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#154 — Why slow and steady wins in publishing

#154 — Why slow and steady wins in publishing

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Growth at all costs makes for exciting media coverage, but it can be a costly business strategy. In this issue, discover the companies and individuals choosing sustainability over speed and profitability over popularity.

💯 Top picks

How to use lead magnets to capture your first subscribers

The latest post from the Ghost blog examines how lead magnets can help creators quickly and efficiently grow their email lists. The article details three specific tips that are often overlooked when creating a lead magnet:

  • It should solve a real problem for your customer,
  • The content should be specific and action-oriented (i.e., a quick win),
  • It must start users on a clear onboarding process.

💸 Business models

Make a living from writing a newsletter

This presentation, made by Lenny Rachitsky, explains how they grew their newsletter to over 5,000 paying subscribers (and 60,000 free ones) in under two years. It's an excellent example of how a clear value proposition, consistent publishing, and steady marketing can come together to achieve incredible goals.

Related: How Morning Brew got its first 10,000 email subscribers — Racket

Are courses a good focus for publishers?

A Media Operator breaks down the renewed interest in online courses, specifically cohort-based ones made possible by tools like Maven. Digital education can offer publishers a strong revenue stream when done correctly. However, it's important not to discount the amount of work required, such as preparing relevant material, facilitating the community aspect (when applicable), and promoting effectively to potential customers.

Six questions to help you monetize your audience

Josh Spector shares half a dozen excellent questions to help creators think through their monetization strategy. A few of the questions included are, "Will you monetize an audience of the many or the few?", "Will you target new money or existing spend?", and "Will you sell to people once or over and over again?"

📝 Modern publishing

Why you can’t write for Bulletin, Facebook’s new Substack clone

The first batch of Bulletin writers will include people covering topics like sports, fashion, and the environment, as well as a group of writers covering local news.

Facebook's new publishing initiative is intentionally avoiding "divisive" subjects with their platform, such a religion and politics. In order to accomplish this, they are hand-selecting their writers. Many of the individuals following Bulletin's development believe it will be too little too late to seriously compete with more established newsletter platforms. However, Facebook has quite the track record to prove otherwise.

Ted Williams proved local news can be profitable

Ted Williams successfully grew The Charlotte Agenda into a local news success story with over $2 million in annual revenue. Now, Axios has hired Williams to see if they can replicate the model to dozens of more cities across the US. This first batch will likely include large metro areas such as New York, Los Angeles, Dallas, and Denver. Williams explains that although local news is difficult, "it's not a complicated business. You have to be patient, disciplined, and laser-focused on the reader and very few things. If you do that over a long period of time, you can develop a pretty good business."

Related: Here’s what makes Americans think a news article is trustworthy — NiemanLab

📬 Email newsletters

Will Apple Mail threaten the newsletter boom?

All eyes were on Apple this week as they announced new privacy features in iOS 15 would eliminate the information publishers rely on through tracking, such as email open rates. However, all is not lost as Casey Newton of the Platformer explains:

Apple’s move may affect reader-supported newsletters even less, publishing industry executives told me today. Writers can triangulate reader engagement by plenty of metrics that are still available to them, including the views their stories get on the web, the overall growth of their mailing list, and — most meaningful of all — the growth of their revenue.

But this is only one viewpoint. Nathan Barry of ConvertKit wrote a strongly worded response to the change here: How Apple’s email privacy protection hurts creators. And WNIP offered readers a more positive take on these changes in this piece: Apple WWDC 2021: What publishers need to know.

Did theSkimm try to expand too quickly?

Many media companies take on venture capital money in the hope that it will accelerate their growth and help them reach scale quickly. However, there are consequences to this arrangement, such as competing priorities and straying from one's core product in an effort to "justify huge valuations." This article is a reminder that although sustainability may be less flashy than hypergrowth, it's a much better business model.

Related: Young creators are burning out and breaking down — The New York Times

💻 Technology

Stripe Tax: Automate tax collection on your Stripe transactions

Stripe Tax lets you calculate and collect sales tax, VAT, and GST with one line of code or the click of a button.

In a very welcome update, Stripe announced they would begin helping creators, entrepreneurs, and businesses collect taxes directly through native tax features in their tool. These new tax features are currently invite-only, supporting the US, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand, with more supported countries coming soon.

New ways for creators to make a living

During Instagram's first-ever Creator week, they announced several new features to help users make money through their platform. They are building a way to buy merchandise and earn affiliate commissions directly through their app, along with releasing a "badges and stars" system that enables a Patreon-style direct-funding model.

Related: Twitter may be close to launching Super Follows — The Verge

How AI and data boost sustainability for publishers

The Fix examines how machine learning could lighten journalist's workloads while also saving media companies millions per year. The article uses the book Prediction Machines as a guide to what these changes might look like, as well as highlighting evidence that they are already underway. Overall, the conversation argues that knowledge workers will increasingly work collaboratively with AI, as opposed to the complete role replacement some have warned of.  

Related: Future-proofing your media business: Lessons from bookstores and Netflix — What's New in Publishing

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#153 — Why consistency is a publisher's secret weapon

#153 — Why consistency is a publisher's secret weapon

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If you had to simplify what it takes to succeed in the creator economy down to only two words, they would be "consistency wins." In this edition of Publisher Weekly, you'll discover tools like checklists and frameworks to help you achieve the consistency needed, across any of the modern platforms vying for your attention.

💯 Top picks

Newsletter checklist: A pre-publishing and post-publishing guide for new writers

The latest post on the Ghost blog offers creators a user-friendly 15-point checklist that helps them publish and promote their newsletter. The list is a modified version of exactly what our team uses to consistently publish both the Ghost blog and Publisher Weekly. Subscribers can access a downloadable template of the checklist near the bottom of the post.

Related: How to launch a newsletter with Ghost — Newsletter Crew

💸 Business models

With MAPs, readers can have a month of access

Mark Stenberg of Medialyte questions whether the subscription model meets the needs of every potential customer. As an alternative, Stenberg suggests publications offer the digital equivalent a newstand, where visitors can pay a single fee for limited or time-restricted access (like buying a single newspaper issue). They use the acronym MAP which means "monthly access payment." It's an interesting theory, although the economics seem unclear. At least one large publisher, TheBrowser, has begun experimenting with this model.

Membership podcast: How to start and run your own

The team at Castos shares how publishers can run a subscription-based podcast. They note there are additional challenges that come with putting all of your audio content behind a paywall. But, when done correctly, it can become a very profitable revenue stream. Furthermore, many publishers find that complimenting their written content with other types of media boosts their main channel's growth as well.

📝 Modern publishing

What if the future of media is only newsletters and podcasts?

The recipe for starting a new media venture in 2021 seems to be straightforward: blog, newsletter, podcast.

Independent media companies have transformed the industry they fought so hard to be a part of. Established media and technology organizations now look to their example of how to produce simple value propositions readers love, and to do so in a scalable, economically-mindful way.

Related: Why now is the golden age of publishing

Announcing the winners of Substack Local

Substack recently announced the twelve winners of their local news initiative. The writers span seven different countries, and each brings a unique blend of professional and independent experience to the mix. The winners receive an assortment of benefits, including professional mentorship and a cash advance. Now, their goal will be to build sustainable publications with the runway they've received.

Related: Washington Post Opinions launched Voices Across America

NYT buying The Athletic would be smart

A Media Operator explains why this particular acquisition could be one of the smartest moves for helping The New York Times achieve its ten million subscriber goal. "Sports is inherently local and The Times isn’t really a local newspaper. Therefore, users that subscribe to The Times are likely getting their sports news elsewhere; perhaps even The Athletic." By merging the two publications, NYT would fill a clear gap in their offering and The Athletic would significantly increase their audience. It's a win-win, on paper at least.

📬 Email newsletters

The racecar growth framework

Dan Hockenmaier and Lenny Rachitsky share a growth strategy they've used to build successful products that can also be used to accelerate your newsletter's growth. If you're at all familiar with how cars operate, you'll appreciate how their four-part framework (engine, turbo, lubricants, fuel) fits together to form a clear strategy.

Related: How to identify new audience growth opportunities

AMA with founder of Newsletter Operating System

IndieHackers hosted an AMA ("ask me anything" session) with Janel, creator of a Notion dashboard that helps newsletter writers organize their early days of creation and promotion. The comments contain a number of useful conversations, such as how Janel gained their first 100 subscribers and advice on partnering with fellow newsletter writers.

The system every creator needs to figure out to build a successful career

Your career depends on your ability to build a system.

Josh Spector breaks down the system they've used to build multiple successful newsletters. Each system contains three distinct "mechanisms": discovery, connection, and monetization. The steps work similarly to the content funnel previously highlighted in this newsletter.

💻 Technology

Is Twitter Blue a good enough product to earn your $3 a month?

As Twitter rolls out its new paid subscription offering, the reviews have been mixed. Benefits such as the edit button and reader mode seem significantly less useful than advertised (e.g., the edit function only works within the first 30 seconds of a tweet's publishing). Other features, like custom folders, will help super users gain a better experience on the platform. For now, this seems like one tool most publishers can skip.

YouTube’s creator economy is bigger and more profitable than ever

The ad revenue sharing model has proven to be extremely profitable for YouTube while helping thousands of creators take part in the new economy along the way. This article dives into Google's tremendous growth, in large part due to YouTube, and how new platforms are challenging the behemoth by implementing the same revenue sharing models that made them the go-to platform for professional creators.

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#152 — How new monetization models are transforming publishing

#152 — How new monetization models are transforming publishing

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Individual creators can turn their content into a career through an increasingly varied number of ways. This edition examines how publishers creatively monetize their work, from repackaging articles into paid courses to using premium subscriptions to subsidize freely available content. Plainly, there is no one correct way to succeed in today's publishing landscape.

💯 Top picks

How to get started in the creator economy

The latest article on the Ghost blog offers readers a beginner-friendly introduction to what the creator economy is, how it works, and recommended steps for jumping into it as a creator. Although creator economy might be the internet's latest buzzword, the opportunity is very real.

Related: Is the United States a creator-friendly country?

💸 Business models

The Economist creates a new revenue stream with online courses

We think the demand for executive courses online will increase, particularly among time-poor executives and leaders who may not be able to dedicate time - or out of office days - to in-person learning.

Paid online courses are a tried and true business model for many creators. However, this story is part of a growing trend of larger, more established businesses turning their attention towards micro-credentials. Bob Cohn, president of The Economist, wrote, "an education product was a natural extension of our services." For independent publishers, it may be worth asking how the content you write could be repackaged into a digital course.

Related: The copycat advantage — The Sociology of Business

How Katy Huff sold millions of dollars in ads at The Hustle

In a recent tweet thread from The Hustle's Ethan Brooks, they share a breakdown of how the newsletter sought out advertisers for their publication. One idea which stood out from their notes was the B.A.N.T. model, a method for finding ideal advertisers. The acronym stands for:

  • Budget to afford your ads
  • Authority to make a purchase decision
  • Need to reach your audience (e.g., niche alignment)
  • Timing (aligns with a new product launch or similar opportunity).

How curated marketplaces are helping boost publisher revenue

Curated marketplaces transform the advertiser-publisher relationship from something akin to shopping at Walmart to an experience more like a members-only street market. The idea is that limited access leads to direct, long-term, financially beneficial relationships for both parties.

