Are paid newsletters a good idea?

Sign of the @ icon

So, I started a newsletter. I haven’t been great and keeping it going out – I like to think intentions are what really matter in Marketing. I am, of course, wrong. I will try to get better at it – it’s my promise to you! Whoever you are!

Now I’m involved in this whole writing and making newsletters biz I’ve noticed this trend. You sign up for someone’s newsletter because it sounds kinda interesting and, you know, get your kicks somehow, and then after a while they pull the old bait and switch on you.

“This is my free newsletter,” they say, in words in an email form, “but next week I’m launching a paid newsletter – you can carry on getting the free one, but the paid one will be EMAIL CATNIP.”

Hmm, well I read your regular free email and I think you use words good. But I only occasionally find something interesting enough to click on and spend some time with.

Before you embark on the perilous adventure of trying to supplement your lifestyle with that sweet email cash, maybe have a think about some things:

1. Is there enough value for the reader?

No offence, but I read a lot of newsletters. And in a good clutch I might find a couple of articles that are interesting enough to make me keep reading. Maybe those articles are all from yours – but that isn’t going to convince me to part with hard earned money. So many personal newsletters rely on 2 things:

  1. opinions – are people going to pay to hear what you think? Why?
  2. links to articles by other people – they can find these from other places probably – so is your curation that good?

Maybe you do add value to many people – it might be a good idea to ask them? Don’t presume people will. People are fickle.

2. Is it competitively sustainable?

There are a lot of people going down this route. If I wanted to keep up with all of them, it would end up costing me a lot of my money each month. If I had to choose, would I choose you? Do you stand out? Are you a distinctive voice adding value to your audience? Who is your audience?

3. How will it affect your relationship with your subscribers?

This is the point that inspired this article, after this exchange with Rob Estreitinho on Twitter (and thanks to him for letting me use it):

(the reply at the top is mine)

The reason I sign-up for a lot of email newsletters is because the author seems like someone I’d like to work with. A smart, insightful marketing person or writer. Someone who has interesting takes on things I’d be happy to chat with them about over a drink.

The best way to describe this relationship would be one of peers. Two people wanting to share and learn from each other.

If I pay for your newsletter – for access to your ideas and thoughts – our relationship no longer feels like one of peers. It feels like one of customer and supplier. That isn’t what I want – and now our relationship is forever altered.

I hope you like breaking hearts, heart breaker.

4. How will it affect your relationship with your newsletter?

I started writing and creating a newsletter outside of work because it felt like something I wanted to do. It’s good practice to write – to try and translate thoughts into words. And it allows you to access a community of people sharing ideas – learning from each other.

If I had to think about these things as revenue generators it would seriously affect the way I think about them. I would feel pressured to spend more time than I currently do on them. I would feel pressure to keep publishing and sending, even when I wasn’t in the mood. They would become a burden, rather than something I wanted to do. I would resent them. I would send them out for coffee and run away before they got back.

A sad way to end.

If you are planning a paid newsletter, maybe think about these things. Because I look forward to reading your newsletter, and I look forward to us being peers who can learn from each other.


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2 responses to “Are paid newsletters a good idea?”

  1. Prince Thumper Avatar

    But… it’s only the price of a coffee a month…


    1. Coffee or knowledge? Daddy or chips? Socks or shoes?


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