More Non-Dues Revenue Please: Using RSS to Populate Newsletters

Associations, Communications Strategy, Revenue Growth // Newsletters are a staple for most associations. Members expect newsletters that are targeted to their interests, no matter how varied the audience you serve. But newsletters also serve as an important source of non-dues revenue.

Beth Arritt
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Newsletters are a staple for most associations. Members expect newsletters  targeted to their interests, no matter how varied your audience. But newsletters also serve as an important source of non-dues revenue.

So how can you provide targeted news, with targeted advertising, without having a dedicated staff member to do just that and nothing else?

With RSS.

If you’re familiar with RSS from the olden days, you may be either rolling your eyes or scratching your head. But don’t run away! We’re not talking just feed readers – in fact, those are low on the list of reasons to use RSS.

If you’re not familiar with RSS, let me explain. There’s some debate about what RSS stood for initially, but the answer I like best is Really Simple Syndication, because it fits what RSS does – it makes it really simple for you to syndicate your content across a lot of places.

You can use RSS to syndicate your content to many different places with one post. Think of it like a major TV network that then sends TV programs out all over the country, sometimes all over the world, from one central location.

Originally, the main use of RSS was to be able to add a site’s feed to your feed reader so you could keep up on all your favorite sites in one place. But use of RSS feeds has moved far beyond the realm of just feed readers—though those are still incredibly helpful for keeping up with news in your field.

Pretty cool, yeah?

What’s the Connection to Newsletter Ad Revenue?

“So how does this generate ad revenue for me?” you ask? Great question!

Let’s say you have one weekly newsletter going out through marketing automation right now. You use it for anything and everything your association thinks your members might find interesting, even though one size rarely fits all, and you have a set number of ads you can sell in that newsletter.

Now imagine you have five newsletters, one each day. Each one is tied to a specific subject area or theme, and the audience is narrower, but more targeted, as well as more likely to be interested in the subject matter. Opens and clicks are likely to go up.

And now you have five newsletters worth of space to sell ads, each with a much better ability to target, each with open and click rates that are likely to increase over time. You can better explain to advertisers which audience is right for them and why, you can sell to those advertisers based on their targeted audience. You can even do multiple ads based on subsets of your target groups with dynamic content.

How Does RSS Fit In?

“Where am I going to find the staff to do five newsletters?” you ask? Well, you already have it.

By curating RSS feeds on each topic, you don’t have to write articles, pull in pictures, worry about formatting, or in some cases, even lift a finger once you’ve set things up. You set up a template email, populate it with the RSS feeds, ads, header, and footer, and it’s ready to go. The RSS feed populates the email on send with the most recent posts to the source.

Suddenly, five newsletters a week becomes a much easier task. You can also syndicate that RSS content around to many different places—send it to your community, your website, your other social media channels – basically anywhere that you can populate an RSS feed.

Can’t add a feed somewhere? Use an RSS to HTML service like Bloople to turn it into HTML.

How Can I Get Started?

The first thing you’ll want to do is figure out which topic areas you want to focus on. What is going to get you the most revenue? What is going to be the most interesting to your audience?

Once you have that, start looking for feeds to work with. You may want to use a feed aggregator to compile multiple feeds into one, or a service like paper.li that does a lot of the work for you and makes it easy—paper.li has a magic button you add to your browser to add any article you find to your newsletter for the day. Once you’re done, use the service’s RSS feeds to populate your newsletter.

For example, some popular world news RSS feeds include:

There are a lot of ways to work with RSS. You can use the feeds as they are, or even find ways to filter them to only show specific articles. Find the right content and you open a whole new world to providing targeted content that advertisers will want to support.

Oh, and by the way, if you have a community, adding the community’s RSS feed to the newsletter as well will help with engagement in the email, as well as driving people back to the community to engage. That’s a double whammy because if you use community advertising, you might have the opportunity for even more ad revenue!

More questions about RSS and how it works? Listen to our podcast episode on The Member Engagement Show where we dive into more details.

Beth Arritt

Association Strategist

Beth’s marketing experience encompasses more than twenty-five years of marketing strategy and member/customer engagement in various industries, including puzzles and games, training, education and aviation.

In addition to marketing, Beth has worked in event management and web development, wearing a variety of hats in different positions. She has also been an adjunct professor of marketing at Marymount University in Arlington, Virginia.

Beth received a Bachelor of Science degree in Merchandising from James Madison University, a Certificate in Event Management from The George Washington University, and a Masters of Business Administration/Marketing from the University of Phoenix. She has earned numerous awards for her marketing, including two Top Digital Marketer of the Year awards.

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