Issue #150 — How to convert more readers into paying subscribers

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The quality of your audience matters more than its size. Whether you have a list of 10 or 10,000 readers, at the end of the day the only figure of value is the number who take action when asked. This edition includes strategic tips and case studies on transforming your pool of readers into a wave of support.

💯 Top picks

Conversion strategy (Part 1): Creating a valuable offer

The core of a successful conversion strategy is a great offer.

Two new posts were published on the Ghost blog this week. The first one focused on the 5 reasons people pay for content and how publishers can use this information to craft an enticing offer.

The second post was a follow-up to the first titled Conversion strategy (Part 2): Turn more readers into paid members. This resource includes 8 conversion tactics successful newsletter authors use to build financially sustainable content-based businesses.

Related: Why Is Everyone Talking About Newsletters? — NPR

💸 Business models

How Substack soap operas change the media business

This is Substack’s final innovation: The soap opera is interactive. People use their dollars as a vote to keep their chosen knights on the board. The point is not to win—that’s impossible—but to keep playing.

The Atlantic recently released a deep dive into the personality-driven conflicts driving Substack's growth. If you're unfamiliar with the biggest names on the platform, this is an eye-opening read into how the ecosystem works for many of its top-name publishers.

Related: The most we can say about earnings of Substack's top writers

Let's talk about how to price newsletter ads

Ethan Brooks of The Hustle shared a tweet thread breaking down the questions publishers need to ask before implementing sponsorships into their newsletters. One of the most useful elements was the explanation of when and how to use the following pricing models successfully:

  • Cost Per Send (CPS)
  • Cost Per Click (CPC)
  • Cost Per Open (CPO).

This article is an excellent case study in how to leverage successful products into larger revenue streams. Bloomberg's podcast "Odd Lots" has seen explosive growth in the last year. Rather than put a paywall around their podcast, which is currently free, Bloomberg decided to release associated products such as a subscriber-only newsletter and private blog. This will allow them to expand on their podcast content as well as supply them a space to experiment with new topics and formats. This is reminiscent of the content strategy model used by many solo creators.

📝 Modern publishing

Local newspapers vastly preferred over Google: Major survey down under

Newspaper readers in rural and regional Australia are five times more likely to go directly to their local newspaper website than Google or Facebook for local information.

Australia has made a habit of riling up tech companies with their stance on news distribution. The latest survey by Country Press proved that they've been representing their people well as a vast majority of those surveyed preferred local news sources over national and international ones. Furthermore, they also found that "71% prefer to read their local paper in print than online." It's a useful reminder that the digital revolution of publishing is far from universal acceptance.

Related: Why Hearst’s digital-native food brand Delish is getting into print

The one where writing books is not really a good idea

98% of the books that publishers released in 2020 sold fewer than 5,000 copies.

Author Elle Griffin examines the unfortunate economics of book publishing in the modern world. Griffin's primary question is, "could the creator economy work for fiction authors?" Pulling from a tremendous amount of research, they conclude producing serialized books and novels online has much better economic upside for authors and will likely grow as a significant competitor to traditional publishing.

What “trust in news” means to users: Insights for publishers

Regardless of the type of newsletter you publish, news or otherwise, it's vital to understand how to build trust with your readers. Some of the trust-building insights from this post include:

  • Mention brands and figures your audience is already familiar with,
  • Clean, user-friendly, pop-up free design is highly valued by readers,
  • And be wary of using industry jargon to describe what your publication provides.

📬 Email newsletters

From 78 subscribers to 750,000 with 1440 Media CEO Tim Huelskamp

Stop thinking about growth and monetization. Just absolutely nail the customer experience.

In an interview with Newsletter Crew, Tim Huelskamp reveals the strategies used to grow exponentially over the last few years. The point that comes through more than anything else in the interview is Huelskamp's relentless focus on improving the product: "'How do we make this product as kick ass as possible?’ Because if you don’t do that, nothing else matters." It's a refreshing reminder that the best growth hack is a great creation.

Related: Six things I've learnt from newsletters in the last week

💻 Technology

Twitter's new tip jar is good for creators and consumers

The tip incentive will change what people tweet about.

Twitter is the social media platform of choice for many newsletter writers. When changes occur there, they often prompt meaningful conversations across the publishing landscape. The recent announcement that tipping options would be added to profiles sparked mixed reviews. Some see it as a positive way to support creators. Others believe it's a trivial effort that will only serve already well-off influencers.

Related: Social media companies all starting to look the same

Will a cookieless world help publishers get ahead?

Once again, the evidence shows that building a loyal audience is the best strategy for long-term success. Cookies enabled advertisers to adopt a lazy approach to marketing in which they could simply tap into any audience they desired on demand. As that system dissolves, advertisers will once again have the opportunity to work directly with publishers in order to access their readers. This will give creators greater control over what the advertising landscape looks like and, hopefully, grant them a larger slice of the financial pie in the process.

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