What is Email Monetization? 

Email monetization uses strategies that leverage email channels to generate revenue. Email monetization occurs at any time the organization’s email marketing list is utilized for any kind of revenue generation.

Email Monetization Diagram

The Difference Between Email Marketing and Email Monetization 

There is usually overlap between email marketing and email monetization since every marketing activity is essentially geared toward generating revenue. 

Email marketing is when an organization has a list of subscribers and newsletters are sent out with the ultimate goal of sharing information on products and services and providing value. The goal of email marketing is to build brand awareness, make sales, or even drive traffic to the organization’s site. Think of an email that outlines a new product that a business just introduced or a sale they’re havingthis is email marketing. 

Email monetization is a subset within email marketing, as it generates income from the email itself. One example is advertisements within emails; this is when an organization sells space in their emails and is a common email monetization strategy. 

Why Use Email Monetization? 

More than half of all adults subscribe to at least one newsletter. The ROI on email marketing is as much as $38 for every dollar an organization spends, so email monetization can be a powerful revenue earner simply because of the audience volumes that are so easily accessible. 

  • World-wide, there are four billion users of email everyday 
  • 37% of brands are increasing their email budgets in order to take up more email monetization opportunities 
  • Email engagement has increased by 45% over the last couple of years 
  • Email marketing revenue was worth $7.5 billion in 2020, and is expected to reach 18 billion in 2027, according to Statista. 

Email continues to be a main channel of communication for millions of people, and it drives more commercial value than any other channel. A sound monetization strategy can be crucial for any business.

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The Different Kinds of Email Monetization 

An organization’s list of email addresses can be used to make money in several ways. These include: 

Renting a List 

This involves sending out a message to the organization’s subscribers on behalf of another brand and charging the brand for this activity. 

While this is one of the most common email monetization strategies, it is essential to distinguish it from selling the organization’s list. Selling the organization’s list occurs when they provide the organization’s entire list of subscribers to a third party in exchange for money. Usually, the third party uses the list to send unsolicited emails or sells it further (to spammers). In many cases, this is considered illegal and could also alienate the organization’s subscribers. 

In fact, stringent GDPR regulations are now in place to ensure that businesses that handle personal data stay in compliance with the new Data Protection Act. 

Sponsored Content 

Sponsored content is part of email monetization but use should be used judiciously. Subscribers joined the list to hear from that specific organization and not to continuously hear from other brands. Any sponsored content should, therefore, be: 

  • Minimal in order to maximize its impact and lessen the likelihood that consumers will grow weary of advice or advertisements 
  • Highly relevant, only including content from companies whose messaging aligns with the organization’s 
  • True to the organization’s brand to avoid giving the impression that another business has taken over the organization’s list 

Email Advertising 

This is when an organization includes advertisements within emails. This either involves: 

  • Working directly with advertisers and charging them for placing ads 
  • Working with third-party ad sites that automate the process and match ads from several advertisers with the organization’s audience 

Email advertising can take several forms, such as: 

  • Banner ads, which are typically displayed at the top or bottom of the organization’s email (think header and footer) 
  • Image or button ads that can be placed anywhere in the organization’s email 
  • Text or native ads that appear as links within the written copy of the organization’s email 


This involves inviting the organization’s subscribers to opt-in to other third-party memberships and newsletters. 

Indirect Monetization 

Most sites that collect email addresses are usually engaged in some sort of indirect monetization. In general terms, it can be described as utilizing email to drive other revenue streams, such as driving traffic to the organization’s site, which has display ads.

The Nuances of Email Advertising 

The fundamental idea behind email marketing is to create a list of subscribers who are interested in the organization’s content. Emails are then sent to those people and those emails contain sponsored material, links, or advertisements. The organization gets paid when visitors click through on those adverts or buy things using links. 

There are some typical actions needed to properly monetize the organization’s email content. 

Create Useful and Inspiring Content 

While pay-per-click ads can be added to any email, this is not the best strategy to inspire trust and provide relevant content. The organization first needs to create useful emails that customers want to open and read. Once a good customer base is built and they open and read the emails, PPC ads can be added. However, they need to be relevant and add value. 

