#144 — How to get your first 1,000 subscribers

In this issue, we highlight a few core principles, such as leveraging relationships to grow, committing to transparency to build trust, and the importance of always leaving room for experimentation in your strategy.


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The creator economy moves fast. It seems like every time we turn around there's a new app in the charts or a new creator making a living from some overlooked market. FOMO is real. However, it's important to remember that the core principles of business remain the same and those who apply them will find success in due time. In this issue, we highlight a few of those principles, such as leveraging relationships to grow, committing to transparency to build trust, and the importance of always leaving room for experimentation in your strategy.

💯 Top picks

Compound’s Real-World Guide to Getting Your First 1,000 Email Subscribers

This is one of the most helpful breakdowns I've seen for new writers in some time. The team at Compound put together a guide to help readers grow in stages: 0-10 subscribers, 10-50, 50-100, 100-250, 250-500, and 500-1000.

I particularly enjoyed the way they weaved in examples from real authors commenting on their own processes. Even though every writer takes a slightly different path to reach their goals, the principles supporting their efforts are the same, and these are what can help you break through any growth blocks you may be facing.

Useful tip: The strategies you use to grow from 0 to 100 will be fundamentally different than those used to grow from 100 to 1000.

Newsletter platform Ghost generates $3.3 million, doubling its revenue

“We want media companies and individual creators to own their technology, so that no one controls their future,” said O’Nolan, who is CEO. “With Ghost, they own every part of their tech stack.”

Related: Ghost 4.0 features

💸 Business models

In the future, all social networks will have built-in monetization for creators

"The success of platforms that prioritize creators like TikTok, OnlyFans and Substack has led to a mad dash of investments from tech companies into products that help creators monetize their audience." Remember, it's not about being everywhere online. It's about using the platforms that make sense for you in a way that your audience loves.

Related: Q&A with Ann Friedman: What is good about being truly independent?

Radical transparency: how to stand out when everyone's lying

"Everyone wants to be seen as perfect, so we brag and lie." Louis Grenier, author of the Everyone Hates Marketers newsletter, wrote an excellent piece on how honesty is an unfair advantage in today's over-hyped world. How is transparency is a business model? Near the end of this piece, there are six real-world examples of businesses using honesty to position their products in the market. If you've been looking for a unique way to stand apart from your competitors, I recommend you give this one a read.

Is online advertising about to crash, just like the property market did in 2008?

"In March 2019, [Sinead Boucher, the CEO of New Zealand’s leading online news and media site] decided to stop advertising on Facebook, a move that her peers regarded as crazy. 'That action had zero effect on our traffic.'" People are tired of being bombarded with an endless stream of ads. I expect this is partly why subscriptions have boomed. They've allowed consumers to buy back a portion of their attention and privacy. Expect to see similar moves by organizations large and small, especially as the economics of memberships become more popular.

📝 Modern publishing

Substack is a scam in the same way that all media is

"There may be something distasteful about the fact that Substack benefits from journalists’ financial desperation. [...] The problem is that legions of talented journalists are going underemployed, even as statehouses across the country are going under-covered."

Every industry has faced significant interruption in the last year because of the pandemic. However, most of the trends we've seen were simply the acceleration of forces already at work. The question isn't whether or not journalists will be around in a decade but rather, what will their roles look like in the new economy?

Related: Substack raises more money, but is that a good thing?

Online communities for young journalists: the good, the bad and the ugly

This article reviews the highs and lows new professional writers often face when trying to navigate their careers in a landscape where social media is a requirement. Bottom line: you will get out of it what you put into it. Don't take anything too personally online. Journalists are, by profession, truth-tellers. That positioning is bound to attract some negative attention in today's world. But the right communities can help you rise above it.

Medium is yet another example of why tech companies won’t save journalism

The latest Medium pivot away from an in-house editorial team reminded industry leaders of the (often) uncomfortable relationship publishers have with the platforms they choose to write on. "Journalism is a difficult business, and most naive tech companies that tried it out left bloodied." That is why the most sustainable alternatives will focus on equipping and prioritizing creators, not replacing them.

📬 Email newsletters

In the newsletter game, niches make riches.

In this tweet thread by Brad Wolverton, Director of Content at The Hustle, highlights three niche publications that are achieving incredible results. Such as the Ferrari Market Letter, a publication dedicated to superfans of the automaker that is pulling in around $2m annually from a subscriber-base of only 5,000.

Related: How I got 1600 followers in 28 days on Twitter

Lessons from 1,000 newsletter writers with Yaro Bagriy

In this podcast interview, Yaro, author of the Newsletter Crew blog, reviews some of his most interesting finds from studying nearly a thousand successful newsletter case studies. The content is primarily beginner-focused, so if you've been waiting to get your publication off the ground, give this episode a listen.

9 subscriber retention strategies

The American Press Institute recently released the results of a survey with data from 500+ publications. Amongst the most useful findings were the successful retention practices implemented by those surveyed. The top three activities were: creating a complete onboarding process, continually testing subscription prices, and preemptively addressing expired credit cards.

💻 Technology

Bringing YouTube Shorts to the U.S.

Shorts are YouTube's answer to TikTok's meteoric rise. Here are two ideas to note from this announcement: 1) regardless of the type of media you create, prioritize the mobile experience and 2) consider how you can make micro-versions of your content in order to attract new users.

Related: How I went from 4,000 to 140,000 YouTube subscribers in one year

Google Is Taking Away the Cookies and Plans to FLoC Us All Instead

The way targeted ads work online is changing. Here's a good summary of how this change will work.

"The problem (and power) of cookies is that they help advertisers target so precisely that when you go online there's a unique identifier just for you. It’s one-to-one marketing. Google's FLoC replaces these individual identifiers with a system that puts users into groups, or cohorts, based on common interests."

On the positive side, this should help people maintain a higher level of privacy online. On the negative side, websites, especially smaller ones, may have trouble attracting the same readership levels as before which could lead to a number of sites shuttering.


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