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Brian Alt

Paid-Subscription Ezines
By Brian Alt



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I often hear the question, "Why don't more ezine publishers charge a subscription fee for their publication?" This question is usually asked by folks new to the email publishing business, who are accustomed to print publications that usually charge a yearly subscription fee.

But it's definitely a valid question. Why is it that the great majority of email publications are available for free?

The primary reason is that ezine publishers are often able to make a decent amount of money selling advertising in their publications. By charging a subscription fee, they would be severely limiting their audience, as a lot less people would subscribe.

If you're considering a paid-subscription email publication, make sure you do some projections first:

  • Say you think you could generate 1000 paying subscribers in your publication's first year of existence, each of whom would pay you $20 for your ezine. Will the $20,000 you generate cover all of your expenses, and will it be more beneficial than publishing a free, ad-supported ezine.

  • For the same publishing effort, you might be able to generate 50,000 subscribers to a free ezine. If that ezine was published weekly, and you sold only a single ad spot at an average of a $10 CPM (cost per thousand impressions), you would already be looking at $26,000 per year in ad revenue. You would additionally benefit from more referred Web site traffic, increased exposure for yourself and your writers, greater potential secondary revenue (affiliate program sales, etc.), and an abundance of helpful reader feedback.

A factor of 50 in number of subscribers to a free ezine compared to an ezine going for $20 is not at all far-fetched. Folks on the Net are easily that many times more inclined to take something similar for free instead of paying for it.

If you publish a paid-subscription ezine, and your competition comes along and offers a free ezine with equal quality information, which one will potential subscribers choose?

Yet despite the argument above, paid subscription ezines can be successful, and I'm not at all against the practice of publishing them, in the right context.

internet.com, for example, offers a handful of quite successful paid-subscription email newsletters on the topics of stocks and IPOs, unclaimed domains, and search engine news. But these are in addition to their 100+ free email publications, some of which are on the same topic as the paid versions. These free ezines are quite clearly fundamental in driving subscriptions to the paid versions. (internet.com's email newsletters are available here: http://e-newsletters.internet.com/ .)

And that's the approach that stands the best chance of success: Offer a paid version after you have a successful free ezine or two under your belt.

By starting with a paid-subscription ezine, you'll miss out on the incredible traffic-building potential of a free ezine. You'll also miss out on many word-of-mouth referrals, affiliate program sales, and abundance of educational reader feedback on your ezine.

Ezine-Tips for July 17, 2000

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