#143 — How to find your newsletter audience

This week we cover a range of actionable topics centered around sharing and marketing your written creations. Below are links to articles about pricing, rewarding your subscribers, overcoming growth slumps, and much more.


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This week we cover a range of actionable topics centered around sharing and marketing your written creations. Below are links to articles about pricing, rewarding your subscribers, overcoming growth slumps, and much more. Plus, you'll find an overview of the biggest changes happening in and around traditional media. Enjoy!

💯 Top picks

How Morning Brew went from college newsletter to $75 million in 5 years

"[Our audience] really was college students at first, and we quickly learned that this can be attractive for young business professionals as well. And that was kind of our “aha” moment of like, 'Oh, this is bigger than just college students. This is for everyone.'"

Most products, like newsletters, begin with too broad of an audience in mind. The Morning Brew experienced early traction because they pursued the opposite. They niched-down into the University of Michigan business student population. Then, once they had a hungry audience who were already sharing their content, they began to niche-up, and systematically expand their reach.

Useful tip: If you're starting a publication, it's more beneficial to err on the side of starting too small than too broad.

💸 Business models

9 creative newsletter promotion ideas to beat your subscriber goals in 2021

One of the most helpful suggestions is the advice to repurpose content, which can save writers from the "vicious cycle" of always needing to create something new. Regardless of your promotion preferences, every successful creator must find a balance between creation and marketing.

Related: "The most successful creators are good at what they do, but GREAT at marketing it."

This article by ConvertKit offers a good overview of industry figures to help publishers navigate their initial pricing discussions. For example, the current average monthly cost for a digital newsletter subscription is $11, while the average annual cost is $100. Granted, there are outliers, and how you price your product can have a drastic impact on the audience you attract.

📝 Modern publishing

Rewarding good subscriber content is not the same as rewarding clickbait

There's been a huge discussion around The Telegraph's move to "link journalists’ pay to some element of performance". Many figures in the field are afraid that it will lead to a surge of clickbait-type articles. But, as others point out, performance is more complex than views and clicks and it's within that complexity where a new opportunity for journalism may arise.

Related: “Pay for popularity”: Publishers need to experiment more, not less, with performance tools

EL PAÍS now counts on more than 100,000 digital subscribers

"We are going to emerge from this global crisis with a better editorial proposal and a promising business model." Traditional newspapers and media organizations are moving towards subscription models and seeing incredible benefits because of it. As more large organizations prove the viability and attractiveness of this model, small to medium publishers will surely benefit too.  

Subscribe to help The National Wales hire a politics reporter

The National is holding a drive to reach 1,000 subscribers in order to help them acquire a full-time political voice for their publication. I believe this level of transparency will help regional papers to grow in popularity as it could encourage the subscriber-base to feel as though they have a more direct relationship with the writers (a model indie publishers have proven to be effective).

The Medium pivot is the message

Medium recently shut down their private editorial department and sent shock waves through the digital publishing industry (again). "The same amenities that once advantaged publications — newsrooms full of journalists, teams of support staff, august office buildings — are now in many ways liabilities." The question is will its competitors see this as an opportunity to fill their gap or a warning to avoid the space?

Related: Medium tells journalists to feel free to quit after busting union drive

📬 Email newsletters

When your paid newsletter stops growing

In this discussion post, a creator faces the difficulty of growth stagnation. What's interesting is that newsletter writers, in particular, seem to fall prey to the Field of Dreams fallacy, "Build it and they will come." Marketing must go hand in hand with creation for your project to succeed.

Sovereign writers and Substack

Ben Thompson addresses the controversy about Substack Pro as well as where the line between responsible employer and neutral platform lies. He also offers three "realities" Substack must overcome to remain competitive as a platform for serious publishers.  

What I’ve learned in the second year of running a subscription newsletter business

Dan Frommer of The New Consumer offers insights from his personal journey from traditional media into the world of independent publishing. His lessons learned include his experience using monthly, quarterly and annual membership models, why traditional media is still so attractive to most writers, and how the technology you use can make or break your audience relationship.

💻 Technology

How to get your first $100 MRR with Noah Bragg of Potion

Potion is a tool to create custom websites using Notion. It's an interesting SaaS product, but the usefulness of this piece is in how they built credibility for their product through a curated newsletter. This is a tactic more creators could benefit from: the content you get discovered through doesn't need to be the same as the content you make money on.

The tools behind a 7-figure newsletter

Trends by The Hustle offers a behind-the-scenes look at the tech stack they use to run their newsletter. Note that this is a subscriber-only article. For a similar article on this topic, you can check out this article on premium newsletter case studies.

John O'Nolan of Ghost ($3.3M/year) talks creators, decentralization, no-code

The CEO of Ghost, the tool Publisher Weekly uses to create and send these newsletters, discusses how this unique platform fits into the broader creator economy trend. Below is a snippet of the conversation on why so many serious publishers are switching to this platform.

"I think platforms like Substack are trying to be the Amazon of this space, with a big marketplace and lots of people that exist under one brand. They want to be huge, and take on big media companies in a pretty aggressive way. Where we fit in is trying to be the Shopify of the space, with a long tail of thousands of publishers powered by a common set of technology. Nobody needs to know what Ghost is. I want people to know the creators that we power, instead." — John O'Nolan

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