📝 Modern publishing

How a Southeast Asian publisher reframed its pitch to members

Pitch higher-tier membership as a way to make content accessible to people who can’t afford to sign up.

This case study of New Naratif examines how they categorized their audience into three groups (subscribers, members, donors) and then used the information gathered from interviews with each group to relaunch their entire monetization strategy. In short, they found that by offering higher-priced memberships, they could satisfy the needs of their most invested readers while subsidizing their content for a larger audience.

The local news crisis will be solved one community at a time

Many of the stories surrounding local news focus on its decline. However, rather than disappearing completely, many publications transformed into nimbler versions of their old selves. These new local endeavors are often run by a small, writer-centric team, housed in a nonprofit entity, and supported by subscriptions and donations. It's a staunch reminder that journalism didn't fail; its business model did.

Related: What is the future of work in our newsrooms?

The news organizations with the most paying subscribers

Chartr released a graphic displaying how top news organizations ranked according to their paid subscriber counts. They created the illustration to communicate why The New York Times (who is at the top of the chart with 6.1 million subscribers) wants to acquire The Athletic (which sits in fifth place with 1.2 million). Aside from these two, only four other news publications have surpassed the million-subscriber threshold.

📬 Email newsletters

Success takes more time than most will admit

The stories you should pay attention to are from people who've been at it for at least 5-10 years. They are doing the real work, and they're in it for the long haul.

In this useful reminder, creators are encouraged to take the long-term view of their projects. The media tends to highlight overnight success stories, although the contextual reality of their achievements usually tell a different story. Surviving is half the battle, which is why one of the core principles at Ghost is sustainable business models.

Related: Our image of an entrepreneur desperately needs an update

How publishers can build communities through livestreams

Are you intentionally connecting with your audience outside of your written newsletter? Jack Woodcock, Creative Strategy Lead at Twitch, commented on how creators can complement their work with livestreaming. Some of the tactics mentioned include gathering content ideas from your audience, offering deeper dives into specific topics, and using the medium as an additional revenue stream through advertising.

💻 Technology

Storytel’s partnership with Spotify unlocks the US audiobook market

Unlimited digital books subscription in the US and other mature English-language markets is not a matter of if, but when.

For the first time since its inception, Amazon's Audible may have a serious competitor entering the space. The current plan is for Spotify to offer a "parallel subscription" to their Premium offering, which gives consumers access to Storytel's audiobook library and allows authors to earn income based on how many downloads their title receives.

Related: 9 ways newsrooms can incorporate more audio in their work

YouTube can now monetize any video

The video platform recently expanded its "right to monetize" so they could run ads on all uploaded content. Previously, ads were only displayed on videos posted by creators enrolled in their partner program. On the one hand, this will likely lead to lower ad revenue for creators across the platform. But on the other, creators who run ads themselves now have access to a much bigger pool of content.

How artificial intelligence can help solve journalism’s problems

This article highlights the ways AI can support the future of journalism, such as performing complex research in seconds, hyperlocal tagging so readers can engage with only what is relevant to them, and automated monitoring of different sources so journalists can stay on top of the biggest stories. The hope is that by making more of these possibilities public, publishers will see technology as a partner, rather than a threat, in the evolving industry.

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#151 — How to innovate your way to a profitable newsletter

#151 — How to innovate your way to a profitable newsletter

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One of the most underutilized strategies for publishers is to model what works in different mediums and from alternative categories within the creator economy. In this issue, discover how traditional and new media companies are succeeding, as well as how their maneuvers might apply to your creative work.

💯 Top picks

7 ways to make money on YouTube without ads

If you're unfamiliar with how successful YouTubers fund their channels apart from AdSense, this article will introduce you to their seven monetization methods. Almost all of these can be applied directly to publishers, with a few minor modifications.

Related: How to monetize your newsletter with affiliate links

One of the members of the Ghost Community shared a list of 13 websites where writers can submit their newsletters for discovery. Free databases like these are a beginner-friendly method of getting initial eyeballs on your creation.

💸 Business models

How publishers can build sustainable businesses in the era of platforms

Stop demonizing and start collaborating. Stop looking backwards and start innovating. Stop scapegoating and start exploiting.

In this tough love call-to-action, industry professionals offer four ways publishers can not only survive their current difficulties but thrive in the new digital landscape.

  • Lobby collectively against Big Tech abuses while negotiating with them to your advantage.
  • Create innovative systems built on users' happiness.
  • Build symbiotic relationships with the Googles and Facebooks of the world.
  • If something is no longer working, stop complaining and try something else.

How to calculate your newsletter ad rates

The May edition of Not a Newsletter included an excellent explanation of how writers can accurately calculate CPMs for ad and sponsorship opportunities. As always, Dan Oshinsky includes a library of additional resources such as email deliverability tips, useful tools, and relevant growth hacks.

Related: Too many publishers are relying on "sleeper" subscribers

Quarterly report from The Generalist newsletter

The Generalist is a weekly business newsletter run by Mario Gabriele. Gabriele primarily covers investing and startup news for an audience of approximately 30,000 readers. They recently published a behind-the-scenes report of income, subscription growth, and churn rates. It's a fascinating look at how a six-figure newsletter works.

📝 Modern publishing

How local broadcaster News 12 is partnering with Google to build a younger audience

The strain on media companies’ ad businesses during the pandemic has forced publishers to get creative on how they approached everything from content offerings to who fits in their target demographics.

A local network is attempting to use technology in creative ways to reach new audiences with their content. It's worth noting that by "younger audiences", they mean viewers aged 18-34 and 35-55, not children. One tactic they're experimenting with is the use of machine learning to chop up broadcasts into shorter videos that are then automatically categorized and shared to social media.

Related: Which publishers won the pandemic?

How journalists can avoid amplifying misinformation in their stories

The team at NiemanLab released an article detailing the steps publishers can take to curb the spread of bad information online. One of the biggest culprits of misinformation is mislabeled or wrongly attributed images. By implementing a few safety measures, such as warning overlays or placing contextual information directly on the image, publishers can stop "fake news" before it spreads.

How the largest UK news publisher generated a 32% increase in page views

Occasionally, it can be helpful to learn the tactics large publishers use to grow, since they face unique challenges because of their size. Reach PLC boasts a portfolio of 70+ websites that collectively serve over 5 million subscribers. When asked what their biggest growth factor was during the past year, they answered: curated newsletters. The data they've able to collect through their audience's interaction with curated links, events, and resources has proven instrumental to "engaging readers and enhancing loyalty."

📬 Email newsletters

10 ways to improve your newsletter

Writer Josh Spector began a new series recently where they audit newsletters written by audience members and offer practical tips for improvement. A few of the tips which stand out are:

  • Your newsletter name should include a clear reference to your niche.
  • Pitch the value of the newsletter, not just what’s in it.
  • Don’t miss micro-branding opportunities.

11 email marketing tips to boost engagement & sales

This handy list of tactics aims to help you communicate with your readers in a more engaging way, which can lead to high open rates, conversions, and revenue. The tips in this article include creating re-engagement campaigns, writing interest-triggering headlines, and using curiosity to drive reader action.

The problem with platforms

This piece offers a deep dive into the changing media landscape and offers an explanation of why newsletters seem to be at the forefront of so many people's minds. In short, they see this as a symptom of the direct-to-creator phenomena in which an increasing number of creators will become platform-agnostic — meaning we'll stop thinking of, for example, Marques Brownlee as only a YouTuber and engage with their work in a more direct way, regardless of the medium. It's a conversation seen before. For example, when large creators move towards independence in order to have more creative and financial control over their content.

💻 Technology

Twitter may be working on Twitter Blue, a subscription service that would cost $2.99 per month

App researcher Jane Manchun Wong says it appears Twitter is working on a tiered subscription model, which she posits could mean a less-cluttered, premium experience for the highest-paying subscribers.

Twitter is going all-in on the creator economy surge. They've acquired two companies (Revue and Scroll), experimented with numerous features (such as native tip jars), and are now considering a premium version of their service. Although the details are still scant, this is certainly an area to watch.

Related: 5 concepts that will unlock Twitter success for you

Koji billboards offer new way for internet creators to get paid

Koji is a company that helps creators treat their profile links as digital billboards. The site uses an auction system where advertisers can rent out your profile and place an approved link for a set amount of time (typically a few hours). Right now, the service is focused on social media platforms. But the explanation of how it works makes it seem like a perfect fit for newsletters. Perhaps Koji can one day automate the sponsored link process many creators must juggle on top of all their other demands.

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#150 — How to convert more readers into paying subscribers

#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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#149 — Why simplicity is the key to growth

#149 — Why simplicity is the key to growth

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If you don't get the basics right, nothing else matters. This issue delves into a number of successful newsletter stories that share a common trait: they won by focusing on the essentials. Publishers must remember this as the technologies and strategies supporting the creator economy continue to evolve towards complexity.

💯 Top picks

6 types of newsletters you can start today

The challenge of starting a brand new newsletter can be alleviated by modeling it after an existing type. The six types, or genres, mentioned in this article are:

  1. Reporting
  2. Analysis
  3. Curation
  4. Artistic
  5. Practical
  6. Hybrid

The article includes examples of each category, along with tips on molding your content to align with any niche.

Related: 10 unique paid newsletter formats

Growing the "First 1000" newsletter to 10k subscribers

In what could be called a meta-case study, the newsletter First 1000, which studies how startups and publishers attract their first 1,000 customers, reveals the exact actions it took to surpass 10,000 subscribers in under two years.

The article is particularly useful because Ali Abouelatta, the author, includes a list of every promotional activity they engaged in and approximately how many subscribers each led to. For example, a feature on Hacker News brought in 117 new readers, while a giveaway promotion on LinkedIn brought in only 6.

💸 Business models

The Half Marathoner's Terrell Johnson: It's about persistence

Sustainability is so important. Especially if you’re going to be a paid newsletter. If you’re asking people to pay a monthly and an annual subscription—you really need to think about how you’re going to be able to do it for the next year.

Terrell Johnson, author of the newsletter Half Marathoner, has grown their publication to over 50,000 subscribers; 800 of those paying members. This interview dives into Johnson's approach to monetization, growth, and longevity. One of the most prevalent ideas discussed is the need for patience. The Half Marathoner has existed, in one form or another, for over a decade — which, according to Johnson, is the key to its success.

In this brief newsletter thread, Oshinsky discusses the need for consistency when planning a publishing schedule. Oshinsky references both Vox and The New Yorker as examples of this practice done right, concluding that consistency matters more than any specific sending time.

Related: If you run a newsletter, reader interviews are insanely valuable.

Should you ungate your content in 2021?

It's common marketing wisdom that to attract readers you should entice them with something valuable in exchange for their contact information (e.g., an email address). This lead magnet/gated content strategy is a tried and true mechanism for growth. That's why when Ahava Leibtag decided to do the exact opposite, people were astounded at the growth Leitbag saw as a result. This conversation is a sound reminder that treating "users" like humans tends to have a net positive result, even when it goes against the established trends.

Related: Customer research: The most underappreciated strategy in your toolkit

📝 Modern publishing

Will Substack newsletters upend newspapers?

