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

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

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

💯 Top picks

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

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

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

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

Newsletter platform Ghost generates $3.3 million, doubling its revenue

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

Related: Ghost 4.0 features

💸 Business models

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

📝 Modern publishing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

📬 Email newsletters

In the newsletter game, niches make riches.

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

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

Lessons from 1,000 newsletter writers with Yaro Bagriy

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

9 subscriber retention strategies

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

💻 Technology

Bringing YouTube Shorts to the U.S.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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#143 — How to find your newsletter audience

#143 — How to find your newsletter audience

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

💯 Top picks

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

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

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

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

💸 Business models

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

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

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

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

📝 Modern publishing

Rewarding good subscriber content is not the same as rewarding clickbait

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

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

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

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

Subscribe to help The National Wales hire a politics reporter

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

The Medium pivot is the message

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

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

📬 Email newsletters

When your paid newsletter stops growing

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

Sovereign writers and Substack

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

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

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

💻 Technology

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

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

The tools behind a 7-figure newsletter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Powerful creator tools for independent publishing

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

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

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

And we're only just getting started.

What you can do with Ghost 4.0

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

👏 Join the conversation

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

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

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

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

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

📰 In the news this week

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

The World of Newsletter Acquisitions

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

Why email newsletters are the unlikely star of 2021

Facebook to Offer Self-Publishing Tools for Content Creators

Why newsletters are key for habit formation’s 2020 content analytics report: what publishers need to know

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#141 — Are independent newsletters killing journalism?

#141 — Are independent newsletters killing journalism?

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

💯 Top picks

Does Substack harm journalism?

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

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

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

💸 Business models

How SoundCloud’s new royalty payouts work

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

The era of audio creators has arrived

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

Twitter tests new e-commerce features for tweets

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

📝 Modern publishing

Stop thinking what others would like to read

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

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

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

📬 Email newsletters

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

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

Million dollar newsletter

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

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

💻 Technology

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

💯 Top picks

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

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

💸 Business models

0-5,000 subscribers in 10 months

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

Content-driven growth

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

10 reasons to be bullish on the creator economy in 2021

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

How to build a successful value-driven membership model

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

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

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

📝 Modern publishing

The Subscription Economy has grown over 435% in 9 years

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

What happens when a publisher becomes a megapublisher?

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

📬 Email newsletters

Improving open rates with a creative subject line

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

10 novel content ideas for your next marketing newsletter

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

💻 Technology

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

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

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

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

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

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

#139 — Find out how to convert visitors into subscribers

#139 — Find out how to convert visitors into subscribers

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

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

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

💯 Top picks

How to convert visitors into subscribers

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

💸 Business models

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

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

How to price newsletter sponsorships

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

Best affiliate programs for bloggers

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

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

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

📝 Modern publishing

Twitter pulls a Patreon

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

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

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

📬 Email newsletters

Creating the perfect email newsletter

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

What makes a hit newsletter post? Learnings from 5000 subs

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

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

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

💻 Technology

LinkedIn is the latest tech giant to launch a creator program

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

TikTok are going to teach you about selling on TikTok

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

Notion as content management hub

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

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#138 — Email deliverability unfiltered

#138 — Email deliverability unfiltered

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

💯 Top picks

Email deliverability unfiltered: Gmail tabs aren't always bad

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

💸 Business models

How your newsletter can help sponsors achieve more ROI

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

[Podcast] Why we get news subscriptions wrong

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

📝 Modern publishing

How to play outside the duopoly's publishing rules

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

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

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

📬 Email newsletters

Email templates your subscribers will love

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

How to use buyer personas in email marketing strategy

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

#HowToTucson shows the power of a newsletter course

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

💻 Technology

The state of remote work in 2021

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

Get ready: Google are changing the algorithm in 2 months

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

How SEO is gentrifying the internet

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

A/B email split testing for beginners

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

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#137 — How much content is too much content?

