How to drive paid subscriptions from your email newsletter readers
Last updated: November 27, 2023
Need new subscribers for your publication? Look no further than your newsletter.
Your newsletter subscribers are significantly more likely to become paid subscribers: Elizabeth Goodridge, the New York Times’ editorial director of newsletters, has noted a “direct correlation between newsletter readership and digital subscriptions.” The Times has also reported that their site visitors are twice as likely to become paid subscribers if they subscribe to a newsletter first.
Not only are newsletter readers more likely to subscribe, they’re more likely to stick around longer: Newsletter subscribers have 7% better retention than non-newsletter subscribers, according to findings from the Boston Globe.
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And this makes sense: Compared to other subscribers, newsletter readers have had more time to get to know your content, so they know what they’re paying for when they subscribe.
If you’re looking to secure your subscription base, your newsletter subscribers are your best bet. Learn how to convert your newsletter readers into paid subscribers below:
5 proven tactics to drive paid subscriptions from your newsletter
1. Sneak peek your paid content in your newsletter
Let’s start simple: At the bottom of your newsletter, link to some of your premium content. Give a one- or two-paragraph preview or simply list the headlines, like Digiday does in its Digiday Marketing newsletter. Besides the obvious benefit — enticing your audience to subscribe — this reminds your audience that your paid subscription exists, which isn’t always a given if you’re not a legacy media organization.
2. Optimize for click-throughs
Newsletter editors face a tradeoff between maximizing engagement or click-throughs: Providing too much context to articles keeps readers from clicking through to your site.
But if you just post a headline, you might not be giving readers enough info to spark their interest.
It’s a delicate balance: Use your audience data to find it. Spark more site traffic without turning readers away with these tips:
- Using your email and marketing automation provider’s heat map and link performance reports, experiment with different description copy lengths to see what yields the most click-throughs. On Omeda, you can also use our URL Click Report to see which recipients clicked on which links within your email and our Opens by Device report to make sure your emails are rendering properly for different devices and screen sizes.
- Evenly space links throughout your newsletter: You’ve got a lot of content to promote. We get it. But placing your “Read Now” buttons too closely together forces mobile users to blow up their screen, squint a little, and then click through and read the post iself. That’s asking too much of people who are reading on the go.. Rule of thumb: Place only one link within each content block of your email.
- Use dynamic content in your emails: Segmentation is a powerful way to tailor your content to sub-groups of your audience. But it’s still not precise enough to guarantee each individual is seeing exactly what they want — or get them to click through. That’s where dynamic content comes in: When active, it serves each of your newsletter recipients personalized articles based on their engagement and purchase history.
Say that your newsletter covers finance and leadership – If Stephen has regularly clicked through on the articles on finance, dynamic content will serve him more finance pieces. As he engages further, the algorithm will continue to learn his preferences and fine-tune its recommendations over time.
That creates a nice virtuous cycle of engagement, improved personalization, and even more engagement. All of which adds up to more clicks, conversions and subscriptions.
(Note: Since Omeda’s email and marketing automation platform is connected to your audience database, it generates dynamic content based on each individual’s activity across your entire brand, not just across email. So you can be sure your recommendations are as accurate and tailored as possible.)
3. Create a subscription promotion strategy specifically for your newsletters.
Your newsletter readers already interact with your content regularly — for free. For them to become paid subscribers, you need to give them something that you’re not already providing in your newsletter — and make them care enough to pay.
Sounds obvious in theory, but it’s much harder to put into practice. To do this, you need to understand:
- What value your newsletter readers are getting from your newsletter / what they enjoy most
- How they interact with the rest of your content once they’re on your site
- What they want, but can’t access without a paid subscription
- How your subscription package can fill the gap
To answer these questions, you need to see how your newsletter audience interacts with your brand at every stage of the funnel, from the email itself to your free website content to your paywalls.
First, segment your audience by their engagement level to isolate your most active readers: Besides being more likely to become paid subscribers, their activity patterns are likely to differ from your list’s norm.
From there, use your website analytics solution to see what paths this group take on your site once they click through.
- What topics tend to drive the most traffic from email to website? For best results, break this down by audience segment.
- Do readers stay on one page? Do they navigate to other articles after the first? If not, use content recommendations to serve them with additional related articles. On Omeda, recommendations are personalized based on each person’s engagement history, so they get stronger and stronger as someone interacts with your content.
- If you’re linking to paid content in your newsletter, are those articles yielding clicks and click-throughs? How does that compare to your free articles? Consider reworking your premium content mix if these links aren’t yielding the traffic you need. Maybe instead of linking to articles, you promote proprietary industry research, interviews or white papers. Or you put different topics behind a paywall.
- How do newsletter readers navigate to metered content? Analyze the performance of your meters to see whether they’re generating form submissions or subscriptions. Omeda tracks impressions, clicks and conversions from each of your meters, so you can see exactly what variables drive the most subscriptions. There’s a lot to consider here:
- which articles you’re restricting
- the quality of your gated content
- your meter message
- its design
- how frequently you’re displaying your meter
- its format (whether it’s a standard modal taking up the whole screen, an exit-intent pop-up or scroll trigger pop-up)
Turn to your audience data for answers and don’t be afraid to experiment with different options. (Not getting enough performance from your paywalls? Learn why your paywalls aren’t working here.)
4, Consider special introductory offers for your newsletter subscribers
Reward your readers for their loyalty by giving them an introductory offer to subscribe. If someone’s been happy enough with your newsletter, but they’re curious about what else you have to offer, that alone could convince them to take the plunge.
Discounting those subscriptions incur some short-term costs, but they’re likely to pay off over time, since newsletter readers tend to have higher retention than other paid subscribers.
But like anything in media, success comes down to execution. Below are some of the best opportunities to make your ask:
- Include a promotional offer in your welcome email
- Consider sending newsletter readers an anniversary email once they hit their first year including a special promotional offer
- Provide a discounted rate to readers who refer others to your newsletter ‘
Your newsletter readers already have access to some of your free content. So how can you incentivize them to subscribe? Add value that goes beyond access to articles.
Say that you’re running a finance magazine: Someone might not want to pay to read 3 extra posts per month. But they might pay for access to webinars and interviews from stock market experts, personalized daily stock tips sent via push notification, budget templates, and other resources that’ll help them improve their financial standing.
Vogue puts this in practice with its premium Vogue Club subscription. In addition to unlimited content access, Vogue Club members get priority access to its Vogue World and Forces of Fashion events; private tours of Vogue HQ; inside access to virtual beauty and fashion video series; handpicked gifts from Vogue editors; and access to a members-only website, newsletter and Discord community for $30 per month.
They’re not just giving their audience some extra articles for $10/month. They’re giving their audience the knowledge, experience and community they need to fully experience the iconic Vogue brand.
Sure, you probably don’t have Vogue’s prestige or budget. But it’s worth thinking outside the box to see how you can help your audience make the most of your brand — even exclusive educational resources or a member community can be enough!
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