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November 05, 2007

“Ad Supported” Comes To Email Newsletters for the Rest of Us

Warning: this post contains blatant promotional material for FeedBlitz, a company in which I’ve invested in and on whose board I sit. FeedBlitz founder Phil Hollows has made a virtue of necessity and created what’s needed for ad-supported newsletter publishing. That’s important (I think) whether you’re an advertiser or an e-newsletter publisher (including bloggers who support email subscription to their posts) – and interesting if you’re interested in the evolution of Internet services.

Lots of stuff on the Web is free because it’s supported by revenue from ads – usually Google ads to be specific. Sites’ll ply you with information and entertainment and even host your content because they get to insert ads – usually from Google. You can even make some money from your own website by hosting ads – usually from Google. If you’re an advertiser, you can place text-based keyword ads all over the web with a single automated buy from Google.

But Google will not allow publishers of email-delivered newsletters to run their ads; it’s against the terms of service. So, unless your newsletter is big enough so it can sell its own advertising space, no ad revenue for you. And, if you’re an advertiser who wants to buy space in geographically or keyword targeted email newsletters without dealing individually with each newsletter publisher, too bad – you can’t do that through Google.

Many newsletter publishers pay companies like Constant Contact (a competitor of FeedBlitz) real money for professional services like mailing list maintenance, authentication of subscription request to avoid any possible taint of spam, emailing services which avoid getting caught in spam filters even though readers really want your newsletter and you are not spam, and tools for professional quality layout.

FeedBlitz provides a similar set of services (we think they’re better, actually) free to newsletter publishers. How can it do that? Easy (not so easy for FeedBlitz but easy for you); FeedBlitz sells targeted ads and places them in your newsletter. If you allow FeedBlitz to place a simple text ad at the bottom of each newsletter it sends out for you, you get all of FeedBlitz’ publisher services free.

Want to make money from ads in your newsletter as you can do from a website? That can happen, too. Just allow FeedBlitz to put more prominent ads near the top of your articles – your choice of formats – and you’ll share in the revenue from those ads.

Don’t want any ads in your newsletters. That’s your choice. If you don’t allow ads, FeedBlitz does charge for its services – but always considerably less than Constant Contact (just to pick on them). That’s possible because FeedBlitz is highly automated and self-serve; on the other hand, to be fair, you’ll get more attention from a sales person at Constant Contact.

If you’re an advertiser, FeedBlitz has implemented a self-serve auction for space in e-newsletters. You can target geographically (down to the zip code), by category, by keyword or in combinations. One interesting difference from the Google auction, which you may be familiar with, is that you can see the bid price you’re competing against. Should mean that you spend less time on game-playing as part of your campaign planning.

One last thought. If you’re a newsletter publisher, you may want to consider becoming an advertiser in other newsletters through FeedBlitz in order to increase your circulation. You don’t need a graphic artist for simple text ads. You don’t have to commit more than $25 to give advertising a try and see whether it helps build your circulation. Of course, if it does, that’s a virtuous circle since more circulation can give you more ad revenue.

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