I doubt that email newsletters can replace all the shoe-leather reporting traditional publications do. But market disrupters needn’t replicate an entire business line; it’s often better to nibble off the most profitable bits.

In this Washington Post opinion piece, columnist Megan McArdle debates the value of the content being published on Substack. McArdle's main point centers around the idea that the platform caters itself to a very small subset of journalistic pursuits (e.g., emotion-inducing opinion articles). While more expensive paths, such as "a year-long investigative project" are less able to make the financials work.

Related: Substack: how the game-changer turned poacher

9 ways newsrooms can incorporate more audio in their work

The ability to hear stories is essential for visually impaired audiences — and anyone who wants to consume content on the move.

Having your content available in multiple formats is increasingly becoming a competitive advantage in the newsletter space. This post offers a practical collection of ideas on effectively repurposing or supplementing your written content with audio. Some of the suggestions include offering content previews, behind-the-scenes explanations, or highlighting archived posts.

Related: How can journalists use Clubhouse to source and report stories

5 lessons from indie publishers on better serving audiences

What's New In Publishing offers a realistic assortment of tips to solo-creators and small publishers aiming to grow their content businesses. Among the advice given is the idea that "less is more." Solo-creators shouldn't try to compete with multi-person teams in terms of content volume and frequency. Instead, they should play to their strengths: personality, individual conversations with their community, and clear value propositions that would be difficult for larger organizations to replicate.

📬 Email newsletters

The ultimate guide to the creator economy

Antler, a venture capital firm, recently released an updated "map" of the creator economy. The image categorizes dozens of tools into defined groups such as audience curation, vertical platforms, and community management. It's a helpful resource, especially if you're curious about the ever-expanding ways in which people make an income online. Furthermore, it's interesting to watch the creator economy expand as the divide between traditional and new media dissolves.

Related: Brie Larson, YouTube personality, with an Oscar

How to promote digital services, plus doubling up on CTAs with Disney+

This week, the team at Really Good Emails analyzed the strategy behind Disney's email campaigns. This discussion looks at their email's layout (color, spacing, number of buttons), copy (word choice, word count), and brand consistency. You can also watch their analysis in real-time here.

💻 Technology

Facebook is starting a Substack competitor

The Facebook Journalism Project will commit five million dollars to “support local journalists interested in starting or continuing their work”.

To the dismay of many startups, Facebook has gone all-in on the copy-your-competitors strategy in the last few years. The news of their latest project was not well-received, especially by the reporting community it aimed at endearing.

Related: Top influencers reach 2x as many Gen Zers on social as do top broadcasters

Twitter acquires news tech startup Scroll

In the company's second big-name acquisition of the year, Twitter acquired the startup "to help people read more long-form on the platform." The social media platform is strategically building out its subscription offerings in the hope of competing natively in the current newsletter gold rush. Only time will tell if users are on board for the change.

Spotify’s upcoming “Open Access Platform” is as surprising as it is awesome

Nathan Baschez put together an excellent piece explaining how Spotify's new open access technology could help publishers across the creator economy landscape benefit using audio. In short, publishers will be able to deliver paid, exclusive content to their audiences through Spotify without requiring their subscribers to sign up for an additional platform. It's worth reading Baschez's full report for the proper context of what this new technology makes possible.


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#148 — Do solo creators have an advantage?

#148 — Do solo creators have an advantage?

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Individuals have an advantage in the current publishing landscape. As traditional media continues its unbundling, solo creators can carve out profitable audiences using the available tools and tactics. This edition highlights a number of resources aimed at helping individual publishers succeed in the new era.

💯 Top picks

4 questions to ask before pricing your subscription newsletter

Don’t price your newsletter only according to what it is; price it according to what it helps others do.

In the latest article from the Ghost blog, four questions are presented to help publishers think more holistically about their pricing structures. The questions are as follows:

  1. What is the exact cost to run your newsletter per year?
  2. What is the quantifiable value a reader gets by subscribing?
  3. How else do you plan to make money from your content?
  4. What type of content do you publish and how often?

Additional details plus examples can be found in the linked blog article.

The Sample: A newsletter crafted just for you

The Sample is a newsletter recommendation and discovery tool that assists publishers and readers in finding one another. On the publisher side, you can submit your newsletter, categorize it, then relax as their algorithm shows your work to new people. On the reader side, subscribers check the categories they're interested in and receive a different newsletter every day for 21 days.

💸 Business models

The rise of the independent worker: Why everyone wants to work in the gig economy now

Three-quarters of those who leave an employer to freelance report making more money than in a traditional job.

Fortune recently released an article that pulls together a collection of important statistics from the booming gig economy. The trends show that more people partook in gig-related work because of the pandemic, and many of those people significantly increased their incomes as a result. Most notably, this pattern is expected to accelerate as Gen Z enters the workforce.

Thinking of investing in the newsletter space?

Ethan Brooks, a writer for The Hustle, breaks down the business models used by successful 7-figure newsletters. Brooks writes that one of the biggest opportunities is the local news space where "200+ US counties have neither daily nor weekly newspapers." Another useful Twitter thread from Brooks covers the newsletter engine, a model that "shows how money/attention flow through a newsletter business."

Spotify launches paid podcasts through new Anchor feature

In what seems like a strategic response to Apple's premium podcast announcement, Spotify released the details of their paid podcasting features through their Anchor tool. One of the most significant differences between the platforms are the fees: Apple will take 30% in year one and 15% from then on; Spotify will take 0% for two years, then a 5% fee going forward.

Related: Spotify’s surprise - Stratechery

📝 Modern publishing

What Substack is really doing to the media

A key to understanding Substack’s impact on the news is to recognize that the kind of journalism that tends to thrive there—so far, at least for the most part—is not actually news. It’s commentary and analysis.

Slate does an excellent job of mapping out Substack's success as a parallel to traditional media's weaknesses. Mainly, while the internet encouraged unbundling (separate websites for sports, weather, financial reports, job searching — all of which used to be sought out in newspapers), personalities became the highest value differentiators. Newspapers failed to capitalize on this trend, making it easier for a competitor (like Substack) to scoop up the best talent and give them free rein within their unbundled domains.

Related: After 50 years, The New York Times is retiring the term “op-ed”

Top 10 new digital tools for media professionals

In this article, WNIP highlights a few tools publishers may find useful, such as an automatic transcriber, a software that reveals user-tracking technologies, and a Twitter plugin that helps creators better understand their audience demographics. Additionally, there are a few tools specifically for those adjusting to remote work for the first time.

Newsrewired: Leading change in the digital newsroom

For those interested in starting, running, or improving news publications, Journalism.co.uk is hosting a digital conference in May to help journalists navigate the post-pandemic media world. Tickets start at £150 for the four-day event.

Related: Why newsletters won't kill newspapers

📬 Email newsletters

Most effective subscriber retention strategies, according to publishers

If people perceive the information to be unique, compelling, entertaining and useful, they will subscribe. If not, they won’t.

A recent survey of 500+ publications revealed the most effective retention strategies for keeping readers subscribed and engaged. The three top-cited were a good onboarding sequence, intentional effort to study reader interests, and sending regular renewal reminders to subscribers. Although they discovered many valuable tactics, the survey authors concluded that quality of content remained the most important factor for subscriber health.

Lessons from Li Jin - The Patron Saint of The Passion Economy

This summary of Li Jin's interview on the Indie Hackers podcast contains several actionable takeaways for newsletter authors. Jin's three main tips were: start below your capabilities so that you can free up energy for feedback and changes, build something people are motivated to use — not just something that's nice to have, and don't be afraid to take chances with your marketing since attention precedes validation.

Related: Top of the funnel content can drive conversions

💻 Technology

Apple just changed the ad market — forever

Once you install the upgrade, your phone (or iPad) stops advertisers from tracking you between apps and websites by default.

Adam Tinworth examines the change brought about by IOS 14.5, which disables a feature advertisers have long taken for granted. Tinworth points out that this update pulls at a deeper thread — how do publishers view their audiences? "Are you treating your audience as a valued set of subscribers, whom you have a relationship with? Or as a cohort of data points to be sold to whomever will pay?"

Technology and publishing increasingly go hand-in-hand, with the former often dictating opportunities for the latter. This piece introduces the technologies that are most likely to have major impacts on existing business models for publishers such as artificial intelligence for content creation, increased access to the internet for new populations, and smart speakers facilitating an increased demand for audio content.

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#147 — Should publishers start a podcast?

#147 — Should publishers start a podcast?

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From Apple's premium podcast surprise to the TikTok exodus, this issue captures the biggest moves happening across the publishing space. Regardless of medium, attention is currency in the content world. Those who understand how to attract it, direct it, and capitalize on it will inevitably shape the future of publishing.

💯 Top picks

Apple launches paid podcasts

You can offer shows with paid subscriptions, or fans can listen to free shows that come with additional benefits when they subscribe.

There were a few key reveals during Apple's recent virtual event: candy-color iMacs, an M1 iPad Pro, and a subscription solution for Apple Podcasts. The last of which is significant because Apple is offering audio creators a viable alternative to ad-only revenue models. This change will dramatically shake up the podcasting landscape, similar to how membership options have changed the way publishers and writers monetize their work online.

Useful tip: Turning your written content into audio content, by reading it aloud or using it as a conversation starter with guests, can be a great way to reach new audiences through content repurposing. It could be a good time to experiment with this opportunity since there will be a renewed interest in the format due to Apple's announcement.

Related: Podcast subscriptions vs. the App Store

💸 Business models

Patreon CEO breaks down the future of the creator economy

All these things are pointing in this one direction of making the creator economy bigger and helping more creative people do what they do best.

Jack Conte, CEO of Patreon, was recently interviewed by Yahoo Finance to give their take on the recent explosion of creator-oriented startups. Conte's main takeaway was that all of the competition would ultimately produce better tools, career paths, and monetization models for creators.

Related: The case for universal creative income

TikTok-native publishers look to expand business on other platforms

Digiday examines the trend of growing TikTokers leaving the platform once they've amassed significant followings. As YouTube-native, Facebook-native, and Instagram-native creators discovered previously, building a business on a platform you don't own is not only unsustainable but dangerous. Inevitable changes to the algorithm, competing platforms, and newer creators all present significant challenges to the success of a brand. That is why serious publishers must own their platform from day one. Social media can be a great discovery channel, so long as the audience is then directed to a creator-owned home base.

📝 Modern publishing

Writer collectives gain steam

Independent writers are joining forces to create networks of shared resources to make it easier to strike out on their own.

A recent trend highlighted by Axios is an increasing number of writers opting to work in collectives versus personality-driven solo ventures. One of the most successful examples of this is the publication Every, which boasts 21 writers across a bundle of 12 interdependent publications. Cooperatives provide individual writers with more support along with a better distribution of tasks. However, personality, quality, and goal differences are likely to arise.

What publishers can learn about media innovation, from The Guardian, BBC, FT, NYT and WSJ

Experimentation became the default mode for many traditional media companies as they struggled to keep their lights on amidst the pandemic. A few of these experiments led to new content formats, novel ways of engaging audiences, and surprising marketing tactics. This article's summary of the innovations may spark experimentation ideas for you to try.

