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How To Start Your Very Own Ezine Website

Near the beginning of last year, I started a new ezine website called "Pragmatic Solutions Now!".  I had very specific reasons for doing so, and reasons why I'm no longer actively maintaining that site, which we will not get into for this article.  Suffice it to say that there are many good reasons for wanting to start an ezine website.  Many of the most profitable websites are ezine websites, with the majority of their revenue coming from the sale of advertising.

An ezine may be run as a full-time business, or as a part-time venture.  I ran my ezine as a part-time venture, even though I published 5 or more articles every week.

In this article, I will outline the steps I took to get this ezine website set up and running.  By following these steps, you too can set up an ezine website on any topic you desire and have it running within a very short period of time.

One note:  this article started out as an email in response to a reader who asked for information on how to set up an ezine site.  Before posting it as an article, I added some additional information as well as sub headings to help organize the information.


Phase 1: Prepare Yourself

The first step is to choose a topic around which you will focus your new venture.  Ideally, this should be a topic that you have at least some interest in, and which there are plenty of people who spend lots of money to address, and tend to go out looking for information.

Examples would be like motorcycle racing, photography, fishing, or video games. Although fields like marketing, sales, and personal development are also good niches, there is much more competition in these areas, and may not be the best place to start, unless you already have a presence in these markets.

Once you pick a topic, the next step is to choose a business name, and all the other mundane stuff about setting up a business.  There is plenty of good information about all this, and I'm sure you can easily find what you need.


Phase 2: Creating the Website

The next step is to set up a website to host your ezine.  Again, lots of choices here, although I have to say that there are many wonderful benefits to using the Drupal CMS (Content Management System), not the least of which is that it's free.  A lot of high-level organizations use it, and for good reason.  It's stable, secure, and highly flexible to meet whatever needs you may have.

There are add-on modules to add in newsletter management, on-site advertising, on-site sales of physical products, downloadable products, and memberships, as well as just about anything else you can think of.

Learning any non-trivial software package takes time, and you can find all the help you may need to learn the Drupal system.  Their website (drupal.org) has an extensive array of documentation, and there are several books which have been published to help newbies learn the system and be up and running quickly.  One you may want to check out is called, "Drupal 6 Social Networking."

Installing the Drupal software can be an easy "point and click" affair, if you have a web hosting account which offers "Fantastico", a nifty service available on most CPanel web hosting accounts.  Adding additional modules is not available through Fantastico, and therefore you may be better off just installing everything through the "standard" method of uploading the PHP files with an FTP program and manually installing the software.  While this can be a bit technical, anyone willing to follow directions one step at a time can do it.  It's also something that can be hired out to a techie for very little money, often less than $50.

Again, the details of this are beyond the scope of this article, and I recommend you go to your favorite search engine for more information.

Here is a list of add-on modules you'll want to include in your Drupal installation to run a professional ezine: (sorted alphabetically)

  1. 404 Blocks (Makes sure your informational blocks show up on "page not found" error pages.)
  2. Ad Views (Give you great flexibility in showing ads on your site.)
  3. Advertisement (Core module for serving ads onto your site pages.)
  4. Apply for role (Allows people to apply for roles, such as contributing author, advertiser, etc.)
  5. Browscap (Improves statistics collected by removing search engines from your visitor counts.)
  6. CAPTCHA (Helps to prevent spambots from taking over your site.)
  7. Captcha Riddler (Adds a more advanced form of CAPTCHA.)
  8. BOTCHA (Enhances the spambot protection even further.)
  9. download_count (Allows you to track which downloadable files prove to be the most popular.)
  10. CKeditor (WYSIWYG HTML editor)
  11. Fivestar (Allows readers to rate individual articles and other content.)
  12. Go - url redirects (Helps to track the popularity of links going to other websites.)
  13. Insert View (Further improves the flexibility of showing ads on content pages.)
  14. LoginToboggan (Improves the basic login system in several ways.)
  15. Mime Mail (Allows you to send HTML emails from your ezine site.)
  16. Pathauto (Creates nice-looking URLs for content automatically.)
  17. Permalink (Provides a permanent link to individual articles that will not change.)
  18. Profile Category Weight (Helps to organize information you collect in user profiles.)
  19. Profile role (Allows you to collect different information for each type of user.)
  20. Read More Link (Adds a "read more" link to the end of content teasers.)
  21. Scheduler (Allows you to post articles to appear at a later date.)
  22. Simplenews (Core module for your ezine.)
  23. Simplenews on register (Allows people to sign up for your various ezines when they register a user account.)
  24. Simplenews Scheduler (Allows you to schedule an ezine issue to go out at a later date.)
  25. Statistics Advanced Settings (Improves your site statistics by removing selected users from the page view counts.)
  26. Taxonomy Treemenu (Provides a great way for readers to browse your content.)
  27. Tell A Friend Node (Helps people tell others about your great ezine site.)
  28. Token (Used in other modules.)
  29. Views (Used for other modules, and gives you incredible flexibility in displaying content.)
  30. Voting API (Used for the FiveStar voting module.)

