Digital Publishing Guest Columns Reader Revenue
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For local publishers seeking to boost monetization, is email the key?

While on-site and traditional ad revenue declined for many local publishers during the pandemic, newsletter revenue actually grew. As third-party cookies go away, newsletters’ importance becomes even clearer, offering local publishers a direct, first-party route to audience engagement and, crucially, monetization, writes Adam Berkowitz, Chief of Staff, LiveIntent

As local publishers seek to grow revenue post-pandemic, they’re investing in new strategic partnerships and monetization strategies — one of the most important being email. The good news? It’s working. 

According to the 2022 member economic impact report by the Local Media Consortium (LMC), a strategic alliance of local media companies, publishers enjoyed a 21% increase in cost savings and revenue generation. That growth amounted to more than $14 million in cost savings and almost $39 million in revenue.

Partnerships were a driving force behind these strong numbers. According to the LMC, local publishers made a whopping 357 partnerships to help them gather data and insights, create branded content, and deliver digital ad campaigns. 

With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at how email can play an important role in local publishers’ monetization and growth strategies. 

The Local Publisher Challenge – And Opportunity

Local news publishers have had a tough time surviving the pandemic, with more than 100 local newsrooms having closed by 2021. Why? Because of the walled gardens continued encroachment into their ad revenue.

As LMC CEO Fran Wills said in 2020, “I don’t think any of us were ready for this. There’s been such a change in the business model for local publishers. We used to have a large share of advertising, and over the last five or so years, that has shifted. More ad dollars are now going to social and search.”

Yet at the same time, local news became more important than ever during the pandemic. People are hungry for personalized updates and health and safety information about their communities from institutions they trust. Publishers deliver trusted news outside of the maelstrom of User-Generated Content.

“People are clamoring for credible news, so they’re going back to visiting local media sites directly,” Wills said. “We’ve seen a huge spike in direct traffic from local readers.”

That means local publishers have had a major opportunity to tap into these changing audience behaviors and deliver relevant content to their target communities. They just need an effective way to reach those audiences directly and monetize that content to drive revenue.

That’s where email monetization comes in.

How Local Publishers Can Benefit from Email Monetization

As the publisher landscape continues to change, email is perfectly poised to help media outlets — especially local ones — thrive.

By launching email newsletter operations, publishers can reach people directly in their inboxes with real-time updates and personalized content. They can then monetize these newsletters with relevant marketing from brand partners. Because while on-site and traditional ad revenue declined for many during the pandemic, newsletter revenue actually grew. 

Email also acts as the foundation for navigating a future where third-party cookies go away. That’s because email offers access to a logged-in audience and swims in first-party data, which publishers can use to better understand their readers, deliver personalized experiences, and power the future of their identity efforts. First-party data is the key to addressability in a multi-device world, giving publishers a transparent and privacy-safe way to serve consistent messaging to their audiences across devices, channels, and platforms.

Publishers can further make the most of their email monetization strategies with these practices:

  • Sell custom audience packages to help advertisers reach the right audiences in the right contexts. 
  • Place ads above the fold so users can see and engage with the marketing immediately.
  • Enable various ad sizes to widen the advertiser pool and give advertisers more flexibility with their campaigns.

Email can be even more impactful for local publisher monetization since they are developing even more hyper-local, engaged, and loyal audiences than most. Publishers can enable first-party audiences that advertisers have come to expect from the walled gardens but within a Publisher’s owned and operated (and logged-in) environment. This means that Publishers are the ones who benefit, not the walled gardens. Publisher’s audiences, data, and content remain theirs alone. Additionally, the influx of first-party data derived in the interplay of the email open, all the property of the publisher, builds the cornerstone of Identity that will power the future of resolution and identity, key to the next era of digital.

As local publishers seek to diversify their revenue, optimize monetization, and prepare for the end of the third-party cookie, email is a key channel and essential strategy for publishers; their relationship with their email newsletter readers is one of the most valuable and important relationships they have – if they act on it.

Adam Berkowitz
Chief of Staff, LiveIntent

LiveIntent, one of the world’s largest people-based marketing platforms, connects 2,500 publishing and advertising brands with over 250M logged-in users every month across all types of media. With the anonymized email address at the center of its identity graph, LiveIntent provides brands with solutions that help them monetize, acquire, and retain real people, even where cookies don’t work. LiveIntent is home to over 190 people worldwide with offices in New York, Berlin, and Copenhagen.