#137 — How much content is too much content?

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

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

💯 Top picks

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

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

💸 Business models

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

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

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

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

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

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

📝 Modern publishing

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

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

Thinking beyond the "engagement" buzzword

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

📬 Email newsletters

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

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

What marketers get wrong about email

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

How to create, grow & monetize newsletters

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

💻 Technology

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

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

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

Find out why your favorite magazines are morphing into books!

❤️ 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.

#136 — How to build a sustainable newsletter growth machine

#136 — How to build a sustainable newsletter growth machine

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

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

💯 Top picks

Should you launch a newsletter referral program?

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

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

💸 Business models

How to monetize your newsletter

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

The media bubble and the looming content demand crunch

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

📝 Modern publishing

How to go viral: A content marketers guide

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

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

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

Lessons learned from 200+ blog posts

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

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

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

📬 Email newsletters

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

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

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

10 powerful conversion tips for a better newsletter landing page

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

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

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

💻 Technology

A modern understanding of SEO

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

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

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

How to get traffic from Hacker News: Use the comments

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

❤️ 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.

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

#135 — The future of email

#135 — The future of email

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

💯 Top picks

Webinar: The future of email

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

💸 Business models

Newsletters are growing up and leaving the coop

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

5 welcome message examples to build a rapport

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

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

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

✍️ Modern journalism

Newsletters: An essay

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

Publishers need to dig deeper for a better advertising model

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

💻 Technology

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

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

Even Twitter are making moves in the newsletter space

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

🤷 WTF?

Split subscription costs with friends

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

#134 — Real newsletter growth tactics inside

#134 — Real newsletter growth tactics inside

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

💸 Business models

[Podcast] Growing a newsletter to 1+ million subscribers

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

Newsletter writers are looking for advertisers

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

How to get sponsors for your newsletter

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

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

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

The actual best time to send an email newsletter

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

✍️ Modern journalism

Forbes launches massive expansion of paid newsletters

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

💻 Technology

Mapping the Creator Economy

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

Using video to power-up your emails

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

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

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

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

🤷 WTF?

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

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

#133 — The year of the subscription (again)

#133 — The year of the subscription (again)

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

💯 Top picks

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

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

💸 Business models

2021 is the year of subscriptions

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

Are free subscription trials more effective than paid ones?

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

Having an email marketing list is better than any social media

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

How used subscriber-exclusive stories to drive digital subscriptions

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

✍️ Modern journalism

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

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

Google launch open fund for debunking vaccine misinformation

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

💻 Technology

Flip subscriptions you no longer use

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

Do email subscription pop-ups actually work?

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

Facebook: Prioritising original news reporting

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

🤷 WTF?

Wikipedia is 20, and its reputation has never been higher

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

#132 — New models for media in 2021

#132 — New models for media in 2021

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

💯 Top picks

10 things public media should forget and consider in 2021

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

💸 Business models

Your reading list to start 2021 off right

Learn from these media strategies to kick the year off.

New models for media

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

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

Twenty years of TPM — and a shift to memberships

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

Newsletter internships = the new foot in the door?

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

✍️ Modern journalism

Is Substack the media future we want?

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

Our old models of journalistic impact need to change

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

💻 Technology

How to rank well on Google this year

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

What you need to know about affiliate marketing

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

🤷 WTF?

[Podcast] The World, Remade

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

#131 — The movement for open subscription platforms

#131 — The movement for open subscription platforms

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

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

💯 Top picks

A shared movement for open subscription data

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

💸 Business models

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

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

Year 2020 in subscriptions and memberships

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

Go niche

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

Blogging is back, but better

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

[Report] Media Moments 2020

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

✍️ Modern journalism

The real reason local newspapers are dying

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

Five things you need to know about new EU rules

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

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

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

💻 Technology

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

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

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

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

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

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

🤷 WTF?

