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The numbers behind our publications tell stories. At times, these stories may come as a surprise. They may bring to light issues we've ignored or overlooked. At other times, they present hidden opportunities for explosive growth. Learning to interpret the stories they tell is a skill the biggest publishers are continually working to master. This week's edition of Publisher Weekly will help you do the same.
💯 Top picks
The most recent article from Ghost's resource blog explains the essential metrics creators need to know to run sustainable membership businesses. The items are organized into three buckets: acquisition (conversion rate), revenue (MRR, ARR, ARPU, LTV), and retention (churn rate). If any of those could use some clarification in your mind, you'll want to give this post a read.
💸 Business models
Focus on getting results with one approach before you add on others.
When you're first starting, growth can quickly become an all-consuming goal. This article explains how to prioritize growth alongside everything else that must be done, and why doing things that don't scale is often the best option. The author advises publishers to share public content (written or video) regularly, to connect 1-on-1 with fans, and go all-in on one social platform instead of trying to appear everywhere.
Michael Aft from the New Paper discusses the different revenue models for newsletters and why they decided to use the paid subscription model for theirs. Aft outlines the strengths and weaknesses of both ads and subscription models, concluding that, for most niche publications, memberships will provide more sustainable, and less labor-intensive, revenue.
There are actual exits now of creator brands and businesses.
Most people associate venture capital with only the largest Silicon Valley brands. Now, these investors are turning their eyes to individual social media accounts. YouTube channels, Instagram profiles, and TikTok accounts are garnering multi-million dollar investments from VCs that now see their financial potential. For publishers, it's important to remember that your audience is your most valuable asset; and the more control you have over the relationship with them, the better.
📝 Modern publishing
“We are just focused on being where readers are”: Pan-African weekly The Continent publishes directly on WhatsApp and Signal
We’re not publishing on a website because we don’t need to.
A group of African journalists started a digital newsletter that compiled writer contributions into a single PDF delivered weekly to approximately 11,000 subscribers via WhatsApp. They have no website or email list and are entirely focused on meeting readers where they are on apps they already use. It's an interesting trend, albeit its long-term viability is still undetermined.
Digital Content Next recently shared four publishing trends that are continuing to pick up steam. These include robust advertiser spending, big moves towards data privacy, and the continued growth of streaming. They also discuss why even though “subscription fatigue” has gotten a lot of press, it doesn't seem to have slowed growth in any way.
The New York Times is celebrating 8 million subscriptions thanks to a big boost from non-news products
Of the new subscriptions added, 45% were to Cooking, Games, or the audio app Audm.
In a clever move, The New York Times is discovering how to grow their subscriber base apart from news products. For example, for $40 per year, subscribers of their Cooking collection gain access to thousands of recipes, videos, and cooking lessons. For the same price, enthusiasts can access Games' crossword puzzles along with newer games named Tiles, Vertex, and Letter Boxed. On Audm, subscribers can listen to professional narrators read long-form news articles the way they would an audiobook. Expect to see this tangential products strategy used a lot more by publishers in the coming years.
📬 Email newsletters
Writing a newsletter for a living is hard. It requires enthusiasm for the work and the business, a commitment to consistency, a tolerance for uncertainty, and the ability to stomach unsubscribes.
Alex Kantrowitz compiles seven learnings from his time as an independent publisher. These include an understanding of email's advantage over social, how ads and subscriptions can work in tandem, why mainstream news isn't going anywhere, and where the newsletter boom is headed next.
What's New In Publishing offers readers five takeaways based on Funke Mediengruppe's incredible growth from 56,000 to 250,000 subscribers in only one year. One takeaway worth highlighting is that the German newsletter found that not all metrics are created equal. Some had a far higher impact on their growth than others, so they decided to double down on those specific elements instead of dividing their attention.
Related: Other than open rates, what should creators focus on to measure success? — Tradecraft
The Fix shares creative ways publishers are using email to grow premium memberships. While most focus on the straightforward paid newsletter strategy, there are viable alternatives such as leveraging email as a service (EaaS), creating newsletter-based referral programs, and guiding readers towards paywalled content.
Ben Thompson of the Stratechery dives into the future potential of metaverses. For the uninitiated, metaverses are essentially virtual worlds. Newsletters will have a place in these new "worlds." One current example is Wowhead's Economy Weekly, a newsletter dedicated to the in-game economy of World of Warcraft. It's been going for nearly four years and reaches several thousand readers each week.
There is now a battalion of AI-writing tools available online, each one promising more than the next. However, what happens when these tools become mainstream and are used to publish mountains of repetitive content? Ryan Law examines the threat and gives publishers three ways they can ensure their content continues to rank above what robots can produce.
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