Outline an Email Monetization Plan 

This process involves answering certain questions: 

  • How many advertisements will be included in emails? 
  • How often will sponsored content be sent out? 
  • What kind of ads are suitable? 
  • How much will be charged for sponsored content? 

It’s important to know that the brand that will be placing advertisements may ask the following: 

  • How many subscribers does the organization have? 
  • What are the average open rates? 
  • How will they be charged? Per subscriber or per open rate? 

Organizations can generally charge more if they have a bigger list or a very targeted list with high open rates; advertisers are usually willing to pay top dollar for quality. 

Collaborate with Third-Party Advertisers 

Finding individual advertisers, negotiating contracts, and managing the ad process takes a lot of time. Value created through monetization may be diminished by the expense of manually managing the process. Consider collaborating with a third-party advertiser. Some of the advantages of doing so include: 

  • Ensuring better ads that are relevant for the organization’s audience 
  • Provision of hyper-targeted content that will continue to build the organization’s subscribers’ trust and loyalty, all the while increasing ROI 
  • Tracking to view trends and make data-driven decisions on how to manage the organization’s email advertising efforts 

Similar to typical display advertising, using a third-party network that can instantly supply advertisements is the simplest method to start making money from email. However, selling directly to advertisers is the best long-term plan. Direct email advertising solutions may appeal to businesses that are increasingly looking for innovative ways to reach potential customers.

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When Should an Organization Use Email Advertising Campaigns? 

There are guidelines for organizations wanting to start email advertisement monetization. Only begin if: 

  • The organization is able to incorporate relevant and useful advertising that resonates with the organization’s target audience. 
  • It does not impact the organization’s email functionality 
  • It is done tastefully and does not look or feel like spam 

An organization should not consider email advertisements if: 

  • They have a limited audience, or are yet to build trust with their audience 
  • Subscriber numbers are dropping 
  • Advertisements may be deemed offensive by the organization’s audience 
  • The company that is being advertised is in direct contrast to the organization’s brand’s vision, mission, or message

Popular Ways to Monetize an Email List 

How can a business take advantage of email monetization while maintaining the sanctity of the inbox? The idea is to match the organization’s email monetization strategies with the expectations the recipients have of their communications. 

An organization should aim to combine true reader value with profit. Here are some top ways to monetize an organization’s email list: 

Affiliate Marketing 

This is one of the most popular methods of earning money from an organization’s email list. Affiliate marketing uses an affiliate link to promote other businesses’ goods or services in exchange for a cut of the sales. The most popular methods of promoting affiliate links are through blog posts, social media updates, and of course, email newsletters. With an email newsletter, it’s easy to market those products to the organization’s subscribers by including the organization’s affiliate links right in the email content. 

Sponsored Content 

Sponsored content is written material and information that third-party businesses pay to an organization to distribute on their behalf. 

A reasonable fee should be determined by taking into account the size of the organization’s engaged audience (as determined by open and click-through rates) and the time required to produce sponsored content. 

While some brands will provide templates and brand materials to use, others will want to write about their brand using the organization’s own style and voice. Also note that long-term agreements (as opposed to one-time assignments) are the gold standard for sponsored material. 

Like advertisements, sponsored material sometimes seems spammy. Be careful not to oversaturate the organization’s audience with sponsored content. Keep the organization’s audience informed about brand-sponsored content and be picky about the deals promoted. 

Paid Newsletters 

With a paid newsletter, an organization’s audience subscribes to receive exclusive content on a weekly, monthly, or even yearly basis. One example is the organization’s essential insights and industry-specific expertise on current events or topics. 

Paid newsletters are excellent monetizable additions to email lists that can be successful once the work is done to win readers’ confidence. 

Paid newsletters also come with several benefits. Because there is no cap on the number of the organization’s audience and revenue is predictable, they are incredibly scalable. Paid newsletters also help to maintain the objectivity of the organization’s writing because it isn’t dependent on sponsors or advertisements for revenue. 

