News

#168 — What is the ladder method to growth?

#168 — What is the ladder method to growth?

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Ladders are the perfect analogy for business growth. You can see the destination you want to reach and the corresponding direction to head in. However, the journey to get there can only be achieved by climbing one rung at a time. This week, learn the strategies publishers use to keep their eyes on the next best step.

💯 Top picks

How to get your first 100 email subscribers

Getting the momentum started for your new publication can be one of the most challenging steps. The latest post on the Ghost blog helps solve this problem by providing clear actions creators can use to grow. The key is to set smaller milestones (0-10, 10-50, 50-100) and then adjust your strategy at each new increment.

Why Ghost is a great lightweight blogging platform (and how we use it at Ulysses)

The beloved writing app Ulysses recently published a breakdown of why they chose Ghost for their CMS, along with how they use it alongside their app. If you're curious about how these tools can streamline your writing process, give this guide a read.

Related: Why we moved DESK magazine from WordPress to Ghost — DESK

💸 Business models

How Mario Gabriele revolutionized the newsletter business

Indie Hacker Seth King examines how The Generalist newsletter grew to over 41,000 subscribers and $300,000+ in revenue in under 2 years. The article does a great job of highlighting how Gabriele's experiments were the key to success, even though many failed. As it's been said, you only have to be right once.

These metrics predict which readers will pay for news

The Fix argues that for publishers to be successful, they need to take cues from the e-commerce space. Their tactics include leveraging both free and paid products, removing friction from the payment process, and being mindful of balancing content and business goals.

Related: 5 keys to making quality media sustainable — WNIP

17 actionable marketing tips for small businesses in 2021

The team at AHREFs compiled a list of advertising tactics working in today's digital landscape. Although not every entry will apply to those running publications, a few of the ones worth reading are: know who you're targeting, repurpose content, and partner with niche influencers.

📝 Modern publishing

Intuit confirms $12B deal to buy Mailchimp

The latest acquisition by Intuit made waves in the entrepreneurship and publishing circles. Regardless of how this deal may work out for them in the long run, it speaks to the incredible value of email communication. Growing, maintaining, and leveraging your own list of contacts is still one of the most powerful business moves a creator or business can make.

Related: The side hustle that became a billion-dollar startup — Twitter

Some questions (and answers) about the Local Journalism Sustainability Act

This new US bill aims to provide financial incentives to journalistic efforts in three ways:

  • A tax credit of up to $250 to incentivize subscriptions and donations to local news.
  • A tax credit of up to $5,000 for small businesses that buy ads in their local publications.
  • A payroll tax credit to make hiring local reporters, editors, photographers, and other journalists easier.

It has seen initial bipartisan support, although there are still many steps before it becomes official.

Related: How to go from “the future of journalism” to a fire sale in a few short years — NiemanLab

📬 Email newsletters

How I used one Twitter reply to get 99 newsletter subscribers in a day

Writer Honey Syed details how they used conversations on Twitter to accelerate the growth of their newsletter, while also redefining its niche. For those with fewer than 1,000 email subscribers, these are the types of non-scalable strategies perfect for early growth.

What makes a good writer? Human stories, active voice and an open mind

Professional editor and author Steve Gamel shares their best tips for developing writing skills. Their advice includes learning story structure, practicing active voice, and pursuing constructive feedback.

Related: The world's most valuable skill is writing effectively — Dickie Bush

💻 Technology

7 actionable ways to improve your google rankings

SEO is still one of the best long-term growth strategies, especially for those creating written content. Similarweb contributor Brian Dean introduces seven tactics publishers can use right away to improve their positioning and rank higher online.

Winklevoss twins back Payload, a new outlet covering business of space

Payload is a newsletter dedicated to providing the space industry and curious readers the same level of in-depth reporting given to technology companies. It's an example of how newsletters are a particularly useful medium to learn about and interact with new opportunities.

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#167 — The most important part of your business is invisible

#167 — The most important part of your business is invisible

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The principal parts of your publishing business are the ones no one will ever see. The technology running your publication, the values guiding your marketing, the private decisions dictating your public content — these are your foundations. Ultimately, they will decide how high you can scale. In today's issue, learn the moves you can make today to ensure your foundations will carry you into tomorrow.

💯 Top picks

Which creator tech stack is right for you?

The latest article on the Ghost blog breaks down what a tech stack is, how it works, and what creators should look for when choosing their own. Aside from the core components (CMS, ESP, payment processor), the post also recommends a collection of supplementary tools related to analytics, community, and more. The goal with these tools is to build a business you own, from the inside out.

💸 Business models

How to implement the 4 Ps of marketing

The four components of the model are product (what you sell), price (how much you sell it for), place (where you sell it), and promotion (how you get customers).

The team at AHREFs shares how businesses and creators alike can use the 4-p framework to uniquely position themselves in competitive markets. Many solo makers spend the majority of their time thinking about what they will publish (i.e., product) but fail to spend adequate time defining the other three areas.

Related: How to build a personal brand — Shopify

I borrowed James Clear’s Instagram strategy to grow my email newsletter

Karolin Wanner presents an insightful deconstruction of James Clear's social media strategy. Clear does a few things other writers would benefit from: link straight to your newsletter subscription instead of a page with multiple links, fill your feed with repurposed newsletter content, and include a CTA with every post.

📝 Modern publishing

Press Coverage: How to get coverage in the media (and whether it's worth the effort)

One study showed that PR can convert at 10 to 50 times higher than advertising.

James Fleischmann outlines 5 ways independent creators and entrepreneurs can tap into the power of traditional media. The post contains a library of useful links, along with tips that are both affordable and doable by already busy creators. If you have a product with a newsworthy angle, this may be a feasible path to growth.

The worker-owned Defector, at a year old, has over 40,000 paying subscribers and $3.2M in revenue

NiemanLab offers a brief look at the novel Defector, a sports and culture site that has exploded in growth over the last 12 months. A few unique points are that 95%+ of their revenue comes directly from subscriptions; that revenue then goes to helping grow the team, while equitably benefiting the community-owned enterprise.

Decolonizing journalism: what does it mean, why does it matter and where do you start?

Is there a different way for news outlets to cover humanitarian crises?

The New Humanitarian, a non-profit newsroom, is challenging the way conflicts and disasters are covered, especially those in developing nations. Usually, foreign correspondents are sent in with incomplete context to the larger narratives at play. One solution is to rely more heavily on local voices and empower them to tell their stories in new ways.

Related: What attitudes toward news tell us about building trust — WNIP

📬 Email newsletters

The newsletter network effect

Subscribers to one Substack are more likely to subscribe to another.

Alex Kantrowitz, writer of the Big Technology newsletter, explains their theory that subscription fatigue is the wrong way to interpret recent newsletter growth. Instead, as more of the population develops the habit of reading things in their inboxes (e.g., news, entertainment, analysis, etc.), the practice will only continue to spread — similar to how social networks increase in value as more people join. Kantrowitz concludes that what we see in the newsletter space is only the beginning.

Content fatigue is real, and here's how to deal with it

Dr. Fio Dossetto explores the challenge of content fatigue for creators. The condition is similar to burnout but more specific to the topic or content that the work is related to. The author offers 3 solutions, crowdsourced by other industry officials, to help creators break out of their ruts.  

21 Experts on the future of expertise

To some degree, most newsletters are based on the perception of expertise: the writer either has more information than the reader or access to someone who does. However, expertise as a concept is being redefined by technology, changing values, and the speed at which information now moves. This contribution piece features several interesting viewpoints on the subject, along with guidance on how to position your own expertise.

💻 Technology

Twitter takes on Facebook Groups with invite-only Communities

Twitter recently launched an invite-only community solution on their platform meant to offer users a viable alternative to Reddit's subreddits and Facebook groups. Community members will be able to tweet directly to a members-only feed, rather than to all of their followers. This is the latest in a collection of new products rolled out by Twitter aiming to make it a more complete social networking tool.  

Related: 5 Twitter updates publishers should be aware of — The Fix

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#166 — To win big in publishing, start small

#166 — To win big in publishing, start small

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

💯 Top picks

How to start a local newsletter

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

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

💸 Business models

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

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

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

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

Content is a magnet. Community is a moat.

