#169 — Why being different will only become more valuable

In this edition of Publisher Weekly, discover proven ways to reach your first 1000 subscribers, uncover the most common pitfalls every writer should avoid, and learn why publishers are betting big on robot journalism.


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As the internet continues to grow in both size and reach, the way to captivate an audience will move in the opposite direction. Online growth will increasingly be given to those who aren't afraid to get granular, to draw hard lines, and to stay niche. In this week's issue of Publisher Weekly, read about projects that are succeeding by being different.

💯 Top picks

How to get your first 1,000 email subscribers

Attracting your first 1,000 subscribers is an essential milestone. This week's article from the Ghost blog highlights exactly how to reach that goal by thinking in growth increments: 100-250, 250-500, and 500-1,000. Each mini-milestone includes examples of what is working for newsletter creators right now.

Related: Content strategy for creators: How to grow your audience from 0 — Ghost

💸 Business models

What I learned from a year on Substack

Casey Newton of the Platformer reviews what has and hasn't worked on their publishing journey since going full-time on the newsletter. Here are a few ideas that stood out:

  • For journalism-type products, growth comes in big bumps, "it's a hits business."  
  • Realistic conversion rates (from free to paid) are around 5%.
  • Communities are the perfect supplement to a newsletter, "the Discord launch was the single biggest thing I did over the past year to convert paid subscribers."
  • Twitter is one of the most effective growth platforms for newsletters.

Related: I spent $716 on 7 Twitter growth courses in the last 40 days. — Twitter

“You need more than one string to your bow to survive”: How paywalls can boost publishers’ revenue

Publishers are increasingly adopting a "diversified revenue portfolio" model in which they aim to build multiple income streams for their business, rather than relying on a single large one. This article introduces some of the different strategies that are working, such as hard and soft paywalls for digital content.

📝 Modern publishing

As Facebook tries to knock the journalism off its platform, its users are doing the same

Fewer people counting on Facebook for news is probably a good thing — and a sign that the interests of the company and its users may be strangely aligned, for once.

Facebook is actively working to reduce the number of news stories that show up in its users' feeds. They've experienced a number of controversies directly related to the news-saturation of their site. Enough to warrant a change and one that might actually make people enjoy the platform again at that.  

Related: Are Facebook and Google going to ruin newsletters? — The Fix

A new joint research study from the Gallup and Knight Foundations found an interesting difference in how generations gauge whether or not a news story is trustworthy. Older generations tend to trust the brand and reporters themselves, while younger generations prefer details, funding information, and other fact-checking initiatives.

Related: Googling for credible information can help correct belief in misinformation, according to a new study — NiemanLab

📬 Email newsletters

Not a Newsletter — September edition

Dan Oshinsky's monthly resource was released this week. They included some updates on Apple's mail privacy features, a deep dive on how to improve deliverability, and a collection of useful links such as how to run a successful reactivation campaign, a behind-the-scenes look at Really Good Emails, and this roundup of how to get your first 1,000 subscribers.

The four forces of bad content

The Animalz blog produces consistently high-quality content. In this post, they identify the four pitfalls they avoid in order to achieve this and provide actionable tips writers can use to upgrade their content easily.

Related: 6 risky black hat SEO tactics to avoid in 2021 (and their white hat alternatives) — Ahrefs

5 email unsubscribe button ideas that could save subscribers

HubSpot showcases five publishers who apply best practices to their unsubscribe processes in order to keep readers engaged with the brand, in one format or another, for a longer period of time. These tactics include placing social media links near the unsubscribe button, wording it with brand language, and making it easy to update preferences.

💻 Technology

How publishers are using robot journalism to drive engagement, subscriptions and ad revenue

Publishers are turning to robots, or AI-generated text, to help them scale production. For example, one paper uses robots to help them cover 60,000+ football games. Another is publishing around 40 articles a day on new real estate listings. These articles are often simple, but can drive several thousand additional pageviews each.

Related: Prioritizing subscribers, not fly-by readers, Skift is “debranding” — NiemanLab

Scientific American recently released a short documentary on YouTube about how increasing internet access to more of the world's population could significantly change how it works. It's a fascinating discussion and a reminder that there are still billions of people waiting to come online.

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