The rise of the messy advice column

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

#130 — A glance back at the year we will all remember

#130 — A glance back at the year we will all remember

It's here, you knew it was coming — the time of year when everyone does a roundup of the past year and predictions for the year that follows. There's a lot to unpack, so we'll be sharing the highlights in the next couple of newsletters. How has this year impacted your

💯 Top picks

From direct-to-consumer to direct-to-believers

“Your competition isn’t limited to other organizations that also do news. Your competition is what your true believer spends her time doing instead of reading your Very Important Article.” — Rishad Patel

💸 Business models

A guide to brand positioning

Find out how Harry Dry of Marketing Examples approaches brand positioning. "Differentiation is not a dark art. It's something you can learn. Here’s how you can achieve it."

Substack isn’t a new model for journalism — it’s a very old one

"If Substack’s pricing precludes widespread distribution of its news and commentary, its value as a public service won’t be fully realized."

Digital subscriptions were the headline act in 2020, as we experienced several years worth of transformation in the space of months.

How Wired leveraged Cyber Week readers to increase subscription revenue

"Black Friday and Cyber Monday (which has been stretched into a Cyber Week this year) were expected to be bountiful for Wired’s affiliate e-commerce business. But that rising tide has lifted its subscription fortunes as well."

✍️ Modern journalism

Patch digital news company is profitable. Is it the future of local news?

"Perhaps you’ve read that the future of media is in peril. But that’s probably overstating the case. A few big, national publishers, like the New York Times, are doing fine, via some combination of a successful business model and/or a billionaire owner."

9 highlights from Media Moments 2020

"What’s New in Publishing’s annual Media Moments report, sponsored by Permutive and written by the Media Voices team, rounds up all the key events and trends that have shaped the publishing and media landscape this year."

The rise of the journalist-influencer

"Forgive me if this sounds like a case of the hammer seeing everything come up nails, but as someone who covers the creator economy by day, I’ve noticed that the difference between influencers, creators, and journalists seems to shrink every time I look." — Mark Stenberg

Why digital newsrooms should act like e-commerce

"Even though you're a news publisher and your journalism is core to what you do, you are, at the end of the day, selling that journalism," said Adams Harding, Google's director of analytics and revenue optimization for news and publishing, on the Digiday Podcast.

💻 Technology

Email image deliverability & experience: What you need to know

Tips for how to provide a better email experience.

The state of podcasting, in 9 charts

Podcasts are growing in popularity, with predictions that podcast advertising will grow by 14.7% this year.

🤷 WTF?

[Essay] Magic and the Machine — David Abram

Reflecting on our undying urge to recreate a primal experience of intimacy with the surrounding world, David Abram offers notes on technology and animism in an age of ecological wipeout.

#129 — Enter the multi-SKU creator

#129 — Enter the multi-SKU creator

The big question in this issue: Should writers create more than one product? Having multiple revenue streams is definitely attractive, but is it better to double-down your efforts, or create multiple products? Let us know your thoughts.

💯 Top picks

Why a paid newsletter won't be enough money for most writers

Even if your paid newsletter is your beachhead, it's just one SKU, argues Hunter Walk. Writers may choose to create other products too — podcasts, speaking, books, consulting, guest columns and more.

💸 Business models

[Podcast] 'I believe enough in this to try to do it myself': CollegeHumor owner Sam Reich on the brand's future potential

Founded in 1999, comedy site CollegeHumor was acquired by IAC in 2006 and grew into one of the most successful video publishers on YouTube. But where content has thrived, business hasn't always been easy. This year IAC decided to stop financing CollegeHumor and sold to Sam Reich, who shares some insight on the future in this Digiday podcast episode.

All the ways to make money in media without ads

It turns out there are a lot of ways.

A guide to community-led content

"Documented was born in 2018. Since then, we have made four rounds of user research, held more than 50 individual meetings with users, and sent call outs via email and WhatsApp for people to shed some light on that subject we are reporting on."

