What does your “front door” look like?

How Agora, Inc. used the free content model to turn a $25 million dollar newsletter publisher into a more than $200 million dollar company that generates more than half of its total revenue online.

Agora, Inc.’s conversion to online marketing began with The Daily Reckoning, its first Internet hub for Agora Financial. It continues to be the flagship free email newsletter for Agora Financial, with more than half a million subscribers in the United States alone. It offers what it characterizes as a “uniquely refreshing perspective on the global economy, investing and the ability to live well in uncertain times.”

The Daily Reckoning is the gateway into a business relationship with Agora Financial’s customers. Agora learned early on that providing a wealth of free information to a group of thoughtful, affluent investors would create an opportunity to eventually sell profitable information products to a reasonable number of them.

The Daily Reckoning is their free and non-threatening “front door”.

“Agora Financial is our uber brand, but we don’t market Agora Financial, we market The Daily Reckoning, because we want our customers to come in, free, from the Daily Reckoning,” said Andrew Palmer, former Director of E-Commerce/Web Marketing for Agora Financial, LLC.

“We’ve been doing a serious press release campaign, using press releases to drive traffic to The Daily Reckoning website. And we send the press releases from The Daily Reckoning, not Agora Financial. The Daily Reckoning is the brand, not Agora Financial,” Mr. Palmer told us.

How Agora builds the Daily Reckoning email file

Agora uses four methods to bring in new subscribers to its free email newsletters:

  1. pay-per-click
  2. co-registration
  3. buying endorsements on other lists and websites on a CPM basis
  4. search engine optimization

The publishing company knows how to repurpose its content. The Daily Reckoning frequently creates white papers (authoritative reports on major issues) from its previously published newsletter articles. Those products, when published on DailyReckoning.com, become highly visible to the search engine spiders, resulting in high returns from organic search.

“Let’s say an investor is surfing the Internet and comes across a Daily Reckoning white paper (e.g. Investing In Water). If he says ‘this is tremendous, I want more of this,’ he’ll sign up for The Daily Reckoning,” Mr. Palmer explained.

That’s his front door. Mr. Palmer reminds us, “he has a value of zero right now, but he starts to read The Daily Reckoning. With any luck, he will convert to one of our paid publications.”

There is “extreme” crossover, he told us, with many people subscribing to more than one of the Agora free email newsletters similar to The Daily Reckoning. Each email newsletter is focused on a different audience and each is its own profit center.

“I always come back to the quality of the content,” he said. “If you’re sending out something good, people are going to read it. If you’re sending out something else that’s good in addition to that, they’re not going to leave the first publication. I want to have the best content.”

How long does Agora wait before trying to make a paid sale?

“On his confirmation screen and in the welcome letter, the new subscriber is getting an upsell, usually for a $39 print newsletter,” Mr. Palmer said. “And now when he logs in every day, he is exposed to our entire offering of paid products.”

The publishing company clearly understands 12-month return on investment and the lifetime value of a customer. Therefore, it doesn’t need to get a dollar back, on Day One, for a dollar spent.

Driving traffic to their free “front door”—The Daily Reckoning—that’s the objective of Agora Financial’s media sources and marketing channels. “The web is just incredibly successful,” he said.

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