7 Types of Freemiums Publishers Give Away to Build an Email List

Build an email list by creating free downloads that fit the content theme you are already selling

Freemiums have become the ultimate way to build an email list. The difference in email capture rate between a site that asks readers to sign up for their free newsletter, and one that asks them to sign up and get a free download in return is on average 0.01 vs. 2%. And we know many publishers that have email capture rates well above that 2%.

But one size doesn’t fit all when it comes to freemiums. How-to ebooks are common in publishing, but if you’re a food publisher, you may get more conversions on a book of 25 amazing apple pie recipes instead of a how-to ebook on how to make just one.

And conversion is the name of the game here. Not only should you create a compelling freemium that people want to download, but you can’t stiff them on the content. The whole goal is to attract them with high quality content, and convert them into paid subscribers. You can’t do that if you whip up some haphazard ebook and call it a day.

If you’re looking for inspiration on how to create high-quality freemiums that not only increase your email capture rate, but also improve your chances of converting those email subscribers into magazine subscribers, keep reading.

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1. Create a how-to handbook that would otherwise be difficult to assemble online

A single-topic freemium doesn’t deliver as much value as a comprehensive download. For example, you can probably find a thousand articles online about how to properly prune roses. Asking someone to give up their email address to get that information isn’t a tempting offer. However, if you put together a complete 101 guide on buying, planting, growing, pruning, and winterizing roses, you’ll increase your email capture rates. Why? Because you’re creating a resource that someone would otherwise need to find in several different places. You’re offering convenience of information, which is what anyone searching on the internet is looking for.

2. Create a white paper that can be read from beginning to end

While you do want to be comprehensive and offer a complete solution to the task at hand, you don’t want your download to be so huge and daunting that they never start reading because they feel like they need to take a vacation day to get through it. Again, your first goal is to convert them to an email subscriber and build an email relationship with them, but your second and most important, is to get them to consume the content so they grow attached to the quality of information your organization delivers. Going overboard can actually create a barrier. White papers, whether paid or free, are 60–80 pages, on average. Long enough to be in-depth and credible while remaining much shorter than a book. Ideally, white papers are 24,000 to 32,000 words vs. 70,000 to 90,000 words for a bookstore book.

3. Create free video freemiums that are samples of a video membership website

If you have a video library or membership product that uses video, then by all means, create a freemium that uses video. Not only will you be introducing readers to what they might find if they eventually decide to subscribe to your membership product, but those who submit their email address to watch the video will be highly aligned and targeted newsletter subscribers. And when you have that, then you have higher click-through and conversion rates on your emails and email spotlights.

4. Create free video freemiums from keynotes at your live events

If one of your publishing business models is live events, find a way to leverage videos from those events. Even if you only record the keynote sessions, you can add them to your site and use a video host like Wistia that collects the user’s email address before they can watch the video. Not only is this a great way to collect email addresses, but the people who sign up for this freemium are likely in the niche target reader audience that you’re looking for.

5. Create presentation download freemiums

If you create presentations for industry events, you could transcribe them into chapters of handbooks, or you could also simply give the presentations away as PDF downloads. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been to a conference where the speaker told the audience the URL of a landing page where they could download the presentation. And when you arrive, there’s an email collection right there. If you’re not the one on the soapbox, you can still organize interviews with those who are and make a freemium out of that. For example, maybe you’re a magazine about design and you’re at the HOW Design conference. You could interview ten designers for a freemium about “how ten artists find their inspiration.” Or maybe you’re a videography magazine at the NAB conference, and you could interview the top ten manufacturers of video equipment on the expo floor.

6. Create sponsored freemiums

You know what they say, if you’re not paying for a product, you are the product. When people subscribe to your newsletter in order to get a free download, they know that at some point you’ll probably send them a promotion. But if you’re ad-driven, you can take this a step further without even displeasing your readers. One of the most genius freemium strategies I’ve come across comes from Mequoda Master Stuart Hochwert at Prime. Keep in mind, Stuart has an impressive email list that advertisers flock over. But his freemium strategy is brilliant. On example is a cookbook where each page is a recipe submitted by a food sponsor. If you have 10 sponsors, or could come up with 10, then you may be able to create a 10-chapter book without using any of your own resources. Not only is it easy to create because you’re not developing the content, but you can can create really robust freemiums that people want to download, and sponsors pay for you to include them. Read more about that strategy here.

7. Create a tool that people want to use

Depending on your niche, you may be oversaturated with freemiums, or maybe your industry simply doesn’t lend well to ebooks and videos. In this case, you might find it useful to develop a free tool or gadget. For example, Moz is an SEO SaaS company, but in order to get new subscribers, they offer a keyword research tool that you can use three times per day before you have to pay. For a publisher, you could create simple but useful tools, or even fun gadgets or quizzes. For example, a celebrity magazine like People could create a “Which celebrity are you most like?” quiz where you have to enter your email to get your result at the end. A home improvement magazine like HGTV Magazine could create a calculator that estimates square footage, or allows you to take a photo and show different paint colors on your wall. You could create any useful tool that an intended subscriber could find helpful and simply ask them for their email at some point in the process of using it.

What kind of freemiums have worked for you to build an email list? Leave a comment below.



    Survey Funnels where you gather the answers and produce a next-step action report. See Ryan Levesque’s blog and book on the subject.


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