✍️ Modern journalism

How to restore moral and technical order in a time of misinformation

"In October, the Media Manipulation Casebook, published by the Technology and Social Change (TaSC) team at Harvard’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Policy, gave us the tools to understand and analyze the origins and motives of some of the most viral misinformation and disinformation campaigns in the past few years."

A crop of startups are trying to make for-profit local news work

"An unlikely trend is developing in the media industry: people think they can make real money from local news."

How can digital media map out a more purposeful future?

"While there aren’t necessarily any quick fixes, leading thinkers from publishers, brands, agencies, and academia have plenty of ideas about where the focus should be to fuel enduring sustainability, fairness, and innovation."

💻 Technology

Google says its News Showcase will have free access to paywalled stories

Google News Showcase visitors will soon be able to read select paywalled articles at no extra charge.

Reddit claims 52 million daily users, revealing a key figure for social-media platforms

The disclosure comes as the tech company pursues new advertisers.

Yes, the adtech bubble is going to burst anytime now

"From the inside, adtech looks exactly like the subprime mortgage industry right before 2008."

🤷 WTF?

Facebook ads could be reaching saturation point

"Facebook platforms are starting to feel like homes with too much furniture. It is getting difficult to move around."

#128 — Optimising the subscription lifecycle

#128 — Optimising the subscription lifecycle

After speaking to people who create content professionally — we kept hearing that it would be beneficial to have a place to share ideas, tips and stories about running email newsletters, and building content-based businesses.

So, we recently launched a brand new community for exactly that and there's already some great conversations taking place. If you'd like to get early access, reply to this email and we'll hook you up.

Enjoy your weekly curation of stories and resources!

💯 Top picks

Building a subscription-first company

This (free) FT strategies report shares the common challenges and learning points from their program with 8 publishers across Europe. The report is broken down into two areas, building a subscription-first company, and optimising the subscription lifecycle.

💸 Business models

Quartz sees record week for member signups, now has more than 25,000 paying members

The publisher enjoyed its best week for membership after announcing it was becoming an independent media company.

Sunnie Huang Newsletters editor at The Economist, discusses the role of newsletters

"Newsletter producers spend a lot of time obsessing over every single pixel in the email but the email itself is only a very small part of the reader’s experience. The relationship with email readers starts long before they actually open the first email and it continues long after they’ve finished reading it."

How to price a paid newsletter

Based on 30 top paid email newsletters, the average price per month is $11.

✍️ Modern journalism

Attention software developers! Media organisations need you

As digital media companies become tech companies, their need for people with technical backgrounds grows, creating opportunities for software developers interested in journalism and media.

How the Seattle Times sold 71,000 digital subscriptions

"People just love to read about bridges and tunnels"

Q&A with Ed Yong: “It’s like staring into the abyss, and the abyss is shouting LOL HOAX into your mentions.”

Deez Links interview The Atlantic’s Ed Yong about the past eight months of nonstop COVID coverage.

💻 Technology

Journey to a first-party data world

"Whether you’re a large publisher with multiple domains and engineering teams, or a small independent title, there are steps you can take to prepare for a cookieless world."

Google will end preferential treatment of AMP pages

“We will prioritize pages with great page experience, whether implemented using AMP or any other web technology, as we rank the results,” Google said in a blog post.

Why it’s easy to hate Facebook but hard to leave

Facebook invested heavily in the one feature it knew people couldn’t leave behind: Their groups.

🤷 WTF?

Is the new Instagram update a new form of dark pattern?

They've moved the camera and notifications icons and replaced them with reels and shopping!

#127 — How to grow a newsletter & join the rise of the media artisan

#127 — How to grow a newsletter & join the rise of the media artisan

There were lots of great pickings for this week's round up. Hopefully it provides a relaxed and productive way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

Penny for your thoughts? Which articles do you find the most useful? We'd love to hear your feedback. Admittedly there won't be an exchange of pennies, but we're always looking for ways to make this newsletter genuinely useful for you, so don't be shy!