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

7 niche market examples you can learn from

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

📝 Modern publishing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

📬 Email newsletters

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

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

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

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

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

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

19 essential newsletters every journalist should read

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

Salman Rushdie to bypass print and publish next book on Substack

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

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

💻 Technology

Twitter launches Super Follows

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

Two secrets to increasing newsletter readers

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

Making content analytics data actionable: A primer for publishers

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

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#165 — Is trying to be original hurting your growth?

#165 — Is trying to be original hurting your growth?

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Should you copy what works or try to build something unique? It's a dilemma every creator faces on their journey. However, the best answer to this either-or question is often both. There are best practices most every creator will benefit from implementing and areas where the more divergent you can be, the better. It's a balancing act that requires time, patience, and experimentation. This week's collection of resources will help you navigate this challenge.

💯 Top picks

How to build an online community around your content

Online communities are a powerful amplifier. They can supercharge your audience’s loyalty, trust, and engagement with your content.

The latest post from the Ghost blog explores how digital communities can help you reach your business goals. The article includes a 6-step process creators can use to start, grow, and sustain healthy online groups. Plus, there's also a useful guide for deciding whether or not your community should be free or paid.

💸 Business models

Why does every newsletter signup page look the same?

Kolby Hatch, formerly of The Hustle, dissects the 4 elements every newsletter landing page needs and why it's okay for them to look similar. This tweet thread is full of useful images and insights from their time growing The Hustle into the 1.5 million subscriber behemoth it is today.

Serialized books are a burgeoning business

Authors are experimenting with serialized versions of their book in the newsletter format. This article highlights a number of experiments currently happening in the space, such as writer Anand Giridharadas re-releasing chapters of their 2014 book in short-form posts on Substack. Publishers are treating the medium as a marketing channel for the books themselves, but some authors believe the practice could replace print editions completely.

The golden rule

Rob Hardy of Ungated explains the dangers of falling for the allure of "growth hacking" and why treating your fans the way you want to be treated is the only sustainable path to growth. Hardy writes,

If another marketer used this tactic on you, would you appreciate it? Would it improve your relationship with them? Would it make you a true fan? If the answer is no, don’t do it to your own fans. It’s that simple.

📝 Modern publishing

A list of words that every new journalist needs to know

Journo Resources compiled a list of 28 industry terms every news-focused writer should be familiar with. The glossary includes items such as:

  • NIBs — The term used for news in brief. These are short stories of typically less than 100 words.
  • Splash — The story on the front page of a newspaper/magazine.
  • Strapline — A little headline that goes over the main headline.

Commerce is now a revenue stream for a majority of publishers

In a research study by Digiday, they found that the number of publishers utilizing e-commerce as a revenue stream has more than doubled in the last six months. This trend has proven to be successful in other industries, such as with fast food companies selling apparel and accessories. Businesses are starting to understand the power of brand awareness and how it can be leveraged beyond one's typical products.

Related: Digital publishing revenues up by 31.9% in the UK — WNIP

4 ways publishers can capitalize on demand for live streaming

Live streaming has its advantages over traditional video content: it can be delivered quickly, requires less production time and skills, and can drive higher engagement. This article shows how publishers are making use of this technology to not only reach their current audience but to also drive subscription growth.

📬 Email newsletters

Gain newsletter subscribers from your Twitter profile

Last week, Revue announced that users can now integrate directly with Twitter. This enables users to add newsletter subscription boxes to their profiles. Even for those who do not use Revue directly, the service can be linked through Zapier to other email platforms (such as Ghost).

The most profitable newsletters have multiple revenue streams

Louis Nicholls of SparkLoop shares their insights from building products in the newsletter space. Nicholls's main observation is that once creators surpass the 10k mark of subscribers, it becomes increasingly beneficial to expand their product range. The most underrated market opportunity is for the "0.1-1% of subs who will pay for high-ticket products."

💻 Technology

How to use Linkedin creator mode

Social Media Examiner explains how to use the new creator mode on Linkedin profiles. The new setting enables users to add multiple items to their profile: a 30-second video, up to 5 relevant hashtags, social proof elements, and a follow button that can appear on every post you publish.

Substack begins accepting bitcoin payments

The option is currently available only to a select group of crypto-focused publications.

Substack recently announced they would begin working with OpenNode to allow cryptocurrency payments for access to newsletters. The initiative is still in the early stages of development and only open to a small group of users. It's worth noting that several intermediaries are required to make these transactions work, a farcy from being a peer-to-peer solution.

Crux is a startup that is using natural language processing technology to gamify the way visitors interact with the content on websites. They've "developed a widget that calculates a user’s 'knowledge score' on a particular news topic and nudges them into bettering that score by reading more articles." This feature shows promise for updating a space that has remained static for some time.

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#164 — Why action is the answer to your publishing roadblocks

#164 — Why action is the answer to your publishing roadblocks

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Own your platform, be different, persist. The formula for successful publishing has been established. The secrets are graduating into standard procedures. The differentiator, now more than ever, will be the action creators take — not the industry keys they carry. In this week's edition, discover the actions you need to prioritize for your publication.

💯 Top picks

How to format a blog post: A complete guide for new writers

Blog formatting is the practice of making the best ideas the most obvious.

Formating content online is equal parts art and science. It can be the difference between an article that gets read or one that's simply ignored. Readers will find five overarching principles of formating that include a dozen actionable tips to make your writing more appealing to visitors.

💸 Business models

A successful content creator does these 4 things in their content business

A recent study of over 1,400 content entrepreneurs led to the discovery of four trends that can help aspiring creators make more progress towards their growth. Here's a summary of their findings:

  • Dedicate a minimum of 30 hours per week to your content business.
  • Plan to spend at least 2 years building it up before it can financially support you.
  • Make decisions as a business owner, not just a content creator.
  • Invest in owned channels rather than social or third-party alternatives.

Getting noticed: The ultimate contrarian guide to standing out and getting noticed in crowded markets

The Creative Hackers team pulled together a list of psychological triggers and biases creators can use to capture the attention of their ideal users. It's an entertaining, albeit contentious, list filled with items such as capitalizing on one's insecurities, starting arguments with industry leaders, and getting banned to drive up demand.

Related: Is your podcast helping you grow your business? — Tradecraft

How publisher credibility creates economic value

Honesty is good for business, and now there's data to prove it. A study showed how transparency and trust could bolster financial support for media organizations. Some practical ways publishers can improve their credibility include: publishing "making of" and behind-the-scenes pieces, including photographs to support arguments and display sources, and linking to other trustworthy publishers.

📝 Modern publishing

The ultimate list of email marketing stats for 2021

HubSpot compiled data from a dozen different reports (Statista, Litmus, Bluecore, and more) to present a comprehensive look at trends within the email marketing space. Here are a few numbers worth pointing out:

  • Only 64% of small businesses use email marketing to reach customers.
  • 4 out of 5 marketers said they’d rather give up social media than email marketing.
  • 74% of Baby Boomers think email is the most personal channel to communicate with brands.

'Publishers finally are cracking it,' and using data to transform their businesses: INMA report

The publishing industry is heading in the right direction thanks to a championing of data and a shift in business models. The report dissects how instrumental subscription products have been in both growing revenue for struggling media companies and providing data on who their customers are and what they want in terms of products and content. One researcher writes of this change, "News publishers are dreaming again, seeing opportunities to become disruptors themselves."

Related: Is the “journalism crisis” just a capitalism crisis? — Popula

OnlyFans will ban pornography starting in October

Regardless of the type of content one makes, when creators post that content onto third-party platforms, they become beholden to their business models and priorities. As a Media Operator writes, "When you are building your business on someone else’s land, you always run the risk of losing. One day, the landlord decides to get rid of you for whatever reason. ...OnlyFans change is a reminder to own your platform."

📬 Email newsletters

Not a Newsletter — August edition

This month's resource from Dan Oshinsky covers a host of topics across the publishing space, including a deeper dive into how subscriber-only newsletter products work (and why, sometimes, they don't). Of special note are the exclusive resources they included for editors and designers, such as a link to the presentation 25 ways to sign someone up for your newsletter.

How to write emails that people love

In this short video, marketing and email expert Ann Handley discusses techniques writers can use to increase their subscriber engagement. For Handley, the goal should be to create content that is both distinct and relatable, regardless of the topic or genre. Higher engagement not only supports one's business goals but can also become a source of future content ideas and partnerships.  

