Last month, I wrote about how to find sponsors for your newsletter
. But I still hear from newsletter writers and publishers regularly who worry that they won’t be able to sell a sponsorship with under 100,000 subscribers on their lists.
Obviously, this is a sensible concern. But people sell sponsorships with smaller list sizes all the time. So I wanted to talk about their stories this month.
I put out some calls in popular newsletter-creator forums. I chatted with some folks whose newsletters have between 400 and 10,000 subscribers. And I heard how they did it.
Some themes emerged.
Let’s dive in…
1) You won’t get anything if you don’t ask
It sounds simple but: Sometimes, half the battle is just letting people know they can buy an ad.
, who runs EarBuds Podcast Collective
(“5 podcast episodes according to a theme, curated by a different person each week”), makes it crystal clear to readers that the door to sponsorships is open.
“I have a rate sheet on my website that some folks will reply to with a request for ads,” she says. “Also, whenever I receive a press release from a podcast or a company that I believe fits our tone, I reply asking if they’d like to run an ad in our newsletter/podcast… And yes, I have a few links in the newsletter that allow people to explore sponsorship options.”
2) Ads beget ads
Along the same lines, sometimes the thing that leads to an inquiry about buying an ad is… seeing that your newsletter has an ad running in it.
, who runs Selfish Giving
(about helping nonprofits and businesses raise money and make money with win-win partnerships), doesn’t do any
outreach to advertisers at all.
“A lot of them call me because they see others advertising,” he says. And that inbound interest leads to thousands of dollars in sponsorships per year, on a list size of roughly 3,000.
3) Look to your own audience first
Your own audience, in fact, is perhaps the single most common place for an early sponsorship sale to originate.
“Our first sponsor was inbound, after they found us on an article on top newsletters to read in 2020,” says Anum Hussain
, co-founder and CEO of Below the Fold
(“A twice-a-week email sharing news you aren’t hearing anywhere else”).
“[O]ur most recent one was through an inbound message from a happy reader. These were all before we hit 10K subscribers.”
Two other sponsorships were through Swapstack
, a new platform that looks to match writers and sponsors.
4) Use your network
Along with your audience, use your network.
“It was through the Women Founder’s Community fb group,” she says. “I posted my audience #s and some other stats. A bunch of folks commented and I followed up over email.”
“I got 2 other sponsors from personal relationships I’ve made on the internet over the past few months… Still under 10k and closing sponsors to the best of my ability 🙂”
5) Be clever
Victor Lei, founder of The Average Joe
(“Investment news, trends and opportunities straight to your inbox”), takes a creative approach to searching for sponsors.
Including, says Lei:
- Looking at companies that raised recent series a/b rounds, maybe seed - focus on my niche.
- Searched for companies on AngelList and other startup aggregating websites
- In a community called “SwapStack” that finds advertisers for newsletters
- Looking at other newsletters to see who’s advertising.
- Simply googling “US fintech startups” and looking at what lists I can find
He then sells either single ads or packages of two or four runs, with some discounts for multiple runs.
6) Price to sell
Pricing is another big stumbling block for newsletters looking to begin the process of monetizing their audiences.
You don’t want to feel like you’re giving away the store. But an unsold ad is worth exactly $0.
of Podcast Review
(“The week’s best podcasts, delivered to your inbox”) priced low to get things kicked off — and he made the right move.
“I’m pricing the sponsorships pretty cheap to start, in my opinion, at $50 each,” says Conway. “But I wanted to see how much demand there would be before setting a higher price.”
At around 5,000 subscribers, that means Conway is charging a modest $10 CPM (cost per 1,000 subscribers).
“I’ve been able to sell out the slots through mid-April,” says Conway. “And just today, a podcast network asked if they could book a slot per month through the end of the year.”
With inventory filling up, he now has something valuable: scarcity. And scarcity means he can start charging more.
7) Pitch yourself
At the end of the day, to really make things happen, you’re going to have to pitch yourself. So don’t be shy.
, founder of Community Weekly
(“Insights on community building, content pipelines and knowledge management”), created a simple landing page in Notion and sent it out to sponsors. (She helpfully created a Loom video walking you through her process here
As for how she sourced sponsors: “My niche is community management and content creators, so the natural way to find companies for me was lurking through Producthunt and Betalist,” she says.
“I also highly relied on niche communities in the passion economy space. I’m also subscriber of Sponsorgap, which also provides leads. I also reached out to few companies that I used or had used previously for sponsorship.”
Grigoryan’s experience also points to another tough fact about chasing sponsorships: You’ve got to knock on a lot of doors:
“On average I got 1 answer for each 30 or 40 email sent,” Grigoryan says.
(You can book a sponsorship on Community Weekly here.)
Be ready to work
Finding sponsors for your newsletter won’t be easy. But if you’re providing valuable content, if you’ve assembled a valuable audience, and if there are companies that would value reaching that audience, you can do it.
At any size.