AdWeek Elevate: Newsletters and a path to a sustainable business model for publishers

LiveIntent recently attended AdWeek’s Elevate: Publishing conference. Over three days, publishers and tech partners came together virtually to discuss the hottest topics and trends in the publishing world. While the scope of the conference was broad, covering areas such as audio, NFTs, and virtual reality, there was a common theme across sessions that highlighted newsletters.

So what was this common theme that spanned publishers like The New York Times, Hearst Magazines, The Weather Channel, BuzzFeed, and The Philadelphia Inquirer? Poetically speaking, it was: know thy reader, know thy business. Pragmatically speaking, that translates to creating a sustainable business model via the effective use of first-party data and nurturing reader loyalty.

Reader loyalty: A renewable resource for a sustainable model

Reader loyalty is what gives your brand value and is the raw, recyclable material on which to build a sustainable business model. Cultivating reader loyalty yields a bountiful harvest of first-party data. When readers trust your brand, they engage with it, generating insights around their passions and interests and creating the opportunity for dialogue around what they want more of. These reader insights are the ore that, when properly processed, can then be used to construct premium experiences. Through these premium experiences, publishers can feed readers’ hunger for relevant content and thereby continue to foster more reader loyalty. The cycle supports itself.

Collection, curation, and considerations

Across the AdWeek Elevate sessions, publishers highlighted the versatility of first-party data and the variety of use cases to which they can apply it. They discussed how they’re building their own ‘premium experiences’ in the form of commerce and affiliate programs, robust ad sales businesses, and subscription-only content models. During these conversations, publishers placed a significant emphasis on the collection and curation of first-party data. The most frequent advice dispensed includes:

  • Engage with your readership. Ask your readers what content they love most and want to get more of.
  • Explore new inputs into your data loop. Think about how you capture more intent and behavioral data.
  • Assess your tech stack. Find out if the vendors you’re partnering with help offer solutions that help you execute your business strategy.
  • Consider the applications. Learn if the first-party data you’re collecting can applied to multiple business areas or support a growing portion of your business (like ad sales and paid subscriptions).
  • Be privacy-forward. Value your reader just as much as they value your content.

Main takeaway: Don’t neglect your newsletters

But how do first-party data and the sustainable business model tie back to newsletters? Newsletters represent not only a microcosm of the sustainable model but are also a great vehicle through which to execute the model. The fact that publishers own their newsletter channel cannot be understated, and it offers the means to build a first-party data loop to inform other areas of your business. Those who are investing in their newsletter have a real opportunity to enact the model outlined above. Let’s look at how.

Your newsletter readers are the most loyal readers you have, they’ve raised their hand to receive your content, and they’re itching to engage. Newsletter readers are likely your most engaged audience, and their deep engagement provides some of your most valuable insights. You can apply these insights to your business in several useful ways. For example, newsletter reader insights can inform your content strategy, drive your ad sales program, and fuel your paid subscription push. These tactics all drive back to that raw, recyclable materials – reader loyalty – and can be used to sustain your newsletter and your larger organization. The more relevant you make the reader experience, the further along you are to creating a sustainable business — and activating the first-party data collected from your newsletters is a great way to start.

If you’re interested in how LiveIntent’s solutions can help you on your path to a sustainable business, contact us.