Newsletters as a subscription hook are now a core offering

At one point, the purpose of email newsletters was to act as a bridge to another product or service. They were the middlemen of digital businesses. But now, consumers and creators alike have discovered this is not the case. They can be stand-alone products when treated as such, as shown by the recent surge of creators entering the space. Now, the competitive advantage is reserved for those who stick with the medium even when the new thing comes into view.

💻 Technology

Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection will not end the newsletter boom: Here’s why

There's been a lot of fuss made about Apple's decision to remove open rates as a data point usable by publishers. However, The Fix argues that this is a beneficial move that will push creators to focus on more telling statistics such as clickthrough rates, conversion rates, and monthly list growth. Flexibility is a core attribute of the newsletter boom, so changes like this will only serve its best interest in the long run.

Instagram is all in on the creator economy

Bloomberg recently interviewed Adam Mosseri, the Head of Instagram. In the recorded video, Mosseri talks about Instagram's focus moving forward: helping creators earn more money through the app, making it easier for them to create and publish video content, and doing a better job of moderating content and misinformation so that social media can feel safe again.

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#163 — Why adaptable publishers keep winning

#163 — Why adaptable publishers keep winning

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To be adaptable means being "able to adjust to new conditions." More than ever, the skill of adaptability will determine which publishers are still around a decade from now. This week's issue of Publisher Weekly targets a number of the ways growing publishers are changing, shifting, and evolving in order to meet their readers where they're at with the content they're looking for.

💯 Top picks

How to create a design brief for a Ghost theme

Your website is the home of your business — a window to the world that promotes your creative work 24/7.

This week's article on the Ghost blog provides clear steps for hiring a professional designer to customize your website. Some of the resources mentioned in the post include a free Notion template to start with, a link to Ghost's expert's directory, and step-by-step tutorials on customizing a Ghost theme.

💸 Business models

The creator economy is in crisis. Now let’s fix it.

There is an immense power imbalance between platforms and creators.

Li Jin offers an in-depth look at the troubles currently facing the creator economy. Their main critique is that the creator economy is following the same detrimental path of the gig economy: exploitation of workers, income insecurity, and the disproportionate power held by platforms. The article includes a number of possible solutions, such as rethinking the platforms and business models used by creators.

Related: Can the creator economy help democratize entrepreneurship? — Entrepreneur

Study finds content entrepreneurs are reshaping creator economy

Researchers have discovered several interesting finds from a new study that surveyed 1,400+ digital creators. Here are a few of the most noteworthy:

  • On average, it takes nine months for a content entrepreneur to earn their first dollar, and 26 months until they generate enough income to support one person
  • 95% are not tied to cities; they just need an internet connection to run their business.
  • Those who are supporting at least a few people with their content business are monetizing content through four different channels on average — meaning revenue diversification is a key strategy for financially mature businesses.

Substack’s global expansion is risky business

Operating a global business is tricky, especially when that business tries to fund journalism in countries not so favorable to it. Reporter Andrew Deck reviews the difficulties Substackers are facing all across the world, from being unable to receive local financial support, to censoring from their governments and receiving serious threats to their safety. Deck highlights the limits of Substack's supports in an effort to show writers viable alternatives.

📝 Modern publishing

Quora joins the creator economy with a new space subscription earning option

The question and answer website Quora has implemented two ways its users can now earn money through the platform. The first is an ad revenue sharing model similar to YouTube's: the more views a response gets, the more income a creator can earn. The second is the addition of private "spaces" that users can subscribe to for access to private content from an individual creator.

Subscriptions, newsletters can help solve the media financing problem

For a long time, investors steered away from the publishing space because of shrinking markets and razor-thin margins. However, this is changing because of the influx of membership-based models used in the industry. Venture capital firms and individual investors are now lining up for a chance to invest in media companies, big and small, as subscription models revive the space. This move speaks to the power of sustainable business plans.

Related: Katherine Bell, editor-in-chief of Quartz, on the power of newsletters — Journalism UK

How to set up a mobile-first newsroom

Up to 85% of audiences in parts of Asia consume their news content through mobile devices. This has led some forward-thinking newsrooms to become mobile-first, meaning they create, edit, and publish all of their media directly from smartphones. In addition to the economic benefits of less expensive equipment, they are also able to produce content very quickly. This article provides steps for those who would like to experiment with this strategy.

📬 Email newsletters

The 12 fixes in this thread will solve 80% of your website's conversion problems

The Growth Tactics account on Twitter released a thread to help publishers increase conversions on their websites. Their tips include limiting the number of actions a visitor can take, pairing impossible headers with realistic sub-headers, and using social proof strategically.

TikTok for publishers: Thoughts, stats and an exploration

If you want to reach out to a new audience between 19 and 49, this is where they spend 52 minutes a day, every day.

What's New In Publishing explains the opportunities available to publishers who are willing to dedicate time to learning how to capitalize on TikTok trends. They also explore the communities present on the platform, such as those focused on old movies, comedy, and books. Depending on your niche, this may be a growth channel worth investigating.

Related: When is the best time to post on Instagram for publishers? — WNIP

The New York Times is making about a third of its newsletters subscriber-only

The newspaper is moving several of its most popular newsletters behind the paywall in an effort to provide current subscribers with more value while encouraging casual readers to subscribe as well. Most paywalled newsletters consist of opinion-focused content, which has proven to be a driver of subscriptions across the industry.

💻 Technology

Big Tech lost the WFH battle, newsrooms should give in too

The pandemic transformed many work practices we took for granted, and the changes are still underway. The Fix reports that newsrooms are beginning to follow the trend set by technology companies to allow certain employees to work from home indefinitely. This transition brings with it a new trend of more audio-only meetings, training programs, and conferences.  

Google’s new algo update, and its effect on sponsored, guest, and affiliate content

Focusing on producing high quality content and improving user experience always wins out compared to manipulating links.

In an effort to curtail the number of spam links and less-than-useful sites populating Google, the company released an update to their algorithm that altered the way different types of links would be valued. The article outlines new best practices around including affiliate links in your posts, as well as using guest posts to increase your website ranking. The Google representative reiterated the fact that creating quality content will always outperform manipulations in the long run.

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#162 — How to measure the metrics that matter

#162 — How to measure the metrics that matter

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The numbers behind our publications tell stories. At times, these stories may come as a surprise. They may bring to light issues we've ignored or overlooked. At other times, they present hidden opportunities for explosive growth. Learning to interpret the stories they tell is a skill the biggest publishers are continually working to master. This week's edition of Publisher Weekly will help you do the same.

💯 Top picks

Subscription business metrics explained for publishers

The most recent article from Ghost's resource blog explains the essential metrics creators need to know to run sustainable membership businesses. The items are organized into three buckets: acquisition (conversion rate), revenue (MRR, ARR, ARPU, LTV), and retention (churn rate). If any of those could use some clarification in your mind, you'll want to give this post a read.

💸 Business models

Organic marketing ideas for entrepreneurs on a shoestring budget

Focus on getting results with one approach before you add on others.

When you're first starting, growth can quickly become an all-consuming goal. This article explains how to prioritize growth alongside everything else that must be done, and why doing things that don't scale is often the best option. The author advises publishers to share public content (written or video) regularly, to connect 1-on-1 with fans, and go all-in on one social platform instead of trying to appear everywhere.

Choosing a newsletter revenue model

Michael Aft from the New Paper discusses the different revenue models for newsletters and why they decided to use the paid subscription model for theirs. Aft outlines the strengths and weaknesses of both ads and subscription models, concluding that, for most niche publications, memberships will provide more sustainable, and less labor-intensive, revenue.

There are actual exits now of creator brands and businesses.

Most people associate venture capital with only the largest Silicon Valley brands. Now, these investors are turning their eyes to individual social media accounts. YouTube channels, Instagram profiles, and TikTok accounts are garnering multi-million dollar investments from VCs that now see their financial potential. For publishers, it's important to remember that your audience is your most valuable asset; and the more control you have over the relationship with them, the better.

📝 Modern publishing

“We are just focused on being where readers are”: Pan-African weekly The Continent publishes directly on WhatsApp and Signal

We’re not publishing on a website because we don’t need to.