No, Americans haven’t abandoned journalism values like transparency and oversight

This week, Nieman Lab refuted the published findings of the American Press Institute's recent study on journalistic values (see Publisher Weekly Issue #146). Nieman's argument was that API skewed the statistics in order to present a problem that doesn't exist. Mathematically, the majority of American's prioritize exactly the same values, regardless of their political views. This story is a good reminder of the truth in Mark Twain's quote, “Facts are stubborn things, but statistics are pliable.”

📬 Email newsletters

The downside and the up

In this personal essay by Web Smith, founder of 2pm, they detail the emotional, financial, and mental challenges it took to build their publication from a solo operation into a team of 10+ creators. Smith also reflects on the pros and cons of such growth, noting the transition from creator to leader as one not every writer will want to make.

Related: How to stop doing so many stories

Newsletter Fest 2021

The Newsletter Fest hosted by Curated brought together several influential speakers in the digital publishing space to share their wisdom, including Dan Oshinsky, Anum Hussain, Ryan Johnston, and many more. All of their recorded Zoom sessions are now available on YouTube through the above link. If you're unsure where to begin, the session titled 4 newsletter business models is an excellent starting point.

💻 Technology

Kindle Vella: Description, features, and tips for authors

Kindle Vella is Amazon’s response to a number of similar platforms that have sprung up over the years, such as Radish, WebNovel, and Wattpad.

Vella is a new Amazon platform for sharing and selling short, serialized publications. While the tool is primarily aimed at fiction writers, it does present opportunities for non-fiction writers to learn how to make their publications more compelling (e.g., using overarching narratives to connect individual posts). Furthermore, this move by Amazon supports that there is a growing demand for episodic reading material.


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#146 — What publishers can learn from content creators

#146 — What publishers can learn from content creators

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The digital publishing space is undergoing a period of significant transformation. While newsrooms struggle to save their legacy publications, solo writers are finding success by using modern platforms to reach untapped audiences. In this issue, we explore the undercurrents driving these trends and the growth models working today.

💯 Top picks

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

At the heart of every content strategy is a funnel — a model for how your ideal fans will discover your work, engage with what you've made, and ultimately support what you do.

The latest article on our blog introduces the concept of a creator content funnel. This framework aims to help publishers adapt the growth methods other influencers and creatives used to establish their brands by following these four stages: discovery, trust, access, and purchase.

Useful tip: Create different types of content to accomplish different goals across various platforms. This will help you reach the right people so that you can successfully monetize your audience down the line.

💸 Business models

Start with a free newsletter, then develop niche paid subscriptions for that audience.

This week Trends.co released an in-depth slide deck explaining their model for growing and monetizing a newsletter publication. The core argument was that all publishers should begin with a free product to gain exposure, then leverage a portion of that audience into a paid, niche product. To further support their points, they include case studies on Morning Brew and James Altucher.

Philanthropic support is a small but growing revenue stream for The Guardian

Last year, approximately 3% of The Guardian's operating budget came from donations to the media group. These funds were geared towards "reporting projects that might be difficult to justify funding" with traditional revenue streams. It's an intriguing model, similar to that of patron-funded creators, that could open new monetization opportunities for smaller publishers wanting to pursue niche stories.

📝 Modern publishing

A new way of looking at trust in media: Do Americans share journalism’s core values?

The trust crisis may be more rooted in people’s moral values than their politics.

A study conducted by The Media Insight Project revealed a number of interesting findings about people's trust in journalists. Most notably, the political divide often referenced by mainstream media has more to do with how people understand and prioritize specific values in their own lives, more so than it does with the voting patterns of those same people. The most promising finding from the report was that journalists across the political spectrum could increase their trust factor with audiences by writing to broad moral values and including "different moral angles" in their stories.

Related: Who pays when a journalist is bribed?

Substack will spend $1 million to support “up to 30” local news writers

Substack aims to increase its footprint in the news genre by recruiting a cohort of promising local journalists to their platform. Those accepted into the program will gain "mentorship, editing and design services [...] business support and a cash advance." The program is open to writers worldwide, though only US-based ones will receive the healthcare and legal perks. Initial reviews on the potential of this program have been mixed. Those chosen for the initial cohort will likely have a significant impact on its future.

Newsrooms still haven’t figured out what to do when their journalists are harassed online

While opinions are necessary for good journalism, they can present dangers for the journalists who present them. Internet trolls are not unique to the publishing space, but they can get particularly aggressive when sensitive topics are addressed. For independent publishers, it's a valuable exercise to think through your own strategies for responding to, ignoring, or refuting negative responses to your work.

📬 Email newsletters

How newsletters will inevitably change media and the power of journalists

At the heart of this is a power rebalancing between star writers and media companies.

Not everyone wants to run their own publication. It's a point that often gets lost in the newsletter conversation, especially amidst the current gold rush occurring in the space. Adam Tinworth addresses the pros and cons of being a solo writer versus working within an established brand, and how increased ways to monetize one's writing can save us from all-or-nothing thinking about our careers.

Related: Journalists are creators now, and that's a good thing

💻 Technology

Why we’re freaking out about Substack

The biggest threat to Substack is unlikely to be the Twitter-centric political battles among some of its writers. The real threat is competing platforms with a different model. The most technically powerful of those is probably Ghost, which allows writers to send and charge for newsletters, with monthly fees starting at $9.

The New York Times recently published a piece diving into the trials and triumphs experienced by Substack over the last few months. The most useful portion of the article discussed the platform's alternatives, and what writers might consider as they seek to build a digital home base for their publishing.  

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#145 — How to experiment with your newsletter pricing

#145 — How to experiment with your newsletter pricing

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In this issue, we highlight a few of the most exciting experiments and growth tactics happening in publishing this week. Plus, as the alternative mediums of audio and video content continue to expand, the tools and strategies used in these domains could be adapted to help writers promote and monetize in new ways. Keep reading to learn how some of your fellow publishers are making their newsletter business models work.

💯 Top picks

Subscription pricing: learnings from publishers who dared to experiment

Twipe recently published an excellent article detailing three pricing experiments that led to significant growth for their publishers.

Two experiments proved that longer-term trials (6+ months vs. 4-weeks) and subscription lengths (2+ years vs monthly) led to higher retention rates as well as increased growth across the board. After studying the results, the author added, "longer contracts build stronger relationships."

A third experimenter introduced a 400% price increase after concluding that "quadrupling of subscribers was unrealistic therefore a price increase was the only way to grow their reader revenue."

Publishers of all sizes can glean takeaways from these examples: price in a way that encourages long-term relationships, don't shy away from strategic increases, and seek answers through experimentation.

💸 Business models

The full-time creator Packy McCormick on the Danny Miranda podcast

"Packy McCormick is the writer behind Not Boring. In one year, his newsletter grew from 400 to 42,000+ subscribers."

This video interview dives into the McCormick's unique strategy that enabled them to grow a sizable fanbase incredibly quickly. For those unfamiliar with Not Boring, the author describes it as "the most fun way to learn about what’s going on in business." If you're unable to watch the entire interview, Miranda also provides two shorter highlight videos from the conversation on his channel.

The Girls’ Night In team is closing its virtual membership group

Growth is the goal of almost every publisher. But it's important to remember that growth can be a double-edged sword. When it happens too quickly, it can destroy itself. This was the case for a community that quickly grew to 1,700+ members. Unfortunately, it didn't have the pricing or team required to keep it afloat.  The founder writes, "it became clear over these last few months that Lounge was no longer a sustainable model for us operationally or financially."

Useful question to ask: How can you make your publication and related offerings sustainable from day one so that when growth occurs, you're fully prepared?

Related: Scale was the god that failed

Clubhouse’s new direct payments let you toss a coin to creators, and they get 100 percent

"Clubhouse says it won’t take a cut of payments, meaning that creators get the entirety of what somebody sends them." As the creator economy matures, individuals are becoming more attuned to which platforms make sense from a financial perspective (i.e., why Ghost has had a 0% platform fee from day one). Expect to see this trend continue as platforms figure out how to incentivize creators away from their competitors.

📝 Modern publishing

Barbells vs. treadmills: a fresh take on content strategy

“What is the best possible content we are positioned to create that will add the highest value to the lives of our target audience?”

Every publisher is familiar with the treadmill trap: the ever-increasing rate that new content needs to be created. Janessa Lantz offers a different strategy based on evidence that sheer "volume of [conent] isn’t only useless, it’s actually harmful."

Related: Why ‘vertical volatility’ is the missing link in your keyword strategy

The publishing curse

Tobias Van Schneider addresses one of the most common problems writers face as they create a library of published work, "The more we recycle our creations, the more watered down they get." In a similar conclusion to the piece above, Tobias points out that publishers must strike a balance between business and creative goals, lest they allow the demand for volume to drain their creative ability.

7 questions to help local media rebound in 2021

The questions raised in this article address some of the most pressing issues in media today, such as misinformation, understaffing, and employee burnout. The pandemic accelerated changes, both positive and negative, across the industry. Now, the question is what can, and should, local news look like in a globalized, post-pandemic, digital world?

📬 Email newsletters

Number of sent and received e-mails per day worldwide from 2017 to 2025

"While roughly 306.4 billion e-mails were estimated to have been sent and received each day in 2020, this figure is expected to increase to over 376.4 billion daily mails by 2025."

In an encouraging bit of data for newsletter writers, email communication is expected to grow steadily over the next five years as an increasing number of the world's population comes online. Despite the rapid pace at which technology moves, the world is still very much at the beginning of its digital revolution.

Related: Proof that print is dead and why it should be

How Josh Spector monetizes 25,000 newsletter subscribers

Spector is mostly known for his free newsletter For The Interested. However, he's been able to leverage his free audience into a myriad of paid opportunities such as consulting, cross-posting on Medium, publishing ebooks, classified ads, and subscriptions for his productivity newsletter. His current focus is increasing the total subscription revenue so that he can reduce his reliance on consulting clients and ads.

How to promote your newsletter on Reddit

The Newsletter Crew offers four tactical steps to gaining an audience through Reddit. These include joining appropriate subreddits, increasing Karma through interactions, and strategically repurposing your newsletter content in posts. Although Reddit users can be unforgiving, the platform is often one of the simplest ways of accessing passionate niche communities.

💻 Technology

Clubhouse: Everything you need to know as an indie hacker

You don't have to look far to bump into a story about Clubhouse's massive growth over the last year. This article takes a different approach by offering creators a practical guide to using the platform effectively. The author reviews a brief history of the tool, current opportunities for makers, and a high level view of how other social platforms are aiming to join the audio gold-rush.

Related: Audio is in its second golden age, and Spotify is about to win it all

Can podcasts scale in Africa?

The continent of Africa is often overlooked for the technological advancements happening across its massively diverse landscape. Yet, there are some challenges preventing the widespread adoption of mediums taken for granted in other parts of the world. David I. Adeleke addresses podcasting in particular, "podcasters in Africa have to deal with the high cost of data and inadequate phone features." Although this may slow podcast growth in the near term, obstacles like these often lead to newer solutions that improve upon (and at times, fully replace) their predecessors.


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Forward to a friend and let them know where they can subscribe (hint: it's here).

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#144 — How to get your first 1,000 subscribers

#144 — How to get your first 1,000 subscribers

Want to get featured below? Submit an article.