Yes, this is a LONG list of add-on modules.  However, installing them is a relatively easy process, although configuring all the available options will take you some time.  As with most software, there is a tradeoff between something that is easy to use, and something that has a lot of flexibility and power.  Drupal is a very flexible and powerful CMS (Content Management System), and the price of this flexibility is a large number of configuration options.

If you get the book I mentioned earlier (Drupal 6: Social Networking), most of this will be explained in great detail.

In addition to the add-on modules, you'll probably also want to use a different set of templates to change the look of your website.  In Drupal, these sets of templates are called "themes", and there are hundreds of free themes available on the Drupal website (drupal.org).  Themes originally designed for other systems may be converted to work with Drupal.  Also, custom themes are as easy to create in Drupal as they are for any CMS, and a competent web designer can handle the task.


Phase 3: Entering Content

When you have the software installed and running, the final step is to get content for your site, and that's also easy to find.  Just do a search for your topic areas, and include the keywords "article directory".  This will pull up articles on directory sites, which are generally offered with reprint rights allowing you to post them to your new website.  Just check any legal statements posted to verify this first.  Many other websites offer articles with free reprint rights, while others require that you get written permission before using their articles.

Over time, you'll create a list of authors who write good articles your readers love.  When you have 20 - 50 authors writing for you, you'll have more content than you'll ever need.

With software, content, and a theme, the last step in setting up your new business is to find good affiliate programs and add advertising to your site to monetize the traffic you drive to it.  Again, lots of good information about this, however, the best information may be found in Rosalind Garnder's "Super Affiliate Handbook", which is also a great guide to setting up the mundane aspects of your business.

With affiliate programs, you can start making money with your new ezine site right from the beginning.  When I started my first ezine way back in 2003, it started generating an income within the first couple of weeks, even though I had less than 50 subscribers at the time.

Eventually, when you've attracted a large subscriber base (5000 or more) and have several thousand readers visiting your site every month, you'll be able to sell advertising space.  However, you may make more money through the affiliate programs you work with than you can get from the sale of ad space, so you may decide not to pursue direct ad sales.


Phase 4: Make Money

From there, the only thing left to do is to run your new business.  Drive traffic to the site using any means of marketing you want to use, and continue to update content and affiliate promotions as needed.

While there is a lot you can do with SEO (Search Engine Optimization), having good content is the best 'secret' to getting lots of traffic to your site.  When you have lots of great content, people will tell others about your site, other website owners will link to your site, and traffic will "just happen".  You can support this by writing good articles, and include a "resource box" at the end telling readers who you are, and inviting them to visit your ezine site.  With several good articles, submit them to other ezine sites and watch your subscriber base grow.

With the tools offered by Drupal and the add-on modules listed above, you can track which articles, topics, and ads are most popular with your audience, and use this information to choose future content to publish.  Doing this will ensure your ezine will become even more popular as time goes on.  And by tracking the profitibility of the affiliate programs you promote on your site, you can use this information in a similar way to decide which programs to promote most often, and whether a particular program needs to be dropped.

Wow!  That was a lot of information for an email.  I'll probably use this as a starting point for a new article, to be posted to the new website in the coming weeks.

And this goes to show how easily content may be created for an ezine / newsletter website.