💯 Top picks

[Video] How Harry Dry grew a 40k+ newsletter audience

Harry quit a job in design to turn a side-project, Marketing Examples, into a full-time gig. One year later his dedication has produced an impressive email list, sponsorship deals, and plenty of new opportunities on the horizon. In this 1 hour video, Harry talks candidly about everything learnt along the way. Don't miss it!

💸 Business models

Rise of the media artisan

"Some call it the 'passion economy,' others the 'creator economy.' I prefer a different term. (Creating new names for existing concepts is also a thing in the media industry.) I like to call myself a media artisan. Here’s why."

How the Daily Memphian plan to grow paid subscribers without flash sales or gimmicky offers

"Here’s an idea to steal and adapt: Focusing on newsletter subscriber acquisition will increase your digital subscriptions and donations to help fund your newsroom and editorial projects."

What is gated content and how to use it in email marketing

Software companies have been using gated content to attract new email subscribers for quite some time, but this article popped up in the publishing news this week and we can't help but wonder if we're going to see publishers and newsletter writers using this tactic?

How to get over ‘never good enough’

One for the people with perfectionism tendencies and imposter syndrome: "Learn to spot unhealthy perfectionism, understand its emotional sources and find a way to silence that self-critical voice"

Stop sending newsletters, start sending emails

"We thought about our own inboxes and what we open. That came down to two criteria: immense utility or personal communication. So we set out to capture those two fundamental requirements in our existing offerings."

✍️ Modern journalism

Why Matthew Yglesias left Vox

He is the latest high-profile writer to abandon traditional media.

The Substackerati

Did a newsletter company create a more equitable media system—or replicate the flaws of the old one?

Apple is reducing the cut it takes from most news publishers’ subscriptions

"Instead of taking 30% of new subscribers’ payments, it’ll take 15%. The money’s welcome, but it’s also a reminder of how little control publishers have over the terms they get from tech giants."

💻 Technology

Instagram cautiously considers paying publishers

"Instagram is mulling plans to pay publishers on its platform as it grows as a news and information source for users, sources tell Axios."

YouTube launches audio ads

"YouTube is now entering uncharted territories, with the company’s first ad format without a video component, aiming to reach music and podcast listeners."

Squarespace launches Member Areas

"Squarespace is making this available as an add-on to the core website building platform"

🤷 WTF?

Quote tweets have turned us all into jerks

Social media design choices help us all to shame each other.

#126 — There's never been a better time to transform publishing

#126 — There's never been a better time to transform publishing

It's Sunday again, which means it's time for your weekly dose of the best reads about publishing. Included: a free ebook, how Morning Brew grow their subscribers, how to create extraordinary podcasts and more. Plese enjoy, feel free to share, and hit reply to chat with us!

💯 Top picks

Publishers can seize opportunities in the pandemic

"This is a reset moment. Organizations are unfrozen. People are expecting change. You have a cover. There will never be a better time to tackle deeper changes that need to happen."

Lucy Kueng, Senior Research Associate at Reuters has published an ebook about transforming publishing in the aftermath of the pandemic. Read it here (it's free): Transformation Manifesto: 9 Priorities for Now.

💸 Business models

Engagement beats scale: Inside Morning Brew’s approach to subscriber growth

"Our newsletter has 2.5 million subscribers, but that’s not the number we actually care about."

News publishers dial up the marketing heat on their subscription products

With ad business shaky, publishers have become more aggressive about promoting their subscription products. (Paid article)

How Marie Claire survived and thrived using affiliate marketing

In 2019, the publisher was losing readers, and print sales were declining at a rate of almost 25% each year. But under new ownership, they immediately pivoted to a digital business model to tap into a new audience on the web, and now has more than 3 million monthly uniques.