A group of African journalists started a digital newsletter that compiled writer contributions into a single PDF delivered weekly to approximately 11,000 subscribers via WhatsApp. They have no website or email list and are entirely focused on meeting readers where they are on apps they already use. It's an interesting trend, albeit its long-term viability is still undetermined.

4 Media industry twists and turns you don’t want to miss

Digital Content Next recently shared four publishing trends that are continuing to pick up steam. These include robust advertiser spending, big moves towards data privacy, and the continued growth of streaming. They also discuss why even though “subscription fatigue” has gotten a lot of press, it doesn't seem to have slowed growth in any way.

The New York Times is celebrating 8 million subscriptions thanks to a big boost from non-news products

Of the new subscriptions added, 45% were to Cooking, Games, or the audio app Audm.

In a clever move, The New York Times is discovering how to grow their subscriber base apart from news products. For example, for $40 per year, subscribers of their Cooking collection gain access to thousands of recipes, videos, and cooking lessons. For the same price, enthusiasts can access Games' crossword puzzles along with newer games named Tiles, Vertex, and Letter Boxed. On Audm, subscribers can listen to professional narrators read long-form news articles the way they would an audiobook. Expect to see this tangential products strategy used a lot more by publishers in the coming years.

📬 Email newsletters

What I’ve learned in a year on Substack

Writing a newsletter for a living is hard. It requires enthusiasm for the work and the business, a commitment to consistency, a tolerance for uncertainty, and the ability to stomach unsubscribes.

Alex Kantrowitz compiles seven learnings from his time as an independent publisher. These include an understanding of email's advantage over social, how ads and subscriptions can work in tandem, why mainstream news isn't going anywhere, and where the newsletter boom is headed next.

A major German media company grew its newsletter subscribers 5x in just a year

What's New In Publishing offers readers five takeaways based on Funke Mediengruppe's incredible growth from 56,000 to 250,000 subscribers in only one year. One takeaway worth highlighting is that the German newsletter found that not all metrics are created equal. Some had a far higher impact on their growth than others, so they decided to double down on those specific elements instead of dividing their attention.

Related: Other than open rates, what should creators focus on to measure success? — Tradecraft

9 ways publishers are using newsletters to grow paying members

The Fix shares creative ways publishers are using email to grow premium memberships. While most focus on the straightforward paid newsletter strategy, there are viable alternatives such as leveraging email as a service (EaaS), creating newsletter-based referral programs, and guiding readers towards paywalled content.

💻 Technology

Metaverses

Ben Thompson of the Stratechery dives into the future potential of metaverses. For the uninitiated, metaverses are essentially virtual worlds. Newsletters will have a place in these new "worlds." One current example is Wowhead's Economy Weekly, a newsletter dedicated to the in-game economy of World of Warcraft. It's been going for nearly four years and reaches several thousand readers each week.

The search singularity: How to win in the era of infinite content

There is now a battalion of AI-writing tools available online, each one promising more than the next. However, what happens when these tools become mainstream and are used to publish mountains of repetitive content? Ryan Law examines the threat and gives publishers three ways they can ensure their content continues to rank above what robots can produce.

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#161 — The competitive advantage of long tail thinking for publishers

#161 — The competitive advantage of long tail thinking for publishers

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In explaining why some companies are more successful than others, Morgan Housel writes, "Long tails drive everything." Whether it's starting with SEO, raising your prices, or betting on a personal competitive advantage, the longer you see it through, the more likely your chances of success become. This edition curates a number of sources that will help you ride the long tails to growth.

💯 Top picks

How to leverage SEO for a membership website

The latest article from the Ghost blog answers a question many membership site owners ask: how to use SEO when most of their content is "protected?" The short answer is you need to implement a segmented content strategy that combines public, freemium, and premium content in a way that grows your business while satisfying your members. The article includes clear action steps along with examples of creators successfully using this strategy.

Related: How to set the right SEO goals — Ahrefs

💸 Business models

“The biggest pieces of the puzzle”: Pricing strategies publishers are using to get readers to pay and stay

What's New In Publishing released findings from a report that looked at how subscription pricing models have been affected by the pandemic. The article contains numerous takeaways that can help publishers position their products more effectively in the market. One key idea the post reiterates is that many publishers use the "wrong companies as benchmarks." The following quote further illustrates this point.

People say, ‘I can’t price at US$15 a month because that’s more expensive than Netflix or The New York Times. Well you’re not competing against them. Sure, it’s a share of the consumer’s discretionary wallet, but it’s not the same news you’re generating. The value proposition is entirely different.

Deciding whether to have a sidegig or quit your job?

Indie Hacker James Fleischmann discusses how and when solo-creators should dedicate their resources to growing projects. On the one hand, quitting your job and going all-in can speed up the process. But this option comes with a lot of risks. The alternative, which is to work on both your day job and side project simultaneously, will be the best option for the largest swath of people. The post also includes a list of helpful questions and frameworks to consider.

Succeeding at the creator game

Idea Economy presents a high-level view of the factors that contribute to or hinder a creator's success in the current landscape. Midway through the article, there's a list of resources on various revenue opportunities and how to learn more about each one. Some of those may be of benefit if you're looking to add to your web of value.

📝 Modern publishing

Journalism's two Americas

The disparate fortunes skew what gets covered, elevating big national political stories at the expense of local, community-focused news.

National news is more profitable than its local counterparts for a simple reason: it reaches more people. The difficulties local news organizations face are being compounded by the surge of money and resources pouring into national operations. Many local entities have even opted for non-profit status, which has been able to curtail some of their expenses while adding donations as another revenue stream. It's a stark reminder that to succeed in local news, the game must be played differently.

Why ‘slow journalism’ thrived during the pandemic

This article examines Tortoise, a media company started in 2019 with the goal of offering members more direct influence over what news got covered. This crowdsourced approach has led to a subscriber base of over 110,000 members. A spokesperson for the brand explained that news should be "an active conversation," and their growth has been due to, in large part, facilitating that conversation.

Related: 13 self-care tips for overworked journalists — Journalism.co.uk

Editors discuss the future of comment sections

NiemanLab curated the strongest arguments for and against comment sections from the latest Center for Media Engagement roundtable discussion. On the pro-comments side, journalists found that public comments helped them better understand their audience, led to thorough fact-checking, and added a community element to their role. On the negative side, comments were often attacking reporters, furthering misinformation, or blatantly off-topic.

📬 Email newsletters

Email marketing metrics: How to measure the health of your campaigns

Writer Melissa Spadafora offers a brief look at the metrics publishers should watch to measure the health of their campaigns. These include basic items such as open, click-through, and unsubscribe rates. Although these numbers can only tell part of the story, paying attention to general trends can be helpful over the long term.  

You have a competitive advantage – here’s how to find it

For The Interested highlights eight questions publishers can ask themselves and/or their teams to better leverage their underutilized advantages. The subjects push readers to identify any relationships, resources, experiences, or skill sets others may not possess, and to creatively mold that into a profitable asset.

6 must-read newsletters to stay on top of your social media game

For most publishers, social media plays at least a minor role in their traffic and promotion strategy. This read curates six newsletters to help professionals stay atop trending topics and important issues without spending hours on the platforms themselves.

💻 Technology

How news publishers are using the Olympics and AR to flex their emerging tech storytelling

These experiences are aimed at giving audiences a better understanding of what to watch for during the Games.

USA today incorporated two augmented reality (AR) experiences into the Olympic games app which offers users a direct look at the skateboarding and wall-climbing courses. The idea is that by supplementing traditional media (text and video) with more interactive elements, their audience will better engage with their content. So far, the AR experiment has been a big hit and a host of publishers are looking to roll out similar experiences for future events.

Publishers: Are you ready for the first-party future?

Google recently announced, "a delay for third-party cookie deprecation... until the end of 2023." As that date approaches, publishers will find that marketers and advertisers will increasingly value their audiences and email lists. The post explains the value of "authenticated" audiences, and how publishers can best position themselves to benefit from these changes.

How Yahoo is experimenting with platforms and partnerships to grow its audience

Yahoo's latest aim is to grow its business by marketing subscription products (including newsletters) to Gen Z consumers. Digiday reports that their focus is on the domains of fantasy sports, technology, and financial news, as they want to become the platform "for fanatics." Only time will tell if their approach to these niches will pay off.

