looking at e-mail. Jason Calacanis, who founded, grew, and profitably ran Weblogs Inc, recently quit blogging to start an e-mail list. Peter Shankman is running Help A Reporter, which has at least 30,000 subscribers by now.

MediaPost offers a slew of daily e-mail newsletters on all kinds of interesting topics. I recently talked to a small business owner who told me that he’s pulling in an extra $40,000 per month through his e-mail list.

Clearly there’s money to be made in E-mail.

How can e-mail be used?

When people think about tacking e-mail onto a news site, most of the time they think of some kind of daily or weekly news digest. But there are tons of different uses for e-mail on a news site.

Here are a few examples that come to mind:

  • A weekly newsletter with a custom “letter from the editor”
  • A weekly collection of aggregated links from around the web on a given topic
  • Alerts whenever an article is posted that relates to a certain topic
  • A daily e-mail that shows the top 5 most e-mailed, most commented on, & most read articles on the site

My point is that there are a lot of ways that a news site can connect with their readers via e-mail, and these are all things that a newspaper should be trying to do, because e-mail content will help maintain your consumer mind share and will bring you new revenue.

Make money with e-mail?

As it turns out, there are a lot of companies using e-mail lists to generate revenue for their business. A lot of them are doing sales e-mails (as in, there’s a product to buy), which doesn’t apply to newspapers as much, but some businesses seem to be finding e-mail revenue from advertising.

Take MediaPost as an example. I’m signed up for several of their daily e-mails, and they always include ads. Here’s a screenshot of this morning’s e-mail:

Note the full HTML layout and ad space included in the e-mail. E-mail clients have come a long way in the past few years, and it’s becoming easier to reach thousands of people with well-displayed full HTML e-mails.

When it lands in the inbox, it looks and acts just like a web page.

E-mail formats like this make it a no-brainer to include and serve ads in your e-mails. Just think – if create a number of alerts and e-mail lists, you could be sending out thousands of e-mails per day, all of them with advertising attached.

That could be a significant revenue boost. How are you using E-mail?


1 Abraham Hyatt 10.02.08 at 11:50 am

We — Oregon Business magazine — do a daily newsletter that combines a blog-like roundup of state news with links to stories from the magazine and from our news partner, Oregon Public Broadcasting. Since we’re a monthly it’s a great way to keep in touch with readers. We intentionally chose a very sparse look, which lets us keep the entire newsletter — including the advertising — above the fold in most email programs. We launched it in February and it’s taken time to grow readership — you have to be careful of running into anti-spam laws as you reach out to people. But over time it’s definitely been worth it.

If you’re interested:

2 Jason Preston 10.02.08 at 12:00 pm

Abraham – Yeah, there are plenty of things to keep in mind when you’re building an e-mail list, and I’m a big believer in double opt-in as the way to go.

I’ve singed up to the newsletter.

3 Peter 10.02.08 at 12:11 pm

I’m signing up for your newsletter. I think you’ve got interesting ideas that I’ll look into more with regards to my email newsletter. Another great resource that I read is Anna Billstrom’s Blog about Email Marketing.

4 Jason Preston 10.02.08 at 12:56 pm

Peter – cool! Glad to have you on the list 😉

Also, I’ve tagged Anna Billstrom’s blog for later reading – I definitely need a good couple of resources on e-mail lists if I’m going to avoid mass unsubscribes from my own 😉

5 Scott Jennings 10.02.08 at 4:14 pm

Here’s a thought exercise I had with a colleague recently: if a new reader is about to subscribe to your content, would you rather they subscribe via email or RSS?

We basically agreed that email is still the champion, even though we both personally prefer RSS. An email address is a real asset that can be used to launch marketing campaigns, spawn new newsletters, and the email universe is much more mature as far as metrics and monetization goes. And right now, it’s much easier to sell to advertisers.

In short, there’s no good reason not to offer both formats, and I should get on that myself.

6 Jason Preston 10.03.08 at 12:31 pm

Scott – That’s a really good point. I tend to encourage people to subscribe to my RSS feed here on Eat Sleep Publish mostly because I’d rather have subscribers than just random web traffic.

But you’re right than an e-mail address is a real asset to have, as opposed to just knowing that someone is subscribed to your feed. From a consumer/user perspective, though, that’s why RSS is so cool and important.

Ideally, your content is available to people is as many ways as it is possible to provide it.

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