In 2005 I chose to start an e-mail newsletter for one of my sites.
There were two main reasons I wanted to do this:
1) Be less dependant on Google by creating a returning user base
2) See how many subscribers I could get and if I could make money from them
When I first started my e-mail newsletter, it was embarassingly bad. The first issue was an embarassment, the second was below average. However, starting at the third issue I was able to bring in outside content. How? Interviews. The same thing I do on this blog.
No matter which paths you take (interviews, writers, re-publishing syndicated content, reader submissions), the important lesson is: get other people to submit and create the content. Writing an entire e-mail newsletter yourself is a mistake. You readers will become bored and you’ll get burned out.
I like making money online. I was interested to see if I could make money off of an e-mail newsletter. Heck, I know people who are getting rich off them. However, in this case, I was more interested in the returning traffic to my own website rather than making money from affiliate offers and newsletter ads. In those terms, it worked. Everytime I mail out this newsletter (once a month) traffic increases and revenue doubles or triples.
Here is the second lesson — use your newsletter to drive traffic. I believe my newsletter, though small at the time, played an important part in the site’s successful forum launch. The day after installing phpBB (yes, I know I preach against it now) I sent out a simple message inviting my subscribers to join the forum and meet people with similar interests. It worked.
I just gave you the pros, now here are the cons.
Running a newsletter takes considerable extra work. I have consistantly been late assembling and mailing this newsletter for months. Its not that its hard work, it takes me only a few hours to put together. Rather, I am distracted by other projects. I am much better at figuring out how to do things right and then delegating the task than doing it myself over and over and over again. Fortunately I have another forum member who has been helping me out. However, I don’t think its fair to her for me to give her the entire task. Within the next year I will probably have to pay someone else to run it.
CAN SPAM requirements are a pain. I read a post on one of the webmaster forums. A single female was concerned about disclosing her business address in the footer of each e-mail, as required by US law, because her home was her business address. Guess what, the US government doesn’t care about the privacy of females. If you are on a basement bargain budget you are going to have a very difficult time legally protecting your privacy.
I like having e-mail newsletters. Unfortunately, at a time to dollar ratio you may have a tough time justifying it. Whether your list is small or large you are doing basically the same amount of work. In my case, 15,000 subscribers after a year is pretty pathetic. Granted, it is a highly targeted audience, but the value of the niche is marginal.
If you are considering launching an e-mail newsletter look at these two factors:
1) How much traffic am I getting and how valuable is it? If you get 1 million uniques a month and you are collecting e-mail addresses you may be making a very costly mistake. If you are getting 1,000 uniques a month on a Myspace layouts sites its probably not worth your time.
2) What are my goals? Plan on launching a forum within the next few months? Then an e-mail newsletter can be a huge bonus, even more so if your site doesn’t recieve a whole lot of traffic. This particular newsletter I use to drive traffic to my content site, forum, and blog. Three birds with one stone.
The money is there to be made. The traffic benefits are real. Are you ready to do the work?