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ConvertKit Launches Newsletter Sponsor Network

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The Email Service Provider (ESP) ConvertKit launched a newsletter sponsor network in June that facilitates sponsorships between newsletter owners and brands. This program makes it incredibly easy for creators to monetize their newsletters through paid placement. This is one of several steps from the platform which can help creators make money.

So how does the program work, and what does it mean for podcasters? Let’s take a look.

The ConvertKit Sponsor Network Page
The ConvertKit Sponsor Network Page

How ConvertKit’s Sponsor Network Works

First, consider what you need to do to be eligible for ConvertKit’s Sponsor Network.
There are two criteria you need to meet (3 if you count being a ConvertKit customer). You need to:

  • Have at least 10,000 email subscribers
  • Publish consistently (at least once a week)

If you meet those criteria, you can apply for access. The program itself works like this:

  1. You apply for early access by filling out a questionnaire.
  2. If accepted, ConvertKit will get to work finding sponsors for your newsletter.
  3. They strongly recommend exclusivity with the platform, meaning you won’t sell ads for your newsletter independent of the ConvertKit Sponsor Program.
  4. ConvertKit takes 20% + 3.5% for payment processing. Add an extra 10% if you decide to be non-exclusive.
  5. Sponsors pay on a NET-30 basis, so you should have the funds around a month after the sponsorship runs.

And don’t worry: creators have the opportunity to approve all sponsors. This doesn’t appear to be dynamically inserted in any way.

How Podcasters Can Currently Use the Network

If you’re wondering, “how can I take advantage of this network,” the short answer is you need to meet the three criteria above, first and foremost. But if we play the slightly long game, my recommendation is to build your mailing list on ConvertKit.

According to our Podcaster Cares Survey, only 40% of podcasters feel a mailing list is a must-have. Programs like this may change that calculus, especially because of what’s coming.

Contrasting the Substack Model

While some could see this as playing catch up to Substack or trying to compete with them, that’s not necessarily the case for one important reason: ConvertKit’s business model is different. Where Substack makes its money from each paid subscriber a user gets (sometimes taking 10% off the top), ConvertKit makes its money by directly charging users a flat fee based on the number of subscribers and features. So if you have, say 400 subscribers, you pay $15/mo, no matter how much money you make from their Commerce features.

Even More Help for Podcasters Coming?

ConvertKit understands podcasters are a big part of their base. They even have a page dedicated to them. On that page, they highlight the ability to use their platform to earn a living.

Today, that’s mostly through selling products or subscriptions and their Tip Jar feature. But that could change.

In the FAQs section of the Sponsor Network page, there’s a question about selling other sponsorships. Here’s the answer:

In its initial phase, the ConvertKit Sponsor Network will focus on your newsletter. But we will soon help you sell any form of sponsorship.

This confirmed what I learned at ConvertKit’s Craft+Commerce conference, where they announced the Sponsor Network. The long-term plan is to include podcasters as part of this network.

ConvertKit is likely testing the waters with only newsletters now, as they have the infrastructure to implement it easily. They can confirm subscriber counts, transfer money to a user’s ConvertKit Commerce account easily, and confirm placement.

How Supporting Podcasters Could Work

Their pricing appears to be based on CPM — though creators work with ConvertKit’s team to set the actual price. Since they know (or can easily confirm) how many subscribers you have, they can set prices pretty easily.

With podcasting, ConvertKit could do the tracking themselves, building a system and giving you a prefix…though they’d probably also seek IAB compliance. They could also license a 3rd party service like Chartable to do the heavy lifting.

This assumes:

  1. They don’t just take the podcaster’s word for it
  2. They’re keen on having the same level of verification they do for newsletter subscribers.

It’s plausible that since they want to help with “all” sponsorships, they’ll facilitate the relationship and some of the negotiation and payments. Still, it won’t build a boutique tracking solution for every potential kind of sponsorship.

Either way, it’s very exciting that, by their admission, they want to help podcasters earn money through sponsorship.

A Company With a Mission to Help Creators

This is one of the first SaaS companies I know of that has dedicated resources to facilitating sponsorships for creators, and it’s a huge step for everyone in the creator economy, podcasters included.

Finding sponsors is one of the hardest tasks for many podcasters. A service like ConvertKit’s, where facilitating the relationship isn’t the main business, may be exactly what we need.

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