Advertising and Sponsorships 

Brands will pay for promotions to an email audience if there are more than 1,000 engaged subscribers. Depending on the needs of the brand, these advertisements may take the form of display ads or native ads. 

Email monetization using ads is considered semi-passive since the ad doesn’t have to be created in-house. However, it often best for an organization to write their own ad copy as it yields better results. 

In order to continue driving revenue, the organization must continually look for new brands and companies to collaborate with, and bargain over fees and deliverables. To make it easier for brands and companies to make contact, consider creating landing pages for advertising and sponsorship on the organization’s website and adding placeholder ads to the organization’s newsletter. This saves time, and there’s no need to actively seek out advertisers. Having a detailed media kit also helps. 

Informative Products 

Does the business possess any specialized information that may help the organization’s audience? Can it be placed into a format that can be sold? Maybe as an eBook, webinar, or course?  

This is an example of an info product. The organization’s expertise and experience are transformed into a sellable and consumable object through the creation of an info product. 

Typical prices for information products range from $5 to $50 for low-ticket items like eBooks to $500 to $1,000 or more for expensive items like premium courses. 

It takes a lot of work to create an info product from scratch, but it can pay off in the long run. The organization’s readers will appreciate a top-notch info offering, filled with valuable and specialized knowledge. 

A topic needs to be researched in-depth before starting a time-consuming content creation process. Is there a need for this? Will people pay for it? Engage with your existing audience and learn about the issues they are encountering to determine what the organization’s info product should cover. 

One tip is to give the organization’s audience a behind-the-scenes view of the development process and get specific feedback, which can help create a more marketable product. Build anticipation for the organization’s product launch by sending out emails with a brief excerpt from the eBook or a teaser video for a course that hints at a critical piece of information. 

You can also offer early-bird discounts or extra products in exchange for feedback to sweeten the offer. 

Paid Memberships or Communities 

These are essentially subscription services (think OTT platforms like Prime Video or Netflix) but instead of streaming movies, the organization’s audience is enticed with access to exclusive content or communities. 

A drawback with this model is that communities need active maintenance, and they need consistent engagement to provide on-going value.

Putting Monetization Strategies in Place 

Once an email monetization model strategy is chosen, there are steps to follow to put it in place: 

1. Determine the best time to send the email using analytics, measuring open and click rates daily 

2. Segment the organization’s list so that subscribers find the email content more relevant,  

3. Begin offering native ads 

4. Conduct A/B testing to improve performance

Challenges with Email Monetization  

Like any marketing channel, if used incorrectly, email monetization can have some negative effects. These can include: 

The Organization Could Be Banned by the Email Service Provider 

If an organization’s emails become increasingly commercial in nature, the organization’s unsubscribe rates are likely to go up, as will spam complaints. High rates could result in an unlikely but potential scenario: being kicked off the organization’s ESP’s platform. 

Poor Compliance with Legal Requirements 

There are certain laws that organizations need to comply with when monetizing email. For example, failure to provide an ‘unsubscribe’ option can result in fines. 

Loss of Subscribers 

There are many people out there who are turned off at the slightest commercial activity. Expect some loss of subscribers due to monetization. While this is to be expected, if the list keeps dropping, steps may need to be taken to halt to flood. 

Email Monetization: A Great Option for Driving Engagement and Revenue 

Email is one of the most economical and cost-effective marketing techniques available today. It allows businesses to interact directly with their audience and provides a level of customization that blogs and social media cannot provide. 

There are many income streams available when it comes to monetizing email lists and distributing offers to the organization’s audience, but not every email monetization strategy will work for the organization’s audience. 

This is why understanding the organization’s audience is an essential step. One-on-one conversations with the organization’s subscribers are a great method to learn about their struggles and aspirations so a solution can be provided. 

This helps to ensure that the organization is well-positioned to service hundreds or thousands of subscribers with the organization’s email monetization strategy. 

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