The creator economy moves fast. It seems like every time we turn around there's a new app in the charts or a new creator making a living from some overlooked market. FOMO is real. However, it's important to remember that the core principles of business remain the same and those who apply them will find success in due time. In this issue, we highlight a few of those principles, such as leveraging relationships to grow, committing to transparency to build trust, and the importance of always leaving room for experimentation in your strategy.

💯 Top picks

Compound’s Real-World Guide to Getting Your First 1,000 Email Subscribers

This is one of the most helpful breakdowns I've seen for new writers in some time. The team at Compound put together a guide to help readers grow in stages: 0-10 subscribers, 10-50, 50-100, 100-250, 250-500, and 500-1000.

I particularly enjoyed the way they weaved in examples from real authors commenting on their own processes. Even though every writer takes a slightly different path to reach their goals, the principles supporting their efforts are the same, and these are what can help you break through any growth blocks you may be facing.

Useful tip: The strategies you use to grow from 0 to 100 will be fundamentally different than those used to grow from 100 to 1000.

Newsletter platform Ghost generates $3.3 million, doubling its revenue

“We want media companies and individual creators to own their technology, so that no one controls their future,” said O’Nolan, who is CEO. “With Ghost, they own every part of their tech stack.”

Related: Ghost 4.0 features

💸 Business models

In the future, all social networks will have built-in monetization for creators

"The success of platforms that prioritize creators like TikTok, OnlyFans and Substack has led to a mad dash of investments from tech companies into products that help creators monetize their audience." Remember, it's not about being everywhere online. It's about using the platforms that make sense for you in a way that your audience loves.

Related: Q&A with Ann Friedman: What is good about being truly independent?

Radical transparency: how to stand out when everyone's lying

"Everyone wants to be seen as perfect, so we brag and lie." Louis Grenier, author of the Everyone Hates Marketers newsletter, wrote an excellent piece on how honesty is an unfair advantage in today's over-hyped world. How is transparency is a business model? Near the end of this piece, there are six real-world examples of businesses using honesty to position their products in the market. If you've been looking for a unique way to stand apart from your competitors, I recommend you give this one a read.

Is online advertising about to crash, just like the property market did in 2008?

"In March 2019, [Sinead Boucher, the CEO of New Zealand’s leading online news and media site] decided to stop advertising on Facebook, a move that her peers regarded as crazy. 'That action had zero effect on our traffic.'" People are tired of being bombarded with an endless stream of ads. I expect this is partly why subscriptions have boomed. They've allowed consumers to buy back a portion of their attention and privacy. Expect to see similar moves by organizations large and small, especially as the economics of memberships become more popular.

📝 Modern publishing

Substack is a scam in the same way that all media is

"There may be something distasteful about the fact that Substack benefits from journalists’ financial desperation. [...] The problem is that legions of talented journalists are going underemployed, even as statehouses across the country are going under-covered."

Every industry has faced significant interruption in the last year because of the pandemic. However, most of the trends we've seen were simply the acceleration of forces already at work. The question isn't whether or not journalists will be around in a decade but rather, what will their roles look like in the new economy?

Related: Substack raises more money, but is that a good thing?

Online communities for young journalists: the good, the bad and the ugly

This article reviews the highs and lows new professional writers often face when trying to navigate their careers in a landscape where social media is a requirement. Bottom line: you will get out of it what you put into it. Don't take anything too personally online. Journalists are, by profession, truth-tellers. That positioning is bound to attract some negative attention in today's world. But the right communities can help you rise above it.

Medium is yet another example of why tech companies won’t save journalism

The latest Medium pivot away from an in-house editorial team reminded industry leaders of the (often) uncomfortable relationship publishers have with the platforms they choose to write on. "Journalism is a difficult business, and most naive tech companies that tried it out left bloodied." That is why the most sustainable alternatives will focus on equipping and prioritizing creators, not replacing them.

📬 Email newsletters

In the newsletter game, niches make riches.

In this tweet thread by Brad Wolverton, Director of Content at The Hustle, highlights three niche publications that are achieving incredible results. Such as the Ferrari Market Letter, a publication dedicated to superfans of the automaker that is pulling in around $2m annually from a subscriber-base of only 5,000.

Related: How I got 1600 followers in 28 days on Twitter

Lessons from 1,000 newsletter writers with Yaro Bagriy

In this podcast interview, Yaro, author of the Newsletter Crew blog, reviews some of his most interesting finds from studying nearly a thousand successful newsletter case studies. The content is primarily beginner-focused, so if you've been waiting to get your publication off the ground, give this episode a listen.

9 subscriber retention strategies

The American Press Institute recently released the results of a survey with data from 500+ publications. Amongst the most useful findings were the successful retention practices implemented by those surveyed. The top three activities were: creating a complete onboarding process, continually testing subscription prices, and preemptively addressing expired credit cards.

💻 Technology

Bringing YouTube Shorts to the U.S.

Shorts are YouTube's answer to TikTok's meteoric rise. Here are two ideas to note from this announcement: 1) regardless of the type of media you create, prioritize the mobile experience and 2) consider how you can make micro-versions of your content in order to attract new users.

Related: How I went from 4,000 to 140,000 YouTube subscribers in one year

Google Is Taking Away the Cookies and Plans to FLoC Us All Instead

The way targeted ads work online is changing. Here's a good summary of how this change will work.

"The problem (and power) of cookies is that they help advertisers target so precisely that when you go online there's a unique identifier just for you. It’s one-to-one marketing. Google's FLoC replaces these individual identifiers with a system that puts users into groups, or cohorts, based on common interests."

On the positive side, this should help people maintain a higher level of privacy online. On the negative side, websites, especially smaller ones, may have trouble attracting the same readership levels as before which could lead to a number of sites shuttering.


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#143 — How to find your newsletter audience

#143 — How to find your newsletter audience

Want to get featured below? Submit an article.

This week we cover a range of actionable topics centered around sharing and marketing your written creations. Below are links to articles about pricing, rewarding your subscribers, overcoming growth slumps, and much more. Plus, you'll find an overview of the biggest changes happening in and around traditional media. Enjoy!

💯 Top picks

How Morning Brew went from college newsletter to $75 million in 5 years

"[Our audience] really was college students at first, and we quickly learned that this can be attractive for young business professionals as well. And that was kind of our “aha” moment of like, 'Oh, this is bigger than just college students. This is for everyone.'"

Most products, like newsletters, begin with too broad of an audience in mind. The Morning Brew experienced early traction because they pursued the opposite. They niched-down into the University of Michigan business student population. Then, once they had a hungry audience who were already sharing their content, they began to niche-up, and systematically expand their reach.

Useful tip: If you're starting a publication, it's more beneficial to err on the side of starting too small than too broad.

💸 Business models

9 creative newsletter promotion ideas to beat your subscriber goals in 2021

One of the most helpful suggestions is the advice to repurpose content, which can save writers from the "vicious cycle" of always needing to create something new. Regardless of your promotion preferences, every successful creator must find a balance between creation and marketing.

Related: "The most successful creators are good at what they do, but GREAT at marketing it."

This article by ConvertKit offers a good overview of industry figures to help publishers navigate their initial pricing discussions. For example, the current average monthly cost for a digital newsletter subscription is $11, while the average annual cost is $100. Granted, there are outliers, and how you price your product can have a drastic impact on the audience you attract.

📝 Modern publishing

Rewarding good subscriber content is not the same as rewarding clickbait

There's been a huge discussion around The Telegraph's move to "link journalists’ pay to some element of performance". Many figures in the field are afraid that it will lead to a surge of clickbait-type articles. But, as others point out, performance is more complex than views and clicks and it's within that complexity where a new opportunity for journalism may arise.

Related: “Pay for popularity”: Publishers need to experiment more, not less, with performance tools

EL PAÍS now counts on more than 100,000 digital subscribers

"We are going to emerge from this global crisis with a better editorial proposal and a promising business model." Traditional newspapers and media organizations are moving towards subscription models and seeing incredible benefits because of it. As more large organizations prove the viability and attractiveness of this model, small to medium publishers will surely benefit too.  

Subscribe to help The National Wales hire a politics reporter

The National is holding a drive to reach 1,000 subscribers in order to help them acquire a full-time political voice for their publication. I believe this level of transparency will help regional papers to grow in popularity as it could encourage the subscriber-base to feel as though they have a more direct relationship with the writers (a model indie publishers have proven to be effective).

The Medium pivot is the message

Medium recently shut down their private editorial department and sent shock waves through the digital publishing industry (again). "The same amenities that once advantaged publications — newsrooms full of journalists, teams of support staff, august office buildings — are now in many ways liabilities." The question is will its competitors see this as an opportunity to fill their gap or a warning to avoid the space?

Related: Medium tells journalists to feel free to quit after busting union drive

📬 Email newsletters

When your paid newsletter stops growing

In this discussion post, a creator faces the difficulty of growth stagnation. What's interesting is that newsletter writers, in particular, seem to fall prey to the Field of Dreams fallacy, "Build it and they will come." Marketing must go hand in hand with creation for your project to succeed.

Sovereign writers and Substack

Ben Thompson addresses the controversy about Substack Pro as well as where the line between responsible employer and neutral platform lies. He also offers three "realities" Substack must overcome to remain competitive as a platform for serious publishers.  

What I’ve learned in the second year of running a subscription newsletter business

Dan Frommer of The New Consumer offers insights from his personal journey from traditional media into the world of independent publishing. His lessons learned include his experience using monthly, quarterly and annual membership models, why traditional media is still so attractive to most writers, and how the technology you use can make or break your audience relationship.

💻 Technology

How to get your first $100 MRR with Noah Bragg of Potion

Potion is a tool to create custom websites using Notion. It's an interesting SaaS product, but the usefulness of this piece is in how they built credibility for their product through a curated newsletter. This is a tactic more creators could benefit from: the content you get discovered through doesn't need to be the same as the content you make money on.

The tools behind a 7-figure newsletter

Trends by The Hustle offers a behind-the-scenes look at the tech stack they use to run their newsletter. Note that this is a subscriber-only article. For a similar article on this topic, you can check out this article on premium newsletter case studies.

John O'Nolan of Ghost ($3.3M/year) talks creators, decentralization, no-code

The CEO of Ghost, the tool Publisher Weekly uses to create and send these newsletters, discusses how this unique platform fits into the broader creator economy trend. Below is a snippet of the conversation on why so many serious publishers are switching to this platform.

"I think platforms like Substack are trying to be the Amazon of this space, with a big marketplace and lots of people that exist under one brand. They want to be huge, and take on big media companies in a pretty aggressive way. Where we fit in is trying to be the Shopify of the space, with a long tail of thousands of publishers powered by a common set of technology. Nobody needs to know what Ghost is. I want people to know the creators that we power, instead." — John O'Nolan

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#142 (Special Edition) – Tools to turn your audience into a business

#142 (Special Edition) – Tools to turn your audience into a business

This newsletter is run by the team at Ghost and we've never been more excited to share what's new — so we hope you don't mind that this issue is a little different than usual!

Powerful creator tools for independent publishing

In 2013, our original vision for Ghost launched on Kickstarter. The catalyst was a simple question: what would a platform dedicated to publishing look like? Eight years later, thousands of publishers (like you!) are using the platform to publish professionally.

