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Although newsletters are a unique and varied medium, they still adhere to the basic principles of doing business. Finding product-market fit, managing marketing strategies, experimenting with monetization models — these are necessary steps for any business, and publishers are not exempt. This edition of Publisher Weekly drives home this idea by providing you with the resources you need to treat your publication like the growing enterprise it is.
💯 Top picks
Many creators fall into the trap of a never-ending production cycle. As soon as the latest piece of content gets published, work begins on the next one. The strategy of content repurposing solves this problem by enabling every item you create to travel further online, produce more value, and add creative space to your calendar. The tactics covered in this article include syndication, transformation, and repackaging.
💸 Business models
I think the next decade is going to be awesome for creative people because they’re going to have options. They’re going to have the ability to generate revenue in whatever way they want.
In an interview with The Verge, Jack Conte explains the frustrations that led to starting Patreon. One of the most interesting parts of the discussion centers around unit sales versus membership models. In recent history, units sold (books, CDs, art prints) were the primary source of income for creators. The internet upended the economics driving that model while opening the door to more sustainable, relationship-oriented ones. Although, it's worth noting that Patreon's business model still cuts into creators' earnings.
The Hustle shares a thread of threads on Twitter, a number of which offer deep dives into the monetization strategies practiced by today's biggest newsletters. From premium subscriptions to ad sales to affiliate partnerships, one can monetize almost any newsletter with a little creativity and grit.
Kayla Voigt recounts the journeys of two writers who iterated their way to becoming full-time authors. Much of the advice they give can be boiled down to a single idea: create in public. For one author, their book was a byproduct of the articles they published online as a new hobby runner. For the other, chronicling their writing process through social media fueled the eventual successful launch of their first book.
📝 Modern publishing
WNIP breaks down the 2021 edition of the annual report published by Reuters Institute, a University of Oxford research center. Here are a few of the key ideas among the findings:
- "Trust in news is up in almost all countries."
- More people are paying for news, and they "tend to be richer, older and better educated."
- "Those aged 18–24 have an even weaker connection to traditional news sites and are almost twice as likely to prefer to access news via social media (i.e., TikTok)."
If your publication is in any way related to the news category, this is one resource you will want to review. Here is a link to the full report: Digital News Report 2021
Dynamic paywalls are new technology made possible by artificial learning. The tool "automates and optimizes many publishing decisions," including when and who to show paywalls to. Using data-driven programs like this is meant to increase publishers' revenue, whether through ads from users who are unlikely to subscribe or through subscriptions for those who are. Depending on its success, readers may see more large institutions follow suit.
Even multi-billion dollar giants are turning to the newsletter game. Bloomberg announced they would be launching two publications, each run by a single writer: Power On, an Apple news newsletter by Mark Gurman, and Game On, a gaming industry one by Jason Schreier. Both will be accessible with a standard Bloomberg subscription.
📬 Email newsletters
Too many of us are trying to show multiple value propositions to multiple segments in multiple categories.
Louis Grenier's marketing newsletter delivers one of the clearest explanations for why a narrow focus is the best gift creators can give their audiences. Grenier uses an iceberg analogy to illustrate how effective positioning works and highlights five active businesses creators can learn from.
GrowGetters compiled a list of 23 digital directories where publishers can list and promote their email newsletters. While sites like these aren't likely to send a rush of traffic to your publication, they can help with early-stage discoverability.
TheSoul, a Russian publishing entity, grew an enormous audience in record time. Smaller publishers can implement one of their most successful tactics: start early on new social platforms. By being first, they were able to grow sizeable followings without much competition. Although many of these initiatives led nowhere, the ones that did grew into hundreds of millions of new followers.
Unlike any other landmass, Africa seems to reduce writers to semi-poetic nonsense, vague allusion, and cliche.
To succeed as a publisher, one must think globally. The challenge is that to do so, we must first combat misinformation, biases, and blind spots. This lengthy piece published by 11 separate contributors offers one of the best comprehensive introductions to the continent spearheading several industries. At the very least, it's worth noting the 12 media companies mentioned that are transforming publishing in their respective contexts.
NiemanLab highlights a new subscriber-only feature rolled out by The New York Times which allows paying subscribers "to 'gift' 10 articles per month to the non-subscribers." The hope is that those who receive multiple gifts will convert into paying subscribers themselves. Free samples work well in other industries, so this may be one strategy to watch.
The American Press Institute developed a tool that helps newsrooms and publishers automate their source audits. Sources are to published stories as ingredients are to meals. Good ones lead to a great end product and vice versa. The tool is currently being tested by four publications (San Diego Union Tribune, the Chicago Tribune, the Democrat & Chronicle in Rochester, and The Tennessean). API plans to make the software available to more organizations in the future.
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