Issue #166 — To win big in publishing, start small

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Big wins are often predicated on small experiments. There are newsletters with tens of thousands of subscribers that began as a paragraph-long email sent to a dozen Gmail contacts; six-figure membership sites that launched as free blogs; and billion-dollar publishers that stumbled their way to growth. This week, discover why starting small can be an advantage in the publishing realm.

💯 Top picks

How to start a local newsletter

The latest article on the Ghost blog includes a 6-step guide to launching your own local newsletter. This post pulls together a number of useful resources, from current examples of successful newsletters to Google's New Initiative Playbook, to present readers with a comprehensive starting point.

Related: Meet the local journalists writing the first paid newsletters at Facebook — NiemanLab

💸 Business models

The Generalist turns 1: An inside look at the business of creating

Writer Mario Gabriele provides a behind-the-scenes look at their 6-figure newsletter, The Generalist. Gabriele breaks down their exact revenue numbers, traffic sources, tech stack, and biggest challenges going forward. For anyone wondering how a newsletter can grow from 0-40,000 subscribers in 12 months, this is an excellent read.

Related: OnlyFans and the myth of owning your hustle — Vanity Fair

How I built a paid community to 1,000+ members in 10 months

Content is a magnet. Community is a moat.

Dru Riley, founder of Trends.vc, shares their journey of growing the newsletter from an idea into a full-fledged business. Among the lessons they share are insights on pricing, strategic friction, and ritual-building.

7 niche market examples you can learn from

Understanding what a niche is and how to find one can be one of the most difficult parts of creating a digital enterprise. AHREF's blog offers 7 examples of unique niches that are producing incredible returns for creators. These include products for left-handed people, clothing for shorter individuals, and environmentally-friendly food wraps.

📝 Modern publishing

Politico is being sold for more than $1 billion; here are some of the smart moves it made to get there

It’s a lot easier to make a lot of money from a few of your customers than a little from everyone.

Politico is a staple of political journalism. They've succeeded where others have failed by taking more drastic experiments with their business models and offerings. For example, they offer a $10,000/year subscription that accounts for a significant part of their revenue. When hitting a growth roadblock, the answer is almost always to experiment boldly.

Related: Intuit in talks to buy Mailchimp for more than $10 billion — Bloomberg

Publishers rethink their value to stave off subscription fatigue among new paying readers

Digiday highlights the ways traditional publishers are experimenting with their products in order to keep members subscribed for longer. The most effective tactics include: more granular segmentation, splitting broad publications into multiple niche ones, and extending the subscription period into multi-year terms.

Related: As The Atlantic draws closer to 1 million subscribers, the publisher must battle declines in traffic to keep momentum going — Digiday

Wirecutter, which makes money when you shop, is going behind The New York Times’ paywall

Wirecutter is a review site that earns revenue through affiliate income. It's a significant profit maker for the New York Times. However, the paper is set on increasing their subscription numbers — even at the risk of killing their darlings. It will be interesting to see if this experiment nets a positive result for the Times.

📬 Email newsletters

The one where I grow my newsletter by 1,200 subscribers in one summer

To achieve my goal of gaining 654 subscribers every month, I created a plan that prioritized what little time I have.

Author Elle Griffin reveals the strategy they used to gain over 1,000 new subscribers over a few months' time. To accomplish this, they committed to the following:

  • pausing all other creative side projects
  • writing new content every weekday morning
  • dedicating 1 hour every evening to social media growth
  • leveraging ads and guest articles on weekends.

The strategy worked, and Griffin provides details on which activities most moved the needle.

Related: The role of emojis in increasing publisher traffic — WNIP

19 essential newsletters every journalist should read

The UK Journalism team compiled a list of digital newsletters that professional journalists should have on their radar. Included on the list are PressPad, which helps new journalists enter the field, Factually, a fact-checking technology resource, and JournalismAI, a publication dedicated to showing how artificial intelligence is improving newsrooms around the globe.

Salman Rushdie to bypass print and publish next book on Substack

Novelist Rushdie has agreed to publish a 35,000-word version of one of their novels as a serialized novella on Substack. The hope is that it will encourage other fiction writers to experiment with format, while also showing the variety of content that can work on the platform (e.g., other than technology and politics).

Related: Barnes & Noble rides a wave of positive trends — PW

💻 Technology

Twitter launches Super Follows

Twitter has launched a feature that allows users with over 10,000 followers to charge for access to subscriber-only tweets. Creators will only have to pay processing fees on the first $50,000. Afterward, an additional platform fee goes into effect. This tool is currently only available for IOS users.

Two secrets to increasing newsletter readers

The Newsletter Crew explains how using RSS feeds and web push notifications can increase readership for your publication. They included a short video tutorial for each item, which can help publishers see if it's a worthwhile strategy and if it aligns with how their audience consumes content.

Making content analytics data actionable: A primer for publishers

Data is a keyword publishers hear thrown around a lot. But what data is actually useful? And what action steps should that data lead to? This article provides a user-friendly overview of how data technology can, and should, be translated into business model improvements, employee feedback, and subscriber benefits.

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