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#160 — How incentives can make or break your publishing business

#160 — How incentives can make or break your publishing business

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Better questions lead to better answers. Many publishers spend a disproportionate amount of time asking What kind of content should I create? and not enough time asking Why is my audience paying attention? The second question opens the doors to broader experimentation within your business, from what you choose to publish to how much you charge for access. This week's issue takes a look at how incentives dictate strategy, and how to realign them for long-term success.

💯 Top picks

How to increase the open rates of your email newsletter

A great newsletter no one opens is a wasted effort.

The latest post from the Ghost blog dives into eight tactics publishers can use to achieve consistently high open rates. Some of the techniques mentioned include using inspection tools to avoid spam triggers, creating professional sender names, and organizing your audience into segments.  

💸 Business models

How bad incentives ruin good marketing

Saying the same thing over and over again is how you make your brand more memorable.

MarketingWeek reaches into the complex world of digital marketing to show that what works is, by and large, far simpler than we make it. Executives, consultants, and agencies are incentivized to overcomplicate matters which trickles down to creating unrealistic workloads for everyday publishers. The best marketing is long-term focused, stable in its messaging, and persistent in its delivery.

Building healthy membership communities: Lessons from newsrooms around the world

This book-length post from The Membership Puzzle Project describes how large publishers use communities to reach, support, and grow their audiences. The article is geared towards those with a news focus, making it ideal for local and event-driven initiatives. If you are creating a local newsletter or are curious how community could fit into your strategy, this is one resource you'll want to visit more than once.

Subscription pricing strategy for publishers: Data, long-term view, lots of tests and risk-taking

The purpose of strategic pricing is to price more profitably by capturing more value, not necessarily by making more sales.

A new report titled "Subscription Pricing: From COVID Bump To Sustainable Revenue" provides a look at the strategies helping publishers retain audiences as the world returns to a post-pandemic normal. One strategy which has shown consistently strong results is enticing new subscribers with a low-cost trial period, providing them value through an onboarding series, and then pushing them to read content in a dedicated mobile app. The report also discusses what price points have proven the most profitable for various membership tiers.  

📝 Modern publishing

4 types of TikTok content strategies for publishers

Success on TikTok is all about finding a unique and creative way to tell your story.

TikTok's growth has experienced explosive growth over the last year. The app now boasts over one billion daily views, with users spending an average of 52 minutes on the tool per day. This article shows how publishers can creatively tap into this growth by making content that is both authentic to journalism and relevant to TikTok's audience.

How 100-year-old Architectural Digest is becoming a brand for a younger and more diverse audience

Architectural Digest (AD) is a staple of legacy publishing, and yet, they've been able to attract a young audience with incredible success. This piece details their strategy for reaching millennial and Gen Z fans. In essence, they've adopted the mindset of creating where they are instead of trying to attract them to AD's website and articles. This means they've aggressively created for YouTube and Instagram and are continuing to experiment with other platforms as well. This strategy is one any publisher should implement when growth is the goal.

The future of fiction

Author Elle Griffin provides a detailed look at the current fiction publishing landscape, the platforms available to authors, and what industry changes could help bridge the gap between writers and readers. Griffin argues that direct-to-reader, community-driven, interactive experiences are the future of fiction, especially since Gen Z audiences have grown up with entirely different expectations around what a book can and should be.

Related: 10 ten-minute writing exercises to sharpen your skills — Tradecraft

📬 Email newsletters

No one is paying you to send them more email. What they’re paying for is the value your newsletter delivers.

This insightful piece follows the journey of half a dozen newsletter authors and how they successfully grew their publications into full-time gigs. Among the advice offered, you will find tips such as keep your value proposition simple, treat the newsletter as a product, and charge what's appropriate for your unique audience.

25 ways to sign someone up for your newsletter

Dan Oshinsky brings together a helpful collection of on-site and off-site methods for attracting more subscribers to your content. This slide deck includes dozens of visual examples explaining how these tactics work for larger publications, and how you can experiment with a similar strategy.  

Related: Not a Newsletter (July Edition) — Inbox Collective

Let’s talk about praise jars, and why you need one

Content writers Dr. Fio Dossetto and Ashly Stewart discuss how storing "positive feedback about your work" can improve creativity, repel burnout, and lead to interesting career pivots. They address different methods for organizing feedback, from dedicated email folders to cloud accounts filled with individual screenshots. Regardless of the form, the exercise seems to be well worth the effort.

💻 Technology

Substack makes first major podcast investment

Axios reports on Substack's move to fund a podcasting arm of the company named Booksmart Studios. The entity will function much like the publishing side in that it will help independent publishers host their content, free or paid, and take a 10% cut of their revenue.

Related: The original Substacker: How China expert Bill Bishop built a six-figure newsletter business — PressGazette

We don’t need more streaming news platforms

CNN is moving into the streaming game. They plan to build and launch a new service by early 2022 that will provide subscribers "8-12 hours of original live content each day." A Media Operator argues that since news corporations are blinded by the streaming opportunity, they are missing obvious areas, within their own domain, that would be more beneficial to pursue.

Publishers, what do you do when ​​search traffic drops?

A drop in organic search traffic can happen for several reasons, and most of them can be reversed.

Google employee Daniel Waisberg identifies the five most common reasons publishers may see a decline in traffic: technical issues, security issues, manual actions, algorithmic changes, and search interest disruption. If search is one of your primary traffic sources, this article is an excellent introduction to resolving these concerns.  

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#159 — Why publishers should challenge their industry assumptions

#159 — Why publishers should challenge their industry assumptions

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Assumptions suffocate creativity. There is something to be said for learning from the leaders in any field, especially publishing. However, it would be misguided to conclude that the way they do it is how it must be done. This week's issue provides a collection of resources to help you challenge the assumptions which could be stifling growth.

💯 Top picks

The strategy successful creators use to build trust with customers

Before a customer takes any action, such as subscribing to a newsletter or buying a product, they look for reasons why they should trust you.

The latest post on the Ghost blog details four steps every creator must go through in order to build a lasting relationship with their audience. These include leveraging authenticity, sharing social proof, and adopting an "infinite game" mindset.

The content writing guide: How to write blog posts that readers care about

Animalz, a content marketing agency, released a comprehensive guide to publishing effective blog posts. The guide compiles nine topical resources covering every step of the content process, from gathering ideas to forming an outline to closing with a strong conclusion.  

💸 Business models

Community foundation support for journalism is increasing — but still has a long way to go

This new report showed philanthropic giving to journalism quadrupled between 2009 and 2019.

There's been a dramatic increase in grants aimed at helping writers with publications that can improve a community. In the past, most of these dollars have gone towards national initiatives. However, with the recent resurgence of local news and stories, the attention has shifted towards this space. If you run a local or community-oriented publication, this funding source may be of interest to you.

A study published by Ad Exchanger revealed that publishers who follow privacy laws and prompt users to agree to their guidelines see higher ad rates as a result. The study centered around General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) laws, but also highlights a trend across the publishing space. For publishers who monetize through ad revenue, this is a worthwhile read.

Substack to offer free classes to help writers earn their first $1,000

Kaya Yurieff of The Information reports that Substack will be launching a new program called Substack Grow that "offers a free, six-session course over Zoom to help writers." No more information has been made available as to when the program will start or who will be able to take part.  

📝 Modern publishing

From curation to originals

What is something completely original you could create that sets you apart from other curators in your same niche?

A thoughtful article by A Media Operator argues for how curators could benefit from adding original content to their mix. Laced through the piece is the analogy of a grocery store. Their purpose is to curate products from a mix of brands. However, the majority of large grocery chains eventually pivot towards producing their own goods which can have tremendous financial upside. In the same way, curators should think of their original content as a compliment, not a replacement, to what they do.

Sorry publishers, but your digital products suck

In this opinionated piece, Monday Notes author Frederic Filloux explains the reasons why most news websites and mobile apps are a pain for users. Some of the stated reasons include complicated login processes, inaccurate search tools, and a lack of personalization options. It's an important reminder that even great content can suffer when paired with a bad tool.

