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I published my first newsletter ad in my 34th edition — one year ago — on September 7th, 2021. (Check it out here.)
Since then — and for the next 360 days — I was slowly growing my ad revenue in my newsletter to eventually over $1K per month.
Which looked like…
All of that while trying to create + curate a valuable newsletter for my readers.
Long story short: it was a shit-tonne of work.
But time-consuming and unsustainable to continue to do on my own. Which is why when ConvertKit announced their Sponsor Network (CKSN) — I was *very* interested.
To get in the program, you just needed to be a ConvertKit customer (🗸), publish at least a weekly newsletter (🗸), and have 10,000 email subscribers — oh.
My newsletter does not have 10k subscribers.
I wouldn’t have even applied if it weren’t for Derrick Hicks, the Marketing Manager of ConvertKit.
So I applied anyway, expecting a polite rejection.
But sure enough, I got an interview with Armando Roggio — who’s managing a bulk of the CKSN duties — and was offered a spot. All of this despite my ~2k subscriber list.
But I didn’t say yes — at least not immediately.
My subscribers were below the desired 10k threshold, so CKSN asked for exclusive rights to my newsletter’s sponsorship to accept me into the network. That means I am 100% reliant on CKSN finding sponsors and placing ads in my newsletter.
This didn’t sit easy with me at first.
Not because I doubted their abilities — but a part of me liked the chase & thrill of landing my own ads, controlling (increasing) my rates, along with the number of ads in my newsletter. But that takes valuable time and mind space. Like, a lot.
So after some consideration… I jumped in.
And would recommend others do the same. Here’s why.
Not all newsletters have to give 100% exclusivity to CKSN, but for a newsletter of my size, it was a concession I was willing to make.
Here are some general benefits you’ll get with joining the ConvertKit Sponsor Network.
Joining CKSN eliminates your need to source brands and advertisers. They do it all. Consider them your own outbound sales team.
Caveat: this is only if you give CKSN exclusivity (10k+ newsletters). Otherwise, you’ll still have to do some of the work.
I ran 3 ad spots in my newsletter. Trying to fill all 3 every week was a lot of work. Then, dealing with 3 different advertisers and ad copy each week was *a little* time-consuming. CKSN not only finds advertisers, they get all the ad creative for you: headlines, copy, images, CTA, link(s). Thank you very much!
I was selling 3 ad spots in my newsletter. I didn’t always fill all 3. One fully filled weekly edition would bring in ~$250. I’ve now reduced my ad inventory to one per edition. And with CKSN brands, the insertion rate for one ad is often as much or more than my previous $250/edition revenue.
Of course, CKSN will take a cut of ad revenue. That’s their business model. More on that shortly.
I signed a contract with CKSN to make it official. But according to the contract, either party can opt out of the contract with 30 days notice. This eliminates the risk of being tied to a sinking ship — for both parties.
As mentioned, I gave up exclusivity to my newsletter ad spots to get in. There are other considerations you may want to keep in mind.
As per their sales page, they take 20% of the ad revenue plus a 3.5% processing fee. So a $500 ad placement would see ~$117 go to CKSN and you keep the difference. You need to determine what your time is worth.
As with most newly launched programs, this one is still figuring things out as it grows. Their team is relatively small in this beginning phase — and they’re busy. There are a lot of systems and processes that seem to be missing, like approving advertisers, sending and approving creative, ad calendars & inventory, among a few other things.
I love they’ve launched this program while still figuring things out — essentially building the airplane while flying it—instead of the other way around. But the tradeoff is a system that could use some refinement and proper process, which I’m confident will happen as it grows and expands.
You can still leverage other sponsor networks like I did for the last 12 months.
You might apply to the ConvertKit Sponsor Network and get in — or you might get rejected (for now).
What matters most is that you’ve made the commitment to monetize your newsletter. You’re putting in the work and growing something special.
So if you get rejected, don’t let that weigh you down. Instead, focus on getting that first ad.
Don’t overthink your rate (but don’t go lower than $25) and work with a product/service your readers will find somewhat relevant and helpful.
So apply for CKSN, and create a newsletter profile on Swapstack, and get on Paved, and do some cold pitching.
And once you get that first ad, watch the floodgates open.
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