Parker Jotter Premium by koalamonkey on Flickr

Parker Jotter Premium by koalamonkey on Flickr

Content marketing is hard work. How can you make sure you’re getting the most return on that effort? It takes time and a whole lot of creative energy to come up with a constant stream of good ideas for remarkable articles. In some ways, it doesn’t matter whether that content goes on your blog, in a newsletter or in an ebook. It’s all content, after all. The steps are pretty much the same: Come up with an idea, write the content, publish the content.

But in some ways it makes all the difference in the world. Each of those media has its own superpowers (as I like to call them) that can be used to accomplish your business goals. Blogs are great for building an audience, driving traffic, enhancing SEO and seeding conversions. eBooks are great for building an email list and emails are great lead nurturing tools. Content is the fuel that makes each of them work.

Free vs. Premium

The first consideration is content freely available to everyone versus premium content. Your definition of premium may vary and you might even have more than one version. Maybe some portion of your content is subscriber-only, which is free to access if you’re subscribed to a newsletter. Another portion of your content might be member-only, which requires a paid membership. In either case, the premium content involves some sort of exchange of value; an email or money. The trick is to strike a balance and use the right tactics in order to grow your audience and also fill your pipeline.

And so I’ve put together a list of three different approaches for publishing free and premium content. I’ve used all three of them and the most successful – by far – is the third; members-only content. My newsletter subscriptions increased by a factor of five when I switched from #2 to #3.

#1 – Newsletter Digests

The first – and simplest – approach is to publish blog posts according to some regular schedule (e.g. daily, weekly, monthly) and then use the email newsletter as a digest of recent posts. The main advantage of this approach is that there is little additional effort involved in publishing the newsletter. It simply includes a list of links and summaries of blog entries, and can also (optionally) include curated content from other sources that would be interesting to the audience. A disadvantage to this approach is that there is little compelling reason for subscribing to the newsletter.

#2 – Premium Content

The second approach is to offer premium content that will only appear in the newsletter. Essentially, it means holding back one blog post per period that will not be published on the blog and instead be included in the newsletter only. The advantage to this approach is that it provides a more compelling value proposition for visitors to subscribe to the newsletter. It relies on the concepts of scarcity and exclusivity to create higher perceived value. The disadvantage is that is requires more content generation (i.e. more work).

#3 – Members-Only Content

The third approach is very similar to the second. However, instead of holding back the content from appearing on the blog, the introductory paragraph is published on the blog and the remainder of the content is gated behind a members-only wall. Visitors can gain instant access to the content by subscribing. The advantage to this approach is that it results in conversion rates 5 to 10 times higher than simple email signup calls to action. When people click through to a blog article, they have already demonstrated interest and will be much more likely to subscribe if they can instantly access the content. The disadvantage to this approach is that it requires slightly more complexity on the website (i.e. membership plugin) and slightly more effort because the content is posted twice; in the email and on the blog.


Building your email list is one of the highest value activities you can pursue with inbound marketing. It’s crucial. Maximizing the return on your investment in content marketing is pretty important, too. Think about the relationship between your blog and newsletter and start with the approach that seems best for you. Then measure! That’s the only way to know for sure which approach works best for your content and your audience.


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