Related: Influencers lead news debates on social networks, leaving journalists in the shade — Journalism.co.uk

Magazine publishers’ hidden treasure trove: Digital back issues

Journalist Jez Walters highlights a growing trend of publishers curating back issues into new collections for additional revenue. The strategy behind the concept is ingenious, as it allows publishers to refocus a portion of their attention from the ever-spinning wheel of new content towards a more sustainable process.

📬 Email newsletters

Pop-up Newsletters

Burnout happens from having bitten off too much of an undefined thing.

Craig Mod offers a refreshing take on how writers can set themselves up for success and avoid burnout: think in seasons. Most publishers begin projects with no end date in mind. Granted, the majority of newsletter products are perpetual. But they don't have to be. Mod offers a number of examples of how seasonal publications can work, both creatively and financially, for aspiring creators.

10 fill-in-the-blank headlines you can use to create effective content

Every audience and niche is unique. But, much of what they value is the same.

Josh Spector delivers ten title templates writers can use to drive interest to their content. These are useful because they focus on the specific value each article provides to the reader, rather than aiming to produce the most clickable heading, regardless of its accuracy.

Related: The four things that define a good newsletter — One Man & His Blog

Reaching the milestone of 1000 newsletter subscribers - Here is what I have learned

My most important takeaway is that you should never write for numbers.

Philipp Temmel shares a collection of insights they acquired while growing their newsletter Creativerly to over one thousand readers. The article contains tried-and-true advice, such as remaining consistent and focusing on the quality of your content at first. One particularly useful detail is that Temmel experienced greater growth as they became more comfortable sharing personal details and stories. There is no better growth hack than genuine connection.

There are 4 kinds of keyword research: Make sure you’re doing the right one(s)

Depending on the traffic strategy for your newsletter or publication, keyword research may be a standard part of your process. However, this resource does a good job of explaining the nuances of how the practice works across different platforms and for various goals. The four kinds they identify are SEO/PPC, social media marketing, content creation, and market research.

💻 Technology

Text-reading AI will do your research for you

Primer, a startup building natural language processing (NLP) engines, is starting to offer its technology to businesses. The AI solution will be able to summarize long text, locate key concepts, identify patterns, figures, and structures that human readers might miss. Although this tool is in the very early stages of its development, similar services for smaller publishers may not be too far off in the future.

At first, Facebook was happy that I and other journalists were finding its tool useful…but the mood shifted

CrowdTangle is a data analytics tool from Facebook that allows publishers and journalists to search for and identify trends occurring on the platform. Its original purpose was to encourage data transparency. However, journalists began sharing concerning insights from the tool, such as the high rate of misinformation or the preferential treatment of certain publishers. Now, Facebook is considering revoking the tool or limiting what information is publicly available. This story is a reminder that data can, and often does, equal power.

Related: Is the future of journalism work experience virtual? — Journalism.co.uk

Is social media making us … better people?

Laurence Scott of Wired discusses a well-worn subject in a new light: what information should be shared online and how? Scott's insights revolve around "warning" labels and trigger warnings that preface posts across the internet. Similarly, some services, like Twitter, have begun issuing prompts to users writing erroneous or insulting replies. Perhaps as humans become more used to digital communication, a new series of social conventions and technological safeguards will arise to make it better.

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#158 — Why size doesn't matter for strategic publishers

#158 — Why size doesn't matter for strategic publishers

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The challenges new publishers face don't simply disappear once they achieve a certain subscriber base. From betting on different monetization methods to testing what kind of content your audience prefers, publishers big and small often learn lessons through the same process, even if the scale of their results differs. In this issue of Publisher Weekly, discover how you can perform like the leaders in your space, regardless of your size.

💯 Top picks

How to get paid sponsorships for your email newsletter

As a follow-up to last week's newsletter sponsorship article, this piece offers a 5-step process for landing your first sponsor. The article includes tips on deciding which format of sponsored content makes sense, pricing strategies for growing publications, and a curated list of sponsor databases.

💸 Business models

Bundling products to boost subscription conversions

I like to think about this as sort of coming for the content, but staying for the perks.

Bundles are a powerful marketing tactic that more publishers are beginning to harness for growth. Established publications, like The Atlantic, entice subscribers by bundling both digital and print subscriptions into one price. Outside, an outdoor sports magazine, offers subscribers a variety of perks such as access to an exclusive app and reduced ticket fees for events. Consider what meaningful, tangential benefits you may be able to offer readers to increase conversions.

Discovering a value proposition

The Membership Project breaks down exactly what goes into forming a distinct value proposition, how membership differs from a paywall, and why most creators begin with the wrong question in mind. Of particular use in the article is a template for wording one's value proposition: Our [product or service] helps [user] who wants to [need] by [verb] [user pain] and by increasing [user gain].

Related: Rethinking the way we write for the paywall age — What's New In Publishing

The Information is launching its first standalone publication

It's the first time the company is charging for content separately from its roughly $400 annual professional subscription fee.

The Information is betting big on niche publications. In addition to their standard offering, they plan to build a suite of industry-specific newsletters — each run as their own separate entities. Smaller publishers should take note, the more specific your content, the more likely you are to stand out in today's market, no matter the size of your operation.

📝 Modern publishing

TikTok is taking the book industry by storm, and retailers are taking notice

The app has been pivotal for introducing younger audiences to reading.

NBC News reported a significant uptick in book sales due to #BookTok, a community of creators releasing book-related content on TikTok. This trend is a reminder that new technology rarely replaces its predecessors. Instead, competing platforms (like books and short-form videos) find ever-evolving ways to coexist.

Related: Substack signs ex-Forbes writer as it seeks to disrupt book publishing — New York Post

Takeaways from the Reuters Digital News Report 2021

Matthew Lynes summarizes the most significant findings from the Reuters report first mentioned in Issue #156. The following points were included in Lynes digest:

  • Most news is consumed through mobile devices,
  • News aggregators are shrinking amidst users going directly to the source,
  • And the majority of news consumption happens on social media (industry officials call this "side door access").

Why German newspaper Bild is looking to venture into TV news

The German brand Bild plans to move into television primarily to "increase its number of revenue streams to shore up its future." However, the company is not blindly jumping into uncharted territory. According to their data, "eight of the top ten best-converting content was video-related." By building upon this success, they hope to carve out an advantage over other publishers who may not be able to afford large video productions.  

📬 Email newsletters

How to build an audience when your topic is you

Your home page can’t just talk about you and your stories. It needs to say who they’re for, how they provide value, etc.

Josh Spector replies to a reader question about marketing story-based newsletters. There is a growing interest in this niche since most newsletters focus on individual topics, and there doesn't appear to be many memoir-like digital publications. Spector's advice boils down to remembering that our personal stories only matter insomuch as they help, educate, or entertain a reader.

How to use Twitter to build your email list

Alyssa Dulin gathers the tactics working on Twitter right now for growing creators. These include standard tips, such as tweeting consistency and presenting clear call-to-actions at regular intervals. Additionally, Dulin also discusses how tweet threads are getting disproportionately more attention and why they should be a part of every publisher's strategy.

Related: Two social media platforms you need to make content for when you have zero followers — GaryVee TV

18 questions to help you hire a great writer (...or become one)

The Contentfolks newsletter shares a thorough checklist of questions to help leaders or writers ensure their content accomplishes its purpose. If you do not write your content each week, this is especially useful to make sure the content team's priorities align with your business goals.

💻 Technology

Find your dream job with TikTok resumes

TikTok released a U.S. job board where companies (e.g., Chipotle, Great Clips, Target) post open positions, and users apply for the jobs with short-form video resumes. Social media platforms are increasingly becoming all-in-one solutions for the new generation. The publishers who understand this point, and iterate around it, will win.

What is your newsroom’s audio strategy?

Although podcasting may be seen as the underdog in terms of digital content types, it's quickly becoming a necessity for every content-focused business. This resource pulls together several valuable guides, tool lists, and technical walkthroughs to help new podcasters hit the ground running.  

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#157 — Why you should monetize your content directly

#157 — Why you should monetize your content directly

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The Creator Economy is a relatively new term that is used to describe the fast-growing number of independent creators and publishers who are building businesses around their content. This newsletter has been focused on sharing the latest stories and ideas in this space for more than two years — before the term Creator Economy was coined. This edition is all about what you need to succeed in this landscape, from picking the right business model and platform to writing the best headlines.