This week we announced our latest major release, Ghost 4.0, which brings creators of all kinds a better platform to build a website, grow an audience, sell premium subscriptions and send email newsletters.

Writers who launched Ghost sites last year are already generating more than $2Million per year in revenue for their own independent subscription commerce businesses.

And we're only just getting started.


What you can do with Ghost 4.0

💰 Build memberships and subscriptions in 135 currencies with 0% payment fees — so you can build a sustainable business around your content.

📬 Deliver email newsletters in a couple of clicks — focus on creating, instead of juggling a complicated tech stack.

📈 Access powerful insights from a brand new dashboard — to give you the information you need to achieve the success you want.

💻 Implement an embedded memberships and subscriptions UI in any theme — get up and running fast, no code required.

💅 Choose beautiful themes, get access to Ghost experts, and enjoy more customization options — give your content the design it deserves.

⚡️ Start publishing from $9/mo using the new Starter plan — never let cost stop you from creating.

Here's a complete list of what's new (there's  so much more).


👏 Join the conversation

Find out what others are saying about Ghost 4.0, ask questions over at Product Hunt, or join our invite only community.

"Switched our blog from HubSpot to Ghost a year ago -- turned out to be a great decision." — Danny Greer

Congrats to the @Ghost team on 4.0 launch. TLDR: Build a subscription audience, track engagement, and develop themes with ease. My review after years of using is ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ — Alex Welcing

With the ridiculously impressive 4.0 release from Ghost today, I really don’t understand why any professional newsletter or membership site would go anywhere else. If you’re serious about serving your readers and quality independent publishing, I cannot recommend Ghost enough. Uri Bram

Newsletter curation and discovery is one of the biggest problems facing readers and writers, and Ghost is the best solution I’ve seen. Plus, it’s just beautiful. Congrats! — Süheyla Şeker


📰 In the news this week

The Secrets Behind Morning Brew's Growth to 2.5 Million Newsletter Subscribers

The World of Newsletter Acquisitions

Financial Times CEO: Publishers don't have to choose between ads and subscriptions - they can have both

Why email newsletters are the unlikely star of 2021

Facebook to Offer Self-Publishing Tools for Content Creators

Why newsletters are key for habit formation

Parse.ly’s 2020 content analytics report: what publishers need to know


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#141 — Are independent newsletters killing journalism?

#141 — Are independent newsletters killing journalism?

Want to get featured below? Submit an article.

The creator economy is evolving at an incredible pace and publishing is at the cross-section of the most important changes. This week we take a look at how newsletters, big and small, keep the lights on, why "zombie" subscribers aren't necessarily a bad thing, and whether the future will be kind to the email newsletter format.

💯 Top picks

Does Substack harm journalism?

This week's top pick is the result of a tweetstorm that set the writing community on Twitter ablaze. In the linked Q&A, a UCLA professor argues the lack of "editorial oversight" and "newsroom ethics" found in independent newsletters will ultimately damage the field of journalism and the democracies it supports.

Although a portion of her concerns may be valid, the heart of her argument sits upon a very big assumption: that newsroom ethics are more aligned with reader values than those of independent journalists.

The meta-trend of people moving their trust from institutions to individuals is a response to misaligned ethics. Tools like Ghost or Substack aren't trying to replace newsrooms. Instead, they are equipping the next wave of journalism: individuals with a voice.

💸 Business models

How SoundCloud’s new royalty payouts work

SoundCloud plans to shift their pro rata royalty model to user-centric one (aka "fan-powered") in an effort to increase the earning potential for smaller creators: "your subscription money will only go to the artists you actually listen to." This shift raises the question, what other platforms might adjust their models in order to attract more creators?

The era of audio creators has arrived

The New York Times recently published a story on the success, and subsequent growing pains, achieved by social media newcomer Clubhouse. One useful takeaway is that creators on the platform are learning to execute strategies they've seen work on other platforms: "the same way Viners got together, and Instagrammers got together to grow and collaborate seven years ago, it’s happening behind the scenes on Clubhouse."

Twitter tests new e-commerce features for tweets

"With a new Twitter card format, the company is experimenting with tweets that include a big “Shop” button and integrate product details directly into the tweet itself, including the product name, shop name and product pricing." The attempt to remove as many barriers as possible between creators and their customers is a smart one. Perhaps Twitter is making a move before tools like CashDrop dominate the micro-shop experience.

📝 Modern publishing

Stop thinking what others would like to read

Hrvoje Šimić offers fellow creators a thought we often need reminding of: "Don’t be afraid to publish. Don’t surrender to the self-censoring voice that represents 'society' [...] Stop thinking what other people would like to read and start writing about what you’re interested in."

Churn! Churn! Churn! (To every subscriber there is a reason)

We'd all like to believe that every subscriber we have reads every creation we publish. But a recent study showed that 20-49% of digital subscribers are "zombies" - individuals who pay for content they do not consume. Rather than being a cause for alarm, the article sheds light on how publishers can use this information to engage with their audience in more strategic ways. In summary, "Continue working to build habit in readers, but diversify your value propositions."

📬 Email newsletters

The first ever Newsletter Fest is scheduled for April 12-16, 2021

Curated is hosting an online newsletter event for publishers, marketers, and independent creators. To date, they have 13 speakers on board including Anum Hussain from Below The Fold and Margo Aaron from That Seems Important. You can read more details on the event's Notion page.

Million dollar newsletter

Writer Jake Singer dissects the business model of the Not Boring newsletter. It's an interesting read, albeit 100% of the newsletter's income is ad revenue. Ads can help you monetize quickly, but at a cost. They can be unpredictable and often require creators to shift their content towards advertiser preferences rather than reader needs. In contrast, Not Boring could reach $420,000 ARR with only 10% of its 35,000 reader audience opting in to a $10/mo plan. Which strategy would you choose?

Just in case anyone thinks the current newsletter craze is a passing trend, this article makes the case that email-focused communication will only become more valuable in the coming years. “As third-party cookies are slated to be phased out, everyone is looking for an identity solution that will long outlast the death of the third-party cookies, and publishers realize the email address will be at the crux of that solution. [...]  An email newsletter is a great digital handshake."

💻 Technology

Zapier buys no-code-focused Makerpad in its first acquisition

"Zapier, a well-known no-code automation tool, has purchased Makerpad, a no-code education service and community." Acquisitions like these signal that we may be in a renaissance of content-valuation. Companies are beginning to understand how valuable unique content and niche communities can be when paired with the right tool or service. Will we see more of these take place as newsletters, which are often the perfect mix of content and community, continue to grow in popularity?

Data is great — but it's not a replacement for talking to customers

"Real insights come from seeing the world through someone else’s eyes." In what's sure to stand as a divisive piece over time, this article dives into the dangers of relying too heavily on data when building a product or service. The argument reminds me of an excellent quote by Adam Davidson, author of The Passion Economy. "Technology without solutions is always going to lose out to solutions without technology."


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Join the invite-only community! Connect with like-minded people who create content professionally. Fill out this form to get on the list!

#140 — The proven way to find your niche, explained

#140 — The proven way to find your niche, explained

Want to get featured below? Submit an article.

There's lots of genuinely useful things to read in this issue, including a guide for how to find a profitable niche, takeaways about how successful startups achieve content-driven growth, and a deeper look at how the creator economy is just getting started. Plus: A couple of important Google updates. Have a great Sunday!

💯 Top picks

The unexpected (but proven) way to find your niche in the creator economy

Finding a niche in the creator economy can be tough. It's not just about the topic you create content about, but more about what unique value you bring to that topic. The latest article on our blog explores how to find the overlap and find a monetisable niche that gets noticed.

💸 Business models

0-5,000 subscribers in 10 months

Don't miss this thread on IndieHackers where Linda Z shares an impressive milestone and some insights from the journey to 5,000 subscribers and launching a paid product that generated $22k in 4 weeks!

Content-driven growth

A great overview of which startups are best at content-driven growth and what you can learn from them, with a list of high-level takeaways over at Lenny's Newsletter.

10 reasons to be bullish on the creator economy in 2021

The world is more online than ever, the gatekeepers have gone, and there's an audience out there for everything.

How to build a successful value-driven membership model

Dive into the thriving membership model of Argentinean news site RED/ACCIÓN in this episode of the Reuters Institute 'Future of Journalism' podcast.

The Arizona Republic considers killing “zombies” a staple of its digital subscription strategy

"Here’s an idea to steal and adapt: If you want to maximize your digital subscription growth, you must have a focused plan on not only how to grow your subscriber base, but also how to retain and improve the engagement and loyalty of your current subscribers."

📝 Modern publishing

The Subscription Economy has grown over 435% in 9 years

The Subscription Economy has grown nearly 6x (more than 435%) over the last 9 years, according to Zuora, and the uptick is expected to continue.

What happens when a publisher becomes a megapublisher?

"The merger of Penguin Random House and Simon & Schuster has the potential to touch every part of the industry, including how much authors get paid and how bookstores are run."

📬 Email newsletters

Improving open rates with a creative subject line

Get some tips to improve your subject lines and increase your stats.

10 novel content ideas for your next marketing newsletter

If you need a bit of inspiration for the emails selling your products, check out this list. Even if you don't find an idea you like in here, at least you can discover that thisweekin.cat is a thing that exists in the world!

💻 Technology

Google’s massive algo update in 2 months will impact publishers

"This update will introduce new page experience signals, combining Core Web Vitals—designed to measure how users experience the speed, responsiveness, and visual stability of a page—with the existing search signals."

Google says it won’t track you directly in the future

The search company clarified its plans for targeted advertising, promising not to use other ways to track users around the internet following the end of support for cookies in Chrome by early 2022.


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Forward to a friend and let them know where they can subscribe (hint: it's here).

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Anything else? Hit reply to send us feedback or say hello.

Join the invite-only community! Connect with like-minded people who create content professionally. Fill out this form to get on the list!

#139 — Find out how to convert visitors into subscribers

#139 — Find out how to convert visitors into subscribers

Happy Sunday and a warm welcome if you're new here 👋

This issue is full of actionable ideas: Learn how to improve your conversion copy, re-engage lost subscribers, price newsletter sponsorships and improve your newsletters.

Got something to share? Get your work featured, submit here.

💯 Top picks

How to convert visitors into subscribers

You'll need to enter your email address to access this micro-course but it's worth it. Conversion Class by JustGoodCopy is a short 22-minute read that is full of ideas to improve your conversion copy!

💸 Business models

A couple bucks and a few hundred follows: A viral tweet isn’t worth much

"Going viral on Twitter feels good, but it doesn’t pay."

How to price newsletter sponsorships

Getting sponsorship requests for your newsletter? Find out how to set your price.

Best affiliate programs for bloggers

"One reason why this blog monetization strategy is ideal for new bloggers is because signing up for affiliate programs requires little to no initial cash investment, and it is easy for almost anyone to implement."

Spanish daily El Pais tops 90,000 digital subscribers nine months after pandemic paywall launch

"Spain’s biggest newspaper, El Pais, launched a paywall strategy at the start of May, having delayed it by two months at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, and has already reached more than 90,000 digital subscribers."

