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How to buy advertisements in newsletters

How effective are newsletter advertisements for startups?

Anna Grigoryan
Anna Grigoryan
5 min read
newsletter advertisement

In this article I’m outlining my experience of buying ads in different newsletters.
For context some basic information about my product and my goals.

Product: Kradl - podcast player.

Target audience: people who listen to podcasts or want to get into listening (so basically everyone!).

Goal of the campaign: grow the waitlist or find people who I can potentially interview for the product.

Please keep that in mind while reading this article.

Setting your newsletter marketing budget

Advertisement prices in newsletters are very random. I’m saying this as a newsletter writer myself.

Prices can depend on:

  • who’s writing the newsletter
  • number of subscribers
  • click rate
  • who’s the audience of newsletter

It’s not uncommon to find a newsletter that has 1000 subscribers, but charges $500 per sponsorship because it’s a newsletter about Lamborghinis.

So if you have a marketing budget of $1000 it can be:

  • 10 sponsorships in 10 newsletters that have around 1000 subscribers
  • 1 sponsorship in a newsletter that is written by a highly influential person in your target market
  • 3 sponsorships in a newsletters with 5000 subscribers with niche topics.

Look at the differences between these 2 newsletters. Same subscriber count, same audience, 10x difference in pricing.

newsletter sponsorship, finding a newsletter sponsors, sponsoring a newsletter
swapstack newsletter entries

For me the most expensive advertisement I booked was $75, the cheapest advertisement was $20.

Selecting the newsletters for marketing campaign

For me finding newsletters to sponsor is easy. I already get the majority of my information from them, so to some extent I already knew who I wanted to sponsor.

However, if you don’t know where to start there are a few services that will help:

I used Swapstack, to see what newsletters are out there in general, and I booked a couple ads through their platform. All writers were very responsive and I got a few interesting pitches that also got into the mix.

In addition to that I have already done research and knew what newsletters are popular out there in my target market. I also subscribed to those newsletters, so I would know what the vibe is like.

As a little control freak I also made a Notion database with all the newsletters that I wanted to use for my paid promotion. I mentioned the:

  • Publication
  • Advertisement info
  • Reach (number of subscribers)
  • Audience
newsletter marketing database

Next step was categorizing newsletters that I wanted to work with into small segments.

This helped me test batches of advertisements to cross check the performance.

I categorized newsletters into:

  • Newsletters I liked reading in the target market, and outside of it.
  • Newsletters in the target market with high reach.

Figuring out the type of advertisement

Usually there are a few types of advertisements in the newsletters.

  1. Classifieds - a short tweet-like text with 1 or 2 links to your product.
  2. Main sponsor - a picture with a text and 1 or 2 links to your product.
  3. Custom advertisements - newsletter writer makes the advertisement for you, all you need to provide is the link.

In some newsletters Classifieds performed much better then Main sponsorships, and vice versa. So there’s not really a good way to understand which one of those advertisement types will perform better.

A few things to keep in mind:

  • Have copy material ready.
  • Look through their previous issues to see if there’s a theme or vibe that the newsletter is going for.
  • With some newsletters you can also ask the writer to make the copy. Which is expensive however performs better, as the writer's voice is more natural in the newsletter.
  • Make sure to make your own UTM link to track the advertisement performance. Some newsletters make it for you, but having your own is much easier to measure the campaign efficiency.

Figuring out the numbers

If there’s one thing that you need to take away from this article is that: Click rate is not the same as Click through rate.

“Click Rate: This is the percentage of people who clicked a link in your email out of the people who were delivered your email.

Click Through Rate: This is the percentage of people who clicked a link in your email out of the people who opened your email.”

The newsletter can have a 20% click rate but your ad click through rate can be less than 1%.

When you’re booking advertisements through Swapstack, writers usually put the Click Through Rate in their profiles. However, most of the newsletter writers do not have any information about the average ad performance and that makes the process even more complicated.

Before booking the ad I reached out to the newsletter writers to see if they worked with advertisers like me before. That usually gives a good idea about the potential performance.

Below you can see the results of my campaigns.

What did I learn?

This experiment helped me to understand how I can best leverage newsletters, small niche communities for marketing purposes. Support the creators and meet my startup’s goals at the same time.

Being creator focused is still one of the pillars of my marketing strategy.

This is not a facebook advertisement where you reach 10,000,000 audience and their 10% conversion is okay. It’s not throwing spaghetti on the wall to see if it sticks.

Newsletter advertisement has to have a very clear goal and clear message behind it.

This experiment more so helped me find people to talk to for customer interviews, then worked for buzz generation.

“Join the waitlist” is not the call to action that worked.

“Hey, this is my email feel free to message me for questions” call to action performed much better.

Campaigns where the newsletter writer created the advertisement copy performed much better.

Newsletters provide this intimate space for communication between the creator and the audience. So for the upcoming campaigns I’ll try to approach more like a collaboration between me and the newsletter, rather than cut and dry advertisement.

Thank you to Joel Christiansen, Valerie Zhang, Kavir Kaycee, and Josh Pitzalis for contributing to this article.

On Community Weekly

Anna Grigoryan

Writer, engineer and recovering over-achiever. I bring context into creator economy with Community Weekly newsletter, and help people discover best podcasts out there with Kradl.