💯 Top picks

Should you sell newsletter sponsorships?

Your business model is your destiny. — Ben Thompson

Deciding how to start monetizing your newsletter can be an exciting and intimidating process. Each method comes with its own set of pros and cons. The latest article from the Ghost blog offers publishers six questions to help them decide if the paid sponsorship route is right for them.

💸 Business models

How to go pro as a creator

Not knowing exactly what it would all come to is how I ended up a 10+ year “overnight” success.

John Gannon breaks down the 4-step process they used to grow their blog and newsletter combo into a $1MM+ annual revenue machine. For Gannon, it came down to following the basics while "unwittingly playing the long game": choose a medium you enjoy creating, keep your tech stack simple, reinvest the earnings back into the business, and hire help to grow.

The creator economy value chain

"The creator economy has seen a record $1.3B in funding in 2021 alone", and while tech companies are competing to take advantage of this broad-reaching value chain, the creators themselves are looking for ways to monetize their content more directly, to retain control over their revenue.

Related: This resource gives you the knowledge you need to pick a platform where you're in control — Open Subscription Platforms

Top 10 reasons small publishers should consider paid subscriptions

Direct subscriptions are arguably the most powerful monetization method for creators. This article from What's New in Publishing dives into the reasons for this including their predictability, compound effect benefits, and long-term creative control. Furthermore, these advantages are as accessible for solo-creators as they are for large organizations.

8 ways smaller newsrooms can make audio pay

It can feel as though smaller creators have access to fewer monetization options than their larger counterparts. This article counters that idea by listing several ways growing publishers can earn revenue in the same way bigger companies do. These include using marketplace intermediaries to automatically sell and place ads, creating branded content campaigns, and seeking out local sponsors with whom you can build ongoing relationships.

Related: Apple and Spotify paid-for subscriptions: what does it mean for publishers? — Journalism.co.uk

📝 Modern publishing

How can photojournalists build trust through their work?

The American Press Institute examines how images influence the stories they are a part of. Whether pictures are a significant part of your publication or not, this piece raises important questions every publisher should consider such as what value does this image add, is it accurate, and how could it be misinterpreted?

Gen Z remains an enigma for many media companies

As the next generation comes of age, companies are gathering as much information as they can about their media consumption habits. Two points that stand out from this article are: their digital starting point is social media and they prefer video. Therefore, publishers who are looking to reach this group should expect to invest in video content that exists outside of their own website or YouTube.

BuzzFeed will go public. Here’s what it told investors about the future of digital media.

BuzzFeed plans to go public at a valuation of approximately $1.5 billion. Why this matters for publishers is that more information about their business model will be released than ever before. The short of it is this: ads are terrible long-term growth. Instead, they plan to pursue three new revenue streams: e-commerce, acquire smaller profitable media companies, and

📬 Email newsletters

How to write an irresistible headline in 3 easy steps

The team at Ahrefs reveals the process they use to consistently create reader-engaging, SEO-friendly headlines. Their advice boils down to three distinct steps: choose a format (list, tutorial, opinion, review, comparison), add an interesting angle (i.e., clear value proposition), and make it human by including trigger words.

Facebook’s newsletter platform Bulletin is now live

Facebook's Substack clone officially launched with a number of high-profile characters including Malcolm Gladwell, Erin Andrews, and Mitch Albom. Bulletin allows users to subscribe and comment on published newsletters. However, it appears that Facebook is still hand-selecting its initial users, thereby keeping it closed off to the masses for now.

💻 Technology

'Headlines in real time': The Wall Street Journal makes "live journalism" a hit during the pandemic

The pandemic accelerated innovation in multiple industries, publishing being one of them. One of the trends that seem to have staying power is the addition of livestreaming as a core element of a publisher's offerings. The Wall Street Journal has experienced a lot of success with their digital-first events and unscripted live interviews. Going forward, they are looking for ways to expand their offerings, as are many of their competitors.

Super Follows and Ticketed Spaces are coming to Twitter

Twitter announced more details about their monetization options for creators. Super Follows allow paying users to access additional/exclusive content from their favorite people. Ticket Spaces act as micro-private communities built around audio rooms. The largest controversy surrounding these elements is the fee: the in-app purchase fee coupled with Twitter's take shaves off a full 50% from any creator's earnings.

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#156 — How to treat your publication like a business

#156 — How to treat your publication like a business

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Although newsletters are a unique and varied medium, they still adhere to the basic principles of doing business. Finding product-market fit, managing marketing strategies, experimenting with monetization models — these are necessary steps for any business, and publishers are not exempt. This edition of Publisher Weekly drives home this idea by providing you with the resources you need to treat your publication like the growing enterprise it is.

💯 Top picks

5 ways to repurpose content like a professional creator

Many creators fall into the trap of a never-ending production cycle. As soon as the latest piece of content gets published, work begins on the next one. The strategy of content repurposing solves this problem by enabling every item you create to travel further online, produce more value, and add creative space to your calendar. The tactics covered in this article include syndication, transformation, and repackaging.

Related: Creators are businesses. Over time, they will start to act like it. — Means of Creation

💸 Business models

Patreon CEO Jack Conte on why creators can’t depend on platforms

I think the next decade is going to be awesome for creative people because they’re going to have options. They’re going to have the ability to generate revenue in whatever way they want.

In an interview with The Verge, Jack Conte explains the frustrations that led to starting Patreon. One of the most interesting parts of the discussion centers around unit sales versus membership models. In recent history, units sold (books, CDs, art prints) were the primary source of income for creators. The internet upended the economics driving that model while opening the door to more sustainable, relationship-oriented ones. Although, it's worth noting that Patreon's business model still cuts into creators' earnings.

Use these 14 threads to build a 7-figure newsletter

The Hustle shares a thread of threads on Twitter, a number of which offer deep dives into the monetization strategies practiced by today's biggest newsletters. From premium subscriptions to ad sales to affiliate partnerships, one can monetize almost any newsletter with a little creativity and grit.

5 ways authors can make money outside selling books

Kayla Voigt recounts the journeys of two writers who iterated their way to becoming full-time authors. Much of the advice they give can be boiled down to a single idea: create in public. For one author, their book was a byproduct of the articles they published online as a new hobby runner. For the other, chronicling their writing process through social media fueled the eventual successful launch of their first book.

Related: Read this if you're struggling to grow your audience — For The Interested

📝 Modern publishing

Digital News Report 2021: Top 5 takeaways for publishers

WNIP breaks down the 2021 edition of the annual report published by Reuters Institute, a University of Oxford research center. Here are a few of the key ideas among the findings:

  • "Trust in news is up in almost all countries."
  • More people are paying for news, and they "tend to be richer, older and better educated."
  • "Those aged 18–24 have an even weaker connection to traditional news sites and are almost twice as likely to prefer to access news via social media (i.e., TikTok)."

If your publication is in any way related to the news category, this is one resource you will want to review. Here is a link to the full report: Digital News Report 2021

The Globe and Mail has built a paywall that knows when to give up

Dynamic paywalls are new technology made possible by artificial learning. The tool "automates and optimizes many publishing decisions," including when and who to show paywalls to. Using data-driven programs like this is meant to increase publishers' revenue, whether through ads from users who are unlikely to subscribe or through subscriptions for those who are. Depending on its success, readers may see more large institutions follow suit.

Bloomberg leans into personality journalism with new newsletters

Even multi-billion dollar giants are turning to the newsletter game. Bloomberg announced they would be launching two publications, each run by a single writer: Power On, an Apple news newsletter by Mark Gurman, and Game On, a gaming industry one by Jason Schreier. Both will be accessible with a standard Bloomberg subscription.

📬 Email newsletters

Forget 87.5% of your marketing. Here's why

Too many of us are trying to show multiple value propositions to multiple segments in multiple categories.

Louis Grenier's marketing newsletter delivers one of the clearest explanations for why a narrow focus is the best gift creators can give their audiences. Grenier uses an iceberg analogy to illustrate how effective positioning works and highlights five active businesses creators can learn from.

The one and only newsletter directory - directory

GrowGetters compiled a list of 23 digital directories where publishers can list and promote their email newsletters. While sites like these aren't likely to send a rush of traffic to your publication, they can help with early-stage discoverability.