✍️ Modern journalism

Adversarial journalism, conspiracies, impact of journalism, and the future

Thomas Baekdal talks about some of the more serious elements of journalism.

8 reasons why email newsletters are a game-changer

"In the early 2000s, we were supposed to write blogs. Then we weren’t."

Can product thinking save journalism?

“News product is an emerging essential skill for the journalism industry because it connects the dots between the editorial content and the business strategies so that you can create both ethical and sustainable models for producing journalism,”

💻 Technology

Creating extraordinary podcasts

Executive Producer of Content and Partnerships at New York Magazine and Vox Media discusses what she took from her time working at Google and Twitter, and what goes into creating truly great podcast material.

Publishers could be missing out on readers by using mixed post formats on Facebook!

Text-to-speech is the audio opportunity no one’s talking about

While offering articles in an audible format is nothing new, this type of content is currently enjoying a massive boom, as time-strapped audiences look for convenient ways to consume online media.

Can Spotify be the one to convince people to pay for podcasts?

"The Swedish music giant is apparently testing out podcast-only subscription offers. But the market for paid premium podcasts is pointedly unproven."

🤷 WTF?

Social media managers are not OK

"They’re on the front lines of a relentless and overwhelming news cycle that is pushing them to the edge."

#125 — How to stand out

#125 — How to stand out

Since many of us have internet and news fatigue this week, this issue is a little shorter than usual. There's some great reads in here though, we hope you find them interesting!

💯 Top picks

[Thread] Lessons from subscribing to 50+ newsletters

This Twitter use signed up for more than 50 newsletters for a side-project and documented some useful findings about how stand out, how to set expectations, and how to make it more personal.

💸 Business models

How eCommerce, memberships and donations are helping diversify revenues

"Given the challenge of current advertising markets, it’s no surprise that many publishers are looking to increase their revenue from subscriptions. However, this isn’t the only way they can generate more reader revenue."

How a Los Angeles punk fanzine discovered its greatest asset: its readers

Whilst many niche publishers often only survive for a limited timespan, Razorcake has managed to ride out twenty years through a unique program that puts its readership at the heart of its content and distribution.

✍️ Modern journalism

For the first time, The New York Times’ digital subscriptions generate more revenue than print

And its total count of subscriptions passed 7 million for the first time last month.

3 publishers that saw business impact with Digital News Innovation projects

Twipe share three examples of news innovation projects that have had a positive impact: Gamification brings in 10x growth, personalisation reduces churn by 49% and adding more value to paid plans brings in 40% more subscribers!

💻 Technology

Do subscription popups really work?

"For how annoying they are and how much they go against UX best practices, it seems like you can’t go to a website these days without getting served an unapologetic pop-up."

In response to an initial coronavirus news bump, many publishers witnessed record traffic to their sites, and growth in subscribers. At the same time, they had to contend with a slump in advertising revenues.

🤷 WTF?

To mend a broken internet, create online parks

"We need public spaces, built in the spirit of Walt Whitman, that allow us to gather, communicate, and share in something bigger than ourselves."

#124 — Developing a better (content) product

#124 — Developing a better (content) product

The top stories this week are about the benefits of treating your content business as a product. Plus: Ads are appearing on Substack, the industry is adjusting to the changes of 2020, and mistakes to avoid in mobile publishing. Enjoy!

💯 Top picks

Content is product and product is content: Why deeper alignment is the only way forward

"When you ask your audience, they actually don’t differentiate and tend not to care whether something they consume is content or product. It’s one thing for them - the content and the experience, and many more such things we tend to consider separate due to org structures and silos."

💸 Business models

How we combined churn analytics with customer feedback to develop a better product

Find out how a team used churn analytics from ChartMogul and qualitative customer feedback to improve their product. These are things publishers can implement relatively easily with a few extra tools in their tech stack (Ghost integrates with ChartMogul, for example).  to get an idea of their churn analytics, and by asking subscribers for feedback.

