#168 — What is the ladder method to growth?

In this edition of Publisher Weekly, discover how to build momentum with your circles of influence, see how a new bill could boost local journalism, and learn what skills separate professional writers from amateurs.


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Ladders are the perfect analogy for business growth. You can see the destination you want to reach and the corresponding direction to head in. However, the journey to get there can only be achieved by climbing one rung at a time. This week, learn the strategies publishers use to keep their eyes on the next best step.

💯 Top picks

How to get your first 100 email subscribers

Getting the momentum started for your new publication can be one of the most challenging steps. The latest post on the Ghost blog helps solve this problem by providing clear actions creators can use to grow. The key is to set smaller milestones (0-10, 10-50, 50-100) and then adjust your strategy at each new increment.

Why Ghost is a great lightweight blogging platform (and how we use it at Ulysses)

The beloved writing app Ulysses recently published a breakdown of why they chose Ghost for their CMS, along with how they use it alongside their app. If you're curious about how these tools can streamline your writing process, give this guide a read.

Related: Why we moved DESK magazine from WordPress to Ghost — DESK

💸 Business models

How Mario Gabriele revolutionized the newsletter business

Indie Hacker Seth King examines how The Generalist newsletter grew to over 41,000 subscribers and $300,000+ in revenue in under 2 years. The article does a great job of highlighting how Gabriele's experiments were the key to success, even though many failed. As it's been said, you only have to be right once.

These metrics predict which readers will pay for news

The Fix argues that for publishers to be successful, they need to take cues from the e-commerce space. Their tactics include leveraging both free and paid products, removing friction from the payment process, and being mindful of balancing content and business goals.

Related: 5 keys to making quality media sustainable — WNIP

17 actionable marketing tips for small businesses in 2021

The team at AHREFs compiled a list of advertising tactics working in today's digital landscape. Although not every entry will apply to those running publications, a few of the ones worth reading are: know who you're targeting, repurpose content, and partner with niche influencers.

📝 Modern publishing

Intuit confirms $12B deal to buy Mailchimp

The latest acquisition by Intuit made waves in the entrepreneurship and publishing circles. Regardless of how this deal may work out for them in the long run, it speaks to the incredible value of email communication. Growing, maintaining, and leveraging your own list of contacts is still one of the most powerful business moves a creator or business can make.

Related: The side hustle that became a billion-dollar startup — Twitter

Some questions (and answers) about the Local Journalism Sustainability Act

This new US bill aims to provide financial incentives to journalistic efforts in three ways:

  • A tax credit of up to $250 to incentivize subscriptions and donations to local news.
  • A tax credit of up to $5,000 for small businesses that buy ads in their local publications.
  • A payroll tax credit to make hiring local reporters, editors, photographers, and other journalists easier.

It has seen initial bipartisan support, although there are still many steps before it becomes official.

Related: How to go from “the future of journalism” to a fire sale in a few short years — NiemanLab

📬 Email newsletters

How I used one Twitter reply to get 99 newsletter subscribers in a day

Writer Honey Syed details how they used conversations on Twitter to accelerate the growth of their newsletter, while also redefining its niche. For those with fewer than 1,000 email subscribers, these are the types of non-scalable strategies perfect for early growth.

What makes a good writer? Human stories, active voice and an open mind

Professional editor and author Steve Gamel shares their best tips for developing writing skills. Their advice includes learning story structure, practicing active voice, and pursuing constructive feedback.

Related: The world's most valuable skill is writing effectively — Dickie Bush

💻 Technology

7 actionable ways to improve your google rankings

SEO is still one of the best long-term growth strategies, especially for those creating written content. Similarweb contributor Brian Dean introduces seven tactics publishers can use right away to improve their positioning and rank higher online.

Winklevoss twins back Payload, a new outlet covering business of space

Payload is a newsletter dedicated to providing the space industry and curious readers the same level of in-depth reporting given to technology companies. It's an example of how newsletters are a particularly useful medium to learn about and interact with new opportunities.

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