📝 Modern publishing

Twitter pulls a Patreon

Casey Newton writes about Twitter's latest announcement that it will be launching paywall features called "Super Follows", and what unpredictable effects this might have on the media landscape

Study: Many publishers still looking for solutions to cover the loss of third-party tracking

"Three-quarters (75%) of marketers surveyed believe that while contextual targeting is a useful tactic to ensure advertising relevance without relying on third-party cookies, it alone cannot replace audience targeting – including one in eight (12%) having zero confidence."

📬 Email newsletters

Creating the perfect email newsletter

Some tips for improving your newsletters and keep your subscribers engaged.

What makes a hit newsletter post? Learnings from 5000 subs

"I've written close to 50 posts. They vary from <200 views to 19K+, and have helped me grow from 0 subscribers to close to 5000 in the last 9 months." — Some insights from a newsletter writer on Reddit.

15 effective re-engagement email examples you’ll want to steal

Some ideas for how to re-engage lapsed subscribers with lots of examples.

💻 Technology

LinkedIn is the latest tech giant to launch a creator program

"LinkedIn is building a creator management team to help grow its community of content creators on the platform, according to an announcement from the company's editor in chief."

TikTok are going to teach you about selling on TikTok

They're preparing an affiliate program where creators can promote products, and a University, to teach creators about business.

Notion as content management hub

Notion is a flexible workspace tool that can be used for just about anything. This article dives into how it can be used to keep track of your content goals.


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#138 — Email deliverability unfiltered

#138 — Email deliverability unfiltered

It's time for your weekly picks of the most important stories in publishing. Get your latest tips, downloads & insights about email newsletters, business models, and tech right here — and don't forget, you can submit an article to be included in a future issue.

💯 Top picks

Email deliverability unfiltered: Gmail tabs aren't always bad

"If you’re wondering how to get out of the promotions tab, the most important thing to understand is that it’s actually not a bad place to be" argues Lauren Meyer, plus some tips on how to shift your focus and stop worrying about tabs.

💸 Business models

How your newsletter can help sponsors achieve more ROI

"When a brand is sponsoring your newsletter, they are expecting that your newsletter will lead them to more viewership, increased sales of their products, and increased website traffic."

[Podcast] Why we get news subscriptions wrong

Rasmus Kleis Nielsen, Director at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at the University of Oxford, tells Media Voices where newspapers are going wrong in their subscription marketing.

📝 Modern publishing

How to play outside the duopoly's publishing rules

"Discounting Google and Facebook, publishers invest significant time, money and effort in generating high quality curated original content that is properly researched to engage audiences. In contrast, the duopoly relies on user-generated content, which varies greatly in quality and is entirely unpredictable."

Case study: How Outride.rs developed a loyal audience by going ‘newsletter first’

"Their value proposition was clear, and their earliest newsletter subscribers loved Brief.  They knew that they had a strong foundation for membership."

📬 Email newsletters

Email templates your subscribers will love

Download these free templates for welcome emails, review emails and more (requires an email address).

How to use buyer personas in email marketing strategy

"Buyer personas are an extremely valuable tool for the email team. They’ll help inform every aspect of your strategy, including email design, copywriting, newsletters, content choices, list segmentation, and nurture track development."

#HowToTucson shows the power of a newsletter course

With the help of the News Revenue Hub, the Arizona-based organisation launched a newsletter series aimed at newcomers to the Tucson area and people who wanted to know the city better.

💻 Technology

The state of remote work in 2021

The team at Buffer worked with Doist, Remotive, and We Work Remotely to source responses from over 2,300 remote workers for this report.

Get ready: Google are changing the algorithm in 2 months

"Google’s search algorithm currently depends on certain signals like mobile-friendliness, safe-browsing, HTTPS-security, and intrusive interstitial guidelines. In about 2 months, there will be a major update with new page experience signals, combining Core Web Vitals with the existing search signals."

How SEO is gentrifying the internet

Discover the one weird trick that’s ruining everything you love about being online.

A/B email split testing for beginners

Find out how email marketers use A/B testing and multivariate testing to increase open and click rates.


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Forward to a friend and let them know where they can subscribe (hint: it's here).

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#137 — How much content is too much content?

#137 — How much content is too much content?

Have you seen our submission page? From here you can submit a story to be shared in a future issue of this newsletter. Find out more about the type of stories we're looking for here. We can't wait to hear from you!

Find your regularly scheduled roundup of the latest publishing news here👇

💯 Top picks

[Podcast] Uri Bram, CEO of The Browser — The Small Business Show

Uri speaks to The Small Business Show about running several businesses around something worthwhile.

💸 Business models

Bustle wants to turn its newsletters into an 8-figure business with a rewards program

"The team wants to attract 10 million subscribers across all of the brands’ newsletters and increase the newsletter business from a seven-figure revenue stream to an eight-figure revenue stream year-over-year." One of their growth strategies is to launch a referral program — if you missed it, check out our recent post about newsletter referral programs.

53% of digital publishers witnessed positive revenue growth in Q3 2020, boosted by a significant rise in subscription revenue

"The shift to subscription revenue has gained serious momentum."

[Podcast] Quartz CEO Zach Seward on charting a new course for the business lifestyle brand

"Zach Seward, CEO of Quartz, talks about memberships and advertising, and the Quartz mission to make business better."

📝 Modern publishing

Is your newsroom producing too much content? The answer is probably yes

"Most media produce too much content. Doing less is sometimes the better strategy, as it turns out."

Thinking beyond the "engagement" buzzword

"What does ‘engaged’ journalism mean for you, your audience…and your bottom line?"

📬 Email newsletters

How to make an email newsletter that builds trust and drives leads

Develop a unique focus, make sure you have a clear value prop, and make sure people know about you!

What marketers get wrong about email

“It’s much easier to find brands doing a bad job than brands doing a good job,” says Dan Oshinsky, who's launched newsletters for the New Yorker and BuzzFeed.

How to create, grow & monetize newsletters

Register for the Knight Center's online course which will be held from February 22 to March 21, which takes a look at fundamental skills required to launch and maintain a newsletter through a standard product life cycle.

💻 Technology

25 years ago today, the internet declared its independence — for better and for worse

"Tech utopianism and tech hubris appear more thoroughly intertwined today than ever, and John Perry Barlow’s cyberlibertarian visions echo in the policy debates of today."

Publishers are experimenting with “bookazines,” which are less dependent on advertising

Find out why your favorite magazines are morphing into books!


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Forward to a friend and let them know where they can subscribe (hint: it's here).

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Anything else? Hit reply to send us feedback or say hello.

#136 — How to build a sustainable newsletter growth machine

#136 — How to build a sustainable newsletter growth machine

Hey there! We've made a few tweaks to the usual layout this week to make things a little more relevant.

Your weekly dose of the top stories about publishing, newsletters, and technology is still right here. It was a busy week for news — hope you enjoy the best bits!

💯 Top picks

Should you launch a newsletter referral program?

Find out why the Morning Brew newsletter referral program won't work for everyone, plus some ideas you can steal to build your own sustainable referral growth machine!

Newsletter referral programs explained
Plus some actionable ideas to create a sustainable growth machine for your newsletter business!

💸 Business models

How to monetize your newsletter

"Newsletters aren’t ‘get rich quick’ schemes. It takes patience and consistency to grow a newsletter."

The media bubble and the looming content demand crunch

"All of a sudden everyone is launching newsletter platforms, buying-up apps, and raising money to expand. MediaTech and FinTechs are popping up, eager to get publishers to use their solutions."

📝 Modern publishing

How to go viral: A content marketers guide

Wondering whether viral marketing is for you or how to pull it off? Here's some thoughts from the team at Animalz.

Information foraging: A theory of how people navigate on the web

"Summary: To decide whether to visit a page, people take into account how much relevant information they are likely to find on that page relative to the effort involved in extracting that info."

Lessons learned from 200+ blog posts

Derek Gleason shares lessons from writing over 200 posts for the CXL blog over more than 2 years. Useful takeaways in here for all publishers from content marketers to creators.

Interview: The Information's founder on building a business that you want to work in

Jessica Lessin left The Wall Street Journal to launch The Information in 2013 and retains full ownership of the profitable company. In this interview with NiemanLab, Jessica talks about mentoring, the best advice she got as a new founder, and what matters more than building “the fanciest website".

📬 Email newsletters

Email subject lines: Convert with the C.U.R.V.E concept

"There are two ways you can look at the practice of writing email subject lines:

  • An unforgiving onslaught of repetition under duress that drains your creativity and energy
  • An exciting and rewarding challenge that’s an opportunity to improve marketing and communication skills"

10 powerful conversion tips for a better newsletter landing page

Our friend Rob Hope wrote this awesome piece with actionable insights to improve your newsletter landing page. "The most common mistake I see in newsletter landing pages is the author not considering first-time visitors."

From zero to 100: How to launch a brand new newsletter

Find out how this IndieHackers member grew a list of 100 free email subscribers in 3 weeks using blogging and Reddit!

💻 Technology

A modern understanding of SEO

Put down your SEO cheatsheets and lists of ranking factors. SEO has changed!

Building the next creator platform: Lessons from Gumroad, Substack, and Transistor's growth

An interesting piece by Justin Chu about some of the many platforms building tools for the creator economy space. Speaking of which, with so many options out there to choose from, we believe it's really important to own your stack. Find out more over at Open Subscription Platforms.

How to get traffic from Hacker News: Use the comments

HN can be a great growth opportunity for small businesses, but you have to approach it right. Find out how this startup got a ton of traffic from simply commenting on threads.


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Anything else? Hit reply to send us feedback or say hello.

We're hiring! Are you interested in researching and authoring unique stories about the creator economy and the future of publishing? Find out more & apply.

#135 — The future of email

#135 — The future of email

The latest news about all things publishing, newsletters and tech is here, including an essay, a podcast & a webinar. Enjoy!

💯 Top picks

Webinar: The future of email

"Join marketing experts from emfluence, Email on Acid, and Women of Email as we discuss the history of our favorite form of communication! After a half-century, what have we learned about using email? How did the year 2020 change the practice? What can we expect in the future?"

💸 Business models

Newsletters are growing up and leaving the coop

"After 10 months as a collection of newsletters created via Substack, the team behind the Everything Bundle is breaking out on its own with $600,000 in seed funding, its own content and newsletter software built in-house, and a refreshed brand."

5 welcome message examples to build a rapport

First impressions are important, here are 5 examples of welcome content from ecommerce brands.

[Podcast] Axios’ media reporter Sara Fischer on crafting informative newsletters and media coverage

Sara chats to the Media Voices podcast about the process of crafting a thoughtful, informative newsletter for more than 100,000 readers.

✍️ Modern journalism

Newsletters: An essay

"Newsletters; or, an enormous rant about writing on the web that doesn’t really go anywhere and that’s okay with me" — Robin Rendle

Publishers need to dig deeper for a better advertising model

Providing readers an advertising experience that builds trust—as publishers talk a lot about doing on the news side—could be a taller order.

💻 Technology

Why Denmark’s biggest news site cut reliance on Google's tech

Denmark's biggest news site, Ekstra Bladet, has decided to stop using Google Analytics to have more control of their data.