What publishers can learn about TheSoul Publishing’s road to 1B social subscribers

TheSoul, a Russian publishing entity, grew an enormous audience in record time. Smaller publishers can implement one of their most successful tactics: start early on new social platforms. By being first, they were able to grow sizeable followings without much competition. Although many of these initiatives led nowhere, the ones that did grew into hundreds of millions of new followers.

Related: Which social media channels do consumers spend the most time on? — HubSpot

💻 Technology

Tech in Africa: An introduction to the continent's ecosystem

Unlike any other landmass, Africa seems to reduce writers to semi-poetic nonsense, vague allusion, and cliche.

To succeed as a publisher, one must think globally. The challenge is that to do so, we must first combat misinformation, biases, and blind spots. This lengthy piece published by 11 separate contributors offers one of the best comprehensive introductions to the continent spearheading several industries. At the very least, it's worth noting the 12 media companies mentioned that are transforming publishing in their respective contexts.

The New York Times now allows subscribers to “gift” articles to non-subscribers

NiemanLab highlights a new subscriber-only feature rolled out by The New York Times which allows paying subscribers "to 'gift' 10 articles per month to the non-subscribers." The hope is that those who receive multiple gifts will convert into paying subscribers themselves. Free samples work well in other industries, so this may be one strategy to watch.

Track the diversity of your sources with Source Matters

The American Press Institute developed a tool that helps newsrooms and publishers automate their source audits. Sources are to published stories as ingredients are to meals. Good ones lead to a great end product and vice versa. The tool is currently being tested by four publications (San Diego Union Tribune, the Chicago Tribune, the Democrat & Chronicle in Rochester, and The Tennessean). API plans to make the software available to more organizations in the future.

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#155 — How to turn discovery into profit

#155 — How to turn discovery into profit

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From TikTok videos to live audio rooms to viral articles, there is no shortage of ways for people to discover your work. The difference, then, between successful and unsuccessful publishers is how effectively they transform discoverability into profitability. This edition explores the devices helping publishers accomplish this feat, including landing pages, content funnels, and more.

💯 Top picks

How to increase your paid-for newsletter subscribers with landing pages (Part 1)

This week on the Ghost blog, landing page expert Rob Hope offers a series of tips to help newsletter authors grow faster by increasing their conversion rates. Hope's suggestions include customizing the call-to-action button, letting your personality shape the headline copy, and emphasizing the practical benefits of your newsletter.

The second part, How to increase paid-for newsletter subscribers with landing pages (Part 2), focuses on how creators can use "upgrade" pages to turn free subscribers into paying members. In the article, Hope explains seven elements that specifically influence purchasing behavior such as including a thought leader's testimonial or offering a discount for annual memberships.

💸 Business models

Strategies that make affiliate marketing work

Every reader touchpoint is an opportunity for creative monetization.

Affiliate marketing is becoming one of the most promising revenue streams for publishers, spurred on by the immense growth of e-commerce over the last decade. What's New in Publishing shares five distinct ways creators can incorporate affiliate links into their content, from passively linking to mentioned products to curating a collection of recommended items.

Related: Decisions, decisions: weighing up long-term revenue models in digital publishing — Journalism.co.uk

BuzzFeed will pay for user-contributed content this summer — up to $10,000 per post

Ever thought you could make a better quiz or list than BuzzFeed? Well, now is your chance. BuzzFeed announced a Summer Writer's Challenge that will pay contributors a fixed amount based on the number of pageviews their article receives, from $150 for <500,000 pageviews up to $10,000 for >4,000,000 pageviews. It's an exciting experiment both for the potential exposure it offers writers and to see whether the economics of it will end in BuzzFeed's favor.

I'm selling books on TikTok, no dancing (or crying) required

Visitors who come to my website from TikTok are ten times more likely to click through to purchase my book than those who come through targeted (and expensive) Facebook ads.

Author Jane Friedman recounts their experience using TikTok to reach a new, younger audience of readers. Friedman includes a number of tips that helped them gain traction on the platform even when they only had "five followers (two of my kids and three of their friends)." Their story is a reminder that attention is platform agnostic, and the best way to grow an audience is to set up camp where they already are.

Related: Video can help publishers’ subscription strategy (but it’s not for everyone) — What's New in Publishing

📝 Modern publishing

10 best interview questions to ask podcast guests

For many publishers, interviews are a core part of the research process. This guide offers ten questions used by podcasters that would also serve other creators well. Here are two examples of the questions included: What keeps you awake at night? and If you weren’t in your own profession/field, what other career would you pursue?

Related: Interview Kickstart, podcast kits, and more — IndieHackers

Bad blood? The Wall Street Journal apparently wants its reporters to pay to use their own reporting in books

In most cases, if you’re a journalist employed by a news organization, the copyright of your work belongs to the company, not you.

Journalists and their parent companies have shared a mutually beneficial relationship when it comes to book publishing: journalists get to expand and reuse their articles, and in turn, the company (newspaper, magazine, etc.) benefit from employing a high-profile writer. This symbiotic arrangement is now threatened by the stricter standards some publishers are enforcing.

Why has local news collapsed? Blame readers.

In this opinion piece from Politico, a media writer recounts how a preventable mix of apathy, poor business models, and misguided editors led to the current atmosphere local news finds itself in. One of the most interesting findings stated that "a 2018 Duke University study of 16,000 local news outlets in 100 communities deemed only about 17 percent of articles as truly local." Essentially, part of the reason local news "died" was because more of its content became regurgitated national news instead of focusing on local interests. This may clarify why the resurgence of local newsletters has seen success - because they fill a real need in the market.

Related: Six months after launching a local news company, here’s what I’ve learned — NiemanLab

📬 Email newsletters

Not a Newsletter — June edition

Dan Oshinsky's monthly resource included a number of valuable links and ideas, two of which are worth pointing out here. First, Oshinsky provides one of the most comprehensive explanations of how Apple's privacy settings will likely affect publishers. They also included several official statements on the issue from email service providers, such as Mailchimp and the CM Group. Second, Oshinsky dissects Axios Local's business model and argues for why it will succeed where other local initiatives have failed.

Related: Is my newsletter a failure if I don’t monetize it? — Dan Oshinsky on LinkedIn

The challenges of the subscription model in Africa

By asking your audience to pay for content, you are competing with the necessities of life.

David I. Adeleke dives into the unique economic factors facing content businesses in some African countries. For many, paying for content is a financial stretch. However, Adeleke points out that there are business models that would support publishers in these environments, such as the one used by the South African publication Daily Maverick.

Related: How to estimate membership revenue — The Membership Puzzle Project

9 free mini-lessons to grow your newsletter

Josh Spector released a series of short, actionable tips aimed at helping newsletter writers grow and connect with their audiences more efficiently. The tips are excerpts from Spector's accelerator course and include points learned from running three profitable publications.

Related: How Edwin Dorsey grew their newsletter to 750 paid subscribers — Twitter

💻 Technology

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg hosts first test of Live Audio Rooms in US

Facebook's Clubhouse clone is getting closer to public launch. The app's first live session included conversations between Zuckerberg, Facebook executives, and a selection of popular Facebook Gaming creators. It's likely the service will launch with a series of monetization tools for creators, similar to those available for streamers.

Deepfakes, disinformation and detection: How can journalists know what is real?

As the technology supporting AI creation advances, journalists are finding it more difficult to differentiate between what's real and what's not. However, technology is also being used to address this problem with tools like Factiverse, an AI-powered fact-checker that verifies the authenticity of claims at a speed impossible for news professionals to emulate.

Related: How to best combat fake news and misinformation online — What's New in Publishing

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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

Want to get featured below? Submit an article.

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.

❤️ Enjoy this newsletter?

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

Wanna get featured? Submit a story for us to include.

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!

#149 — Why simplicity is the key to growth

#149 — Why simplicity is the key to growth

Want to get featured below? Submit an article.

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.


❤️ Enjoy this newsletter?

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

Wanna get featured? Submit a story for us to include.

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!

#148 — Do solo creators have an advantage?

#148 — Do solo creators have an advantage?

Want to get featured below? Submit an article.

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.

❤️ Enjoy this newsletter?

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

Wanna get featured? Submit a story for us to include.

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!

#147 — Should publishers start a podcast?

#147 — Should publishers start a podcast?

Want to get featured below? Submit an article.

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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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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