[Podcast] So you want to launch a newsletter?

The a16z podcast interviewed four independent newsletter authors, all at different stages of growth after around one year of publishing.

The curious emergence of the Substack advertisement

Those who have been leaning towards subscriptions have taken a surprising turn towards ads, with sponsorships, collaborations and classified ads turning up in multiple email newsletters.

[Podcast] Retention has been one of our best stories of the year

The new president and managing director at The Economist Group, Bob Cohn, joined just before the pandemic began. Listen to an interview with Bob on the Digiday Podcast to find out how they focused on retention and increased the number of subscribers in "highly engaged" category by 21%.

Digital transformation: Publishers gear up for a better tomorrow

The changes presented to publishing in 2020 have caused upheaval, but they also bring a lot of new opportunities for transformation.

✍️ Modern journalism

How to avoid the common mistakes in mobile publishing

"Mobile traffic is up, but digital publishers see marginal engagement from these users. These common UX and monetization mistakes might be the reason why."

We are not divided

Reasons To Be Cheerful has teamed up with other publishers to launch a collaborative multimedia journalism project dedicated to revealing that we humans are incredibly skilled at overcoming division.

The lasting legacy of the coronavirus — Reshaping publishing

"Majority of the respondents (55%) believe that remote working has made them more efficient. However, 77% say that it is harder to build and maintain relationships in a team while working remotely."

💻 Technology

"Pinpoint, which uses AI and machine learning to help reporters sift through investigative materials, is part of the recently-released Journalist Studio."

The Brown Institute’s Local News Lab is developing “smart paywalls” for local newsrooms

"The new project helps small- and medium-sized news organizations take advantage of machine learning to deepen engagement and improve subscription conversions."

🤷 WTF?

Netflix is testing an audio-only mode to compete with podcasts and audiobooks

Netflix is testing a new audio-only mode with some Android users to allow users stream just the audio track of a show or movie in the background.

#123 — Paid is the new normal

#123 — Paid is the new normal

This week's issue has so many interesting ideas, podcasts and tools that we're excited to share with you. We don't even want to ruin the surprise with a summary. Enjoy and see you at the same time next week!

Enjoying this newsletter? Share with a friend, on Twitter or hit reply to chat with us — we always reply

💯 Top picks

[Podcast] The realities of running a paid newsletter

The Media Voices podcast interviewed Casey Newton, Thomas Baekdal, Simon Owens, Anne Helen Petersen and Josh Sternberg about their experiences of launching and running an independent paid newsletter. Here's some of our top takeaways:

  • Like any business, it's hard work, but it's also very rewarding
  • You really need to define what your value proposition is
  • It's possible to run a completely independent business for years to come, but many are looking forward to seeing a new wave of media companies being born from successful newsletters

(This podcast is 42 minutes)

💸 Business models

What’s new with email newsletters? Insights from The Economist

"Sunnie Huang has been Newsletters Editor at The Economist UK for three years and, in that time, the role newsletters play for both prospective customers and subscribers has developed radically."

What tactics should independent journalists focus on

As a follow-on from this week's top pick, Thomas Baekdal wrote some additional thoughts on Thomas argues: "I believe it is vital that you focus on paid from the start. You need to move yourself into a different mindset."

The future of B2B subscriptions: 5 success hacks

"Those with subscriptions are more confident in this part of their business, and, there is an intention to shift the ratio of recurring revenues versus non-recurring revenues by an average of 34% (from 47% to 63%)."

“People, especially now, want to feel that they “belong” to a community. The trick is to get the members of that community talking with one another.”

Stir raises $4 million to help online collaborators split revenue

"The company, backed by heavy hitters in the creator economy, helps individual creators and journalists share revenue when they collaborate. This type of service could incentivize more creators to branch out on their own, expanding the creator economy as a whole."

✍️ Modern journalism

Inside the mind of Humans