Even Twitter are making moves in the newsletter space

It seems everyone and their dog is acquiring or launching email newsletter tools recently, including Twitter and it's rumoured Facebook is also working on newsletter tools for journalists and writers.

🤷 WTF?

Split subscription costs with friends

TabTab allows you to connect your bank account share subscriptions with friends.

#134 — Real newsletter growth tactics inside

#134 — Real newsletter growth tactics inside

Your weekly curation of news about independent publishing below includes a lot of growth tips that you're not going to want to miss, including how to grow your email list, increase revenue, attract sponsors and what time you should deliver emails. Enjoy!

💸 Business models

[Podcast] Growing a newsletter to 1+ million subscribers

Sam Parr from The Hustle chats with Newsletter Crew about their growth journey.

Newsletter writers are looking for advertisers

Back when it was still 2020, stories started circling about newsletter writers turning to advertising, the revenue stream that we all thought everyone was tired of. Now it looks like the trend is taking off and startups like Swapstack, Upstart.me, and Letterwell are helping newsletter writers find sponsors.

How to get sponsors for your newsletter

If you're a newsletter writer looking for sponsors, here are some tips from Email Octopus about how to stand out.

[Podcast] Growing an $8000/month newsletter in 4 months

Kevin Conti of Software Ideas launched a newsletter that sends hand-picked SaaS ideas every week and scaled to $8k/mo in revenue with a pre-sale strategy.

The actual best time to send an email newsletter

"We’d love to say it’s 9 am on Tuesdays, but the longer, more accurate answer, is that it depends."

✍️ Modern journalism

Forbes launches massive expansion of paid newsletters

The publisher is hiring 20-30 high profile writers to benefit from the Forbes newsroom while keeping editorial independence. The cost of this for writers? A 50/50 revenue split.

💻 Technology

Mapping the Creator Economy

"The internet is magic and creators are its purest expression."
Hugo Amsellem spent a few months studying the creator economy and mapping out the tools that unlock it.

Using video to power-up your emails

According to this piece, using the word video in your email subject line can increase open rates by 19% and including a video inside your email can improve click rates by more than 300%.

A step-by-step guide to landing pages that convert

Check out this breakdown of what a good landing page looks like, filled with examples and actionable ideas.

Could simply mentioning a brand online become more powerful than linking to their website? Find out more in this explanation of how Google understands linking behaviour in 2021.

🤷 WTF?

News media bargaining code could break the internet — but there’s a fix

"The inventor of the World Wide Web, Tim Berners-Lee, has raised concerns that Australia’s proposed News Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code could fundamentally break the internet as we know it."


#133 — The year of the subscription (again)

#133 — The year of the subscription (again)

Newsflash, it is the year of the subscription. Wait, wasn't that last year too? Either way, that's what everyone is talking about this week after Reuter's published their latest report. Plus: Find out how to get 10k subscribers in a month, how to use exclusive stories to drive growth and the answer to a burning question: do email subscription pop-ups actually work?

💯 Top picks

[Podcast] Growing a newsletter to 100k+ subscribers with Codie Sanchez

Wanna know how to go from 0 to 10k subscribers in 30 days? Newsletter Crew chat with Codie, a successful newsletter creator, about growing Contrarian Thinking to 100k subscribers.

💸 Business models

2021 is the year of subscriptions

But also: publishers need to further diversify revenue streams. Read this roundup of the latest Reuter's report from Twipe. Here's another summary of the same report from WNIP.

Are free subscription trials more effective than paid ones?

"Der Spiegel’s experience suggests freebies are less effective"

Having an email marketing list is better than any social media

"Most entrepreneurs neglect their email marketing strategies. Here's why that's a mistake" 🤔 We're not sure if that's still true — but this article makes a point about having an email list you own vs relying on social platforms.

How NorthJersey.com used subscriber-exclusive stories to drive digital subscriptions

"Here’s an idea to steal and adapt: Prioritize digital subscribers over page views, and provide subscriber-only stories on topics that are vital and unique to your community."

✍️ Modern journalism

Re-imagining what it means to build a direct relationship with an audience

Serial media entrepreneur Lakshmi Chaudhry is testing a space for constructive and empathetic journalism in the middle of a pandemic.

Google launch open fund for debunking vaccine misinformation

"The global rollout of COVID-19 vaccines is exacerbating a perennial problem of misinformation about immunization. To support additional debunking efforts, the Google News Initiative is launching a COVID-19 Vaccine Counter-Misinformation Open Fund worth up to $3 million."

💻 Technology

Flip subscriptions you no longer use

A new launch on Product Hunt that caught our eye — Flipp allows you to sell pre-owned subscriptions you no longer use, which can be bought on www.unloved.xyz/.

Do email subscription pop-ups actually work?

"Why do organizations still utilize pop-ups when clearly anyone you ask hates them?"

Facebook: Prioritising original news reporting

"Update on January 12, 2021 at 10:00AM PT: News articles that do not contain new original reporting or analysis will now receive less distribution in News Feed. The more extensive original reporting an article contains, the more distribution it will receive in News Feed."

🤷 WTF?

Wikipedia is 20, and its reputation has never been higher

"The crowdsourced encyclopedia is a welcome oddity on the modern internet."


#132 — New models for media in 2021

#132 — New models for media in 2021

Happy New Year! We're kicking off your regularly scheduled curation of publishing news today. It's the first working week of the year, so in this round-up you can expect lots of 2021 predictions and strategy highlights. Plus: useful tips for SEO & affiliate marketing. Enjoy!

💯 Top picks

10 things public media should forget and consider in 2021

"To think that life after 2020 will follow a linear path, you’d be kidding yourself. And the ripples of 2020 will continue long past this year."

💸 Business models

Your reading list to start 2021 off right

Learn from these media strategies to kick the year off.

New models for media

"In 2020, many media outlets saw record traffic due to the pandemic. It’s only natural to assume readership numbers will fall in 2021 as life (hopefully) returns to some version of normal."

"This will also be a year of economic reshaping, with publishers leaning into subscription and e-commerce – two future-facing business models that have been supercharged by the pandemic."

Twenty years of TPM — and a shift to memberships

"From 2016 until now, our focus has been almost exclusively on membership growth and everything that goes with it. We still sell direct ads, and we still drive programmatic revenue, but it was clear that memberships were the core of our company."

Newsletter internships = the new foot in the door?

"If I were starting out in media right now in 2021 (or graduating from J-school this spring), I would probably be looking at this growing class of newsletter jobs and betting on them as a more realistic way to get a foot in the door."

✍️ Modern journalism

Is Substack the media future we want?

"Substack, like Facebook, insists that it is not a media company; it is, instead, “a platform that enables writers and readers.” But other newsletter platforms, such as Revue, Lede, or TinyLetter (a service owned by Mailchimp, the e-mail-marketing company), have never offered incentives to attract writers."

Our old models of journalistic impact need to change

"Plus: How newsrooms “pressured from the top” cover their corporate bosses, studies of the “Serial effect” in podcasting, and Facebook’s role as an infrastructure for local political information."

💻 Technology

How to rank well on Google this year

Google published what they look for when ranking websites, here's a quick reference list.

What you need to know about affiliate marketing

Find out how to boost your revenue strategy, increase traffic, and get started with affiliate marketing as a publisher in these short interviews with affiliate experts.

🤷 WTF?

[Podcast] The World, Remade

"How the pandemic has shaped our future: from the built environment, to the way we work, to the way we learn."

#131 — The movement for open subscription platforms

#131 — The movement for open subscription platforms

The final newsletter of 2020 includes a new movement for open subscription platforms, Rafat Ali writes about the importance owning your stack — plus, more roundup articles about 2020 and predictions for next year!

We're taking a short break for a few weeks and we'll return in 2021 for your regular Sunday reading list. Thanks so much for supporting Publisher Weekly!

💯 Top picks

A shared movement for open subscription data

With so many publishers launching paid subscriptions, it’s never been more important to be in control of your own customer data. Open Subscription Platforms is a new movement promoting subscription data portability between products, something which is likely to be a hot topic in the next years.

💸 Business models

On breaking away: 18 years of lessons on journalist-as-an-entrepreneur life

20 tips about becoming a media entrepreneur from Rafat Ali, founder of paidContent (now owned by UK’s Guardian News and Media) and Skift.

Year 2020 in subscriptions and memberships

The Fix shares an end-of-the-year review of what happened in 2020 in podcasting, subscriptions, memberships, newsletters and social media.

Go niche

In 2021, niche media will be the go-to, predicts Tshepo Tshabalala. "The future resilience of the world’s media lies in focusing on niche audiences and verticals. Its success lies in organisations that speak to very specific interests and the need for credible content."

Blogging is back, but better

“The primary difference is that these blogs, these magazines, these whatevers, will be built and guided by the individual creators for their audience, not by the executives they once reported to.”

[Report] Media Moments 2020

What's New in Publishing have released the annual Media Moments report, covering trends in advertising, reader revenue, data, diversity and more.

✍️ Modern journalism

The real reason local newspapers are dying

"I left daily newspaper journalism in 2005. But it’s only gotten worse, because now there is the internet to scapegoat for all of the incompetence and thievery."

Five things you need to know about new EU rules

"The European Union on Tuesday proposed a sweeping set of rules to rein in the power of Big Tech, amounting to the most aggressive legislative effort against the industry to date."

Collaborative between journalism groups seeks to start 500 local newsrooms in three years

The Tiny News Collective says it will provide participants the tools and resources they need to start their own local newsroom.

💻 Technology

Social embeds drive 20% more pageviews for publishers (and Twitter accounts for almost half of that)

"The mobile advertising company Kargo analyzed over two billion pages across Comscore top 250 publishers as well as Kargo’s 700+ premium publisher properties for social embeds, and found them on more than 30% of all article pages, with Twitter making up 46% of the total."

Lessons on growing your list via pop-ups, Instagram, and great landing pages

The December issue of Not A Newsletter includes tips for growing your list, pricing paid newsletters and more.

Don’t expect breaking up Google and Facebook to solve our information woes

“More options are great in theory, but new platforms could also provide a haven for misinformation and hate speech and further prevent us from engaging with opinions that challenge our existing beliefs.”

🤷 WTF?

The rise of the messy advice column

"The format triggers a Pavlovian response: I’m anticipating the satisfaction of either experiencing someone’s fragile self-delusion being eloquently, satisfyingly dismantled; a banal human problem being taken seriously [...] or, if nothing else, reading some truly bonkers shit that will serve as a much-needed escape from the present."

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Anders Norén
@andersnoren
Received a good first issue of the Publisher Weekly newsletter from @TryGhost to read with my morning coffee. I recommend you give it a try:
publisher.ghost.org
5:07 AM - 4 Jun 2018
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Andy McIlwain
@andymci
Publisher Weekly - Issue #29 publisher.ghost.org/issues/publisher-weekly-issue-29-149526… via @revue (Further props to @TryGhost for the newsletter. 90% of the curated stories make their way into my Pocket list. 👍)
5:42 PM - 16 Dec 2018 from Toronto, Ontario
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Jijo Sunny
@jijosunny
Thanks for the votes! I recommend this newsletter by @TryGhost (@JohnONolan) for thoughtful takes on publishing, subscription biz and future of creators: publisher.ghost.org
4:38 PM - 8 Jul 2018
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