If you have your own website, or are planning to create one soon, in the course of your research you will have read about the importance of publishing an ezine (electronic newsletter) as a way of generating traffic to your site.
-- Note to purists: yes I DO understand there is, strictly speaking, a difference between ezines and electronic newsletters but for our purposes it doesn't matter so don't write me. ;)
It's good advice. By capturing the email addresses of your site visitors (via an ezine sign-up form at your site), you can develop a mailing list to put yourself before time and time again, unless and until they ask to be removed. The idea is that by regularly sending your ezine to your list, your site visitors get to know you and, over time, come to trust you as an expert in your field. Assuming you do competent work, that is.
But ezine publishing can be a lot more than just a traffic generation tool - a means to an end. It can be an end unto itself. Your ezine can actually be a business in its own right.
How can an ezine be a paying proposition in itself? There are two ways - by accepting paid advertising and charging for subscription.
When I started my ezine way back when in July 1999, I was just following conventional wisdom. I had created a web site by the same name and wanted to publish an ezine as a way of staying in touch with site visitors and reminding them to visit my site.
What ended up happening, though, is that the ezine became the central plank of my business and the website became secondary. Why? Well, first of all, I found that I actually enjoyed it. I enjoyed writing articles and I enjoyed the fact that other people actually got some benefit from my labors. But, beyond that, once I had amassed a subscriber database of 1,000 or so, people started asking me what my advertising rates were. I didn't have any. I had never really thought of my ezine as being a revenue generator in and of itself. The most I was hoping for was to remind readers to visit my site in the hope that, while there, they would place an order for one of the affiliate programs I promoted thereby earning me a commission. Of course, I was also running ads for my own affiliate programs in the ezine which translated into income via commissions but, again, the ezine was a means to an end, not an end unto itself.
When advertisers started approaching me, however, I soon changed my thinking and my focus and before long, I had on average ten to twelve advertisers wanting to run ads in my ezine, every single week.
So, quite quickly, accepting paid advertising in my ezine became a primary revenue source, certainly way ahead of anything else that was generating revenue for me at the time from my website.
Things have changed considerably for all ezine publishers from those heady days where ezine advertising was all the rage and demand for ezine advertising space outstripped supply. No longer do I publish a dozen ads in each issue. Now it's only five or so but paid advertising remains an important element of my business plan and it is still a very viable revenue generation model for you to use in your online business.
=> Paid Subscriptions
Just as ezine advertising has slowed down, paid subscription ezines are emerging as the next hot trend. More and more, the concept of free content on the Internet is giving way to user pays and ezine publishing is no exception with ezine publishers beginning to charge for subscription to their ezines in lieu of (or in addition to) running paid ads.
For those who (for some reason) believe that everything on the Internet should be free (as long as they're not the ones who have to do the work for nothing, of course), this is, on a superficial level, probably bad news. But on the other hand, when someone is paying for content, it had better be worth it. So the upside is that subscribers to paid ezines are more likely to be getting (and will demand) better quality content than they are used to from the typical "free" ezine. In other words, you get what you pay for.
So what does all this mean for you, the would-be Internet entrepreneur? Quite simply, if you're an expert in anything (and we all are) you can turn that knowledge into the foundation of an online business by publishing an ezine on that subject, including your own original articles on a regular basis (don't bother just regurgitating someone else's - if you're publishing them, so are others and the object of the exericse is to make an original contribution) and either accepting paid advertising or charging subscribers a subscription fee.
All right then, how do I start an ezine?, I hear you say.
=> Come Up With a Great Idea
Don't waste your time (or everyone else's) publishing yet another Internet marketing ezine. How many ways are there to say the same thing? They're a dime a dozen and worth even less. Do the hard work of coming up with something that's original and fresh, something that every man and his dog isn't already doing. It doesn't matter how specialized the subject matter - the Internet audience is vast - you will attract your share of it. In fact, the more targeted your audience the better. Far, far better to have 500 devoted readers than 5,000 who may or may not even open, let alone read, your ezine.
(And don't believe the naysayers who will try and convince you that because there are already so many ezines being published there is no room for you. There is ALWAYS room for quality original content and there always will be.)
=> Write a Few Articles
Before you publish your first issue, write a few articles about your chosen subject and submit them, together with a resource box that includes a way for people to subscribe to your new ezine. This is just to drum up interest so that you actually have a few subscribers to send your first issue to.
What do I mean by "submitting" your articles? There are many ezine publishers and webmasters looking for fresh, quality content for their ezines and web sites that they don't want to have to create for themselves.
In response to this demand, a number of services and web sites have sprung up to collect content contributions from people like you and make it available to people like them.
Here's a list of article submission points to get you started:
=> Announcement Lists
Yahoo Groups (submit from the Yahoo Groups website at http://groups.yahoo.com/ - you'll need to subscribe to these groups first):
Then, when you have a few subscribers, you're ready to publish your first issue. Be ready to roll it out pretty quickly after you submit your articles so you are still fresh in the mind of your readers.
For assistance with the nuts and bolts of actually creating your ezine (including what should go where and why) and sending it out, visit the excellent resource Ezine University at http://www.ezineuniversity.com .
=> Generating Subscribers
Once your ezine is a reality, you can "announce" it to the world at large. Here's a list of ezine announcement lists and directories to get you started:
Before being able to submit your newsletter to these lists you'll need to subscribe first. Just go to Yahoo (http://www.groups.yahoo.com) or Topica (http://www.topica.com) to sign up for the lists you want to be able to submit to. (Onelist and Egroups are now under Yahoo):
You'll find other sites and announcement lists to add to these lists as you go on. This is just to give you a starting point.
Of course, just because you've created an ezine that's a paying proposition (i.e., profitable) doesn't mean you have to stop there. You can still create a website and use that to generate revenue in addition to your ezine. In fact, a combination of the two is the best way to go - multiple streams of income are key to the financial stability and security of your online business.
--- Recommended resources:
Subject matter idea generation and putting your knowledge on paper - Make Your Knowledge Sell (Monique Harris and Ken Evoy, M.D.) http://www.roibot.com/w.cgi?R5469_myks Creating a high-income paid subscription ezine - The Paperless Newsletter (Monique Harris) http://www.roibot.com/w.cgi?R5469_pnpg Automation software for submission of your ezine - Ezine Announcer http://www.roibot.com/w.cgi?R5469_ezan Marketing with ezines - Ezine Tactics (Lee Benson) http://www.roibot.com/w.cgi?R5469_ezine
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Elena Fawkner is editor of A Home-Based Business Online ... practical business ideas, opportunities and solutions for the work-from-home entrepreneur. http://www.ahbbo.com