Hecto Review: Hecto.io review: Buy and sell newsletter ads the easy way

21st March 2021

TL;DR

Want to monetise your newsletter? Hecto can help. The platform acts as an agent for indie creators and writers, finding sponsors on their behalf – so no more sales outreach needed! It also doubles-up as a great place to find newsletters to advertise in, so is a win-win for all involved. I've had this problem, so it’s great to see a solution now exists.



Loved

  • 5% commission
  • Upfront prices
  • Easy management
  • Supports creators

Loathed

  • Nothing

The Story

What is Hecto?

Hecto is a platform to buy and sell newsletter ads and sponsorships. The directory helps independent makers to monetise their craft and finds untapped leads in advertiser niches. Newsletters are required to update key stats such as subscribers, open rates, click throughs and frequency to ensure brands know exactly who they’re partnering with. All this is for a 5% commission on advertising bookings!


Meet the Maker:
Simon Bruce

Simon Bruce is a no-code advocate and serial entrepreneur. The built Hecto to cut the hassle of buying and managing newsletter ads, however what really makes him tick is “helping creators to make a living doing what they love.” Hecto is a no-code platform, with Simon a big believer in “learning by doing” and validating a new business as early and resourcefully as possible.

Read the interview

The Product

How we tested Hecto

The Hecto platform is 100% free at the time of writing. I joined as both a buyer and seller, keen to understand the market value of Surges’ newsletter and also how much it might cost me to grow my own subscriber numbers using this channel.

Now, I’ve a confession to make. It’s still early days for Surges so I’ve only 500 subscribers so far. However, this is not my first rodeo, and my bigger marketing clients are sitting on a potentially lucrative revenue stream if they were to list their newsletters on a service such as Hecto. It’s such a great idea for a platform, I’m amazed nobody has had it before!


Getting started with Hecto

Buyers signup with email or their Google account. A couple of clicks and you can start searching for newsletters to sponsor.

Would-be sellers must first create a profile. This takes 5 minutes tops. Key newsletter stats are required (subs, open rate, frequency, price), as well as a description and whether you’re open to cross-promotion with other newsletters.

You then create packages for people to buy – essentially, what brands can expect from doing business with you. There’s plenty of freedom here, so you can choose to sell traditional ad space, accompanying text, an endorsement or shout out in your own words, you name it.

Lastly, you’re required to share your future ad slot availability and add payment details, which requires a Stripe account. Now, you’re good to go.

Hecto.io signup   Surges.co review

Features you’ll love

Hecto is already a go-to resource for people wanting to advertise in independent newsletters. Its beauty lies in its simplicity…

  • 📝 Listing – a mini sales pitch

    Searches can be filtered by the following:

    • Category e.g. Marketing, Fashion, Crypto, Tech, Design, Job Boards
    • Number of subscribers
    • Sponsorship price
    Hecto.io newsletter directory   Surges.co review

    Each category reveals a number of niche interest newsletters, allowing you to tap into highly targeted, fanatical followings. Examples include Vim tricks, Tailwind CSS, Over 50s Health & Wellbeing, Guitar lessons, College athletics, and everything in-between. These tend to have smaller but more active subscriber counts, where the endorsement of your product or service carries a lot more weight.

    The highest subscriber count at the time of writing was 27,000, for a jobs board. Listings on Hecto are vetted but not verified so I presume you’ll have to provide evidence of your key stats if requested by potential advertisers.

  • 💸 Advertising cost - upfront prices

    I love how transparent everything is. The cost of doing business is given upfront and, as things currently stand, Hecto don’t take a cut. This makes buying and selling ad packages effortless. Pick a newsletter, pick a package, campaign dates, and pay all within the same platform. You can even build your campaign across multiple newsletters with relative ease.

    Newsletters with 500-5,000 subscribers can typically command $100 per advert. However, if you operate in a niche with high value purchases you’re sitting on a far more valuable resource.

  • 📦 Ad packages – customise and upsell

    You have full control over what an advert looks like in your newsletter. Be creative.

    Premium packages can include higher word counts, prominent positions, images, endorsements, exclusivity and so on.

    Many advertisers charge 50% more for these privileges so it’s worth doing. Once paid for, all of these assets can be submitted via Hecto too so you never need to leave the platform.

Things to consider

  • The sky’s the limit - Incentive to grow

    Most newsletter ads are priced in the $50-$150 range, however there’s a few breakout ones.

    By far the priciest was Matt Navarra’s ‘Geekout Newsletter’ - a weekly newsletter for Social Media Managers. Starting from £1,800 for 7,000 subs with an open rate of 69% this ex-staffer at The Next Web has a loyal following on social media and in people’s inboxes. £1,800 gets you a single 1000x500px image and up to 40 words in a mid-newsletter placement. Or $600 extra gets you a ‘super premium’ placement.

    Hecto.io advert   Surges.co review

    Now if that’s not motivation to grow your audience, I don’t know what is!

  • Full control - Your newsletter, your terms

    Hecto gives its platform to indie newsletters that often get overlooked for advertising dollars.

    Creators always get the option to accept or reject advertising requests, so don’t worry if a brand doesn’t align with your values. Ads are also paid for directly within Hecto, so there’s no risk of ghosting or defaulting on a deal. Hecto opens up a genuine revenue stream for independent creators, no strings attached.

  • Open to cross promotion?

    This feature is tucked away but super cool. Boost your visibility by doing a contra deal with other newsletters, so you cross promote each other without any money changing hands.

Hecto Pricing

5% of each transaction

No monthly fee

Hecto’s newsletter advertising marketplace only takes 5% commission on each deal.

This means that they only make money when you make money. A small Stripe charge also applies.


Hecto Alternatives

If you’re looking to buy or sell newsletter ads, there are a small number of all-in-one platforms. LiveIntent’s programmatic advertising platform is sitting on larger in-email ad inventory with a variety of placement and targeting options, however it’s dealing in larger numbers, especially cost per thousand subscribers. It’s also not self-service.

Letterwell is perhaps the closest Hecto alternative. The service charges 10% on each transaction and an upfront $49 verification fee.

Hecto Support   👍  or   👎

Hecto itself is a side-project so while Simon is generally accessible and happy to help, he’s wearing all the hats. Thankfully, as deals are managed end-to-end within the platform, they take care of themselves. It’s seriously impressive given everything is no-code!

The Verdict

Surges score

90%

Hecto is a no brainer for anybody looking to monetise their newsletter.

Many makers are uncomfortable doing sales calls, so shy away from them altogether. They also hate the awkwardness of negotiations, undervaluing themselves. Hecto soothes both pains, taking care of everything involved in buying and selling ads under one roof.

Sellers set their valuations, packages and terms. There really is no catch, only a 5% commission payable on any successful deals.

Hecto’s main shortfall is tied to its age. It’s missing the critical mass associated with mainstream double-sided networks, however I trust that’ll change as word gets out. I, for one, hope that it stays true to its independent creator roots. It’s doing a great job of growing the newsletter sponsorship pie for us all.

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