Email newsletters are a big hit amongst publishers. They generate big ad dollars and further engage audiences. While the term “win-win situation” is both trite and cringe-worthy, it is actually the perfect way to describe them. Unlike print, results can be quantified for advertisers, and for once, publishers don’t have to worry about some algorithm on Facebook.
Got a Hot Topic? Make it an E-Newsletter!
From specialty subjects to breaking news, there can be an e-newsletter for just about any subject (or zip code for that matter). Perhaps that’s why The New York Times has 59 of them (and even more if you include their top-tier “Premier” subscriber newsletters).
While most publishers probably don’t have 59 different e-newsletters, managing more than 2 can quickly become annoying - especially if you deploy them daily. Since e-newsletters are quite different from websites and traditional print products, managing this type of ad inventory can be cumbersome without the right tools and process.
That being said, let’s be clear: the last thing you want is a spreadsheet mess of ad units for different daily e-newsletters. Aside from inviting room for error, it’s hard to get a precise idea of available inventory - which is essentially leaving money on the table.
How Publishers Typically Sell E-Newsletter Inventory
Unlike web ads, which are generally sold on a CPM, cost-per-click, or cost per engagement basis, e-newsletter units generally have a fixed price. Yes, there are publishers, who serve newsletter ads dynamically, but we are not talking about any “Movable Ink” or complex personalization territory. We’re talking about a typical e-newsletter ad sale.
Since most publishers sell e-newsletter ads as static units (i.e. inventory won’t change when opening the template), they typically have prices based on the list size and average open rate. For example, if you have 100,000 subscribers on an e-newsletter list and your average open rate is 20%, you might charge $1,000 for an ad unit based on a CPM of $50.
Price Check, Folks! Aisle 5, Anyone?
Now generally speaking, list sizes and open rates do not change dramatically because opt-outs tend to balance out list growth. Nevertheless, smart advertisers will often ask you for metrics and even makegoods if the open-rate and list size drop significantly. These metrics are generally pulled a week after the email deploys, and you can find your open and click metrics from your email platform (such as MailChimp, Constant Contact, CheetahMail, etc.), lead management platform (such as Mirabel’s Marketing Manager), or audience development platform (common amongst larger publishers).
What About “Bonus” Impressions?
Will the advertiser give you more money if the e-newsletter over-delivers on opens and impressions?
Ha! Now *THAT* is funny! The answer is “no”. Other than a happy advertiser, you get nothing and like it. That being said, it pays to be very “optimistic” when configuring pricing.
What Else Could Impact E-Newsletter Ad Pricing?
The CPM used to calculate fixed e-newsletter ad rates will often depend on unit size, placement, and competitive share of voice. For example:
- Larger units above the fold will obviously cost more than the standard box ad (300x250).
- Fewer ads warrant higher prices, especially if it has competitive exclusivity (e.g. only restaurant advertising).
- Then, your dedicated/branded emails will probably be your most expensive e-newsletter unit as it is a giant ad disguised as content (tastefully, of course!). Or, you might have just one dominant ad that looks like a full-page takeover.
Other pricing considerations:
- If your email template supports video and rich media ads, you can charge more but beware, animation can end up begging for opt-outs (exactly what you don’t want).
- Native content can also warrant higher rates - especially if you write it (a nice marketing services up-charge!).
And lastly, any data about who clicks on that ad is worth a pretty penny if you are legally equipped to do this. Obviously, you’ll need some serious legal armor (“fine print”) on those “subscribe” pop-up boxes if you plan on sharing info like job titles, companies, and ESPECIALLY contact information.
Subscriber data can be very valuable to advertisers, but please know what you’re doing (or don’t get caught). And obviously, if you reside in Canada or somewhere in Europe, please pretend you never saw this paragraph because we love CASL, right?
Typical E-Newsletter Buys
Just like print buys, most advertisers buy a handful of them, and they may be part of a bigger package with print, digital ads, and or other products (which makes billing really FUN).
If the newsletter deploys daily, an advertiser might purchase a unit for a whole week. Or, the advertiser may pick specific deployment days, such as Tuesdays and Thursdays for “x” number of weeks or months.
The $1,000,000 Question: What is the easiest way to manage e-newsletter inventory in your publishing CRM?
Since most e-newsletters have a standard template with fixed positions, you probably have a fixed number of ads. If you over-sell email ads, it’s a great problem to have, so congrats! Most publishers would rather adjust their email template than use house ads for unsold inventory.
Therefore, think of each e-newsletter just like a newspaper or other stand-alone product. For example, let’s say you have a newsletter called “Local Recreation”. It can be entered just like a newspaper title or section with deployment dates as issue dates.
Other Benefits of Making E-Newsletters “Products”
Treating e-newsletters like traditional print will mean that all of your reports will work the same way. Let’s say you want to see inventory that’s available. Just pull a production run sheet the exact same way. Or maybe you want to spot advertisers that fell off the radar. Your issue-to-issue comparison report works with e-newsletters too!
Want to know what else will make your life great? When you treat e-newsletters like stand-alone print products, it’s easy to convert those ad orders into neat little invoices. Nice, right?
In other words, instead of seeing page sizes and issue dates, you’ll see digital units and deployment days. That is seriously the only change!
Perhaps, the only time you could possibly be annoyed is if your client forces you to break out line items for a bulk multimedia contract with equal payments. If that’s the case, get ready to put the FUN back in billing dysfunction! But don’t worry. A good publishing CRM can solve this problem too; it’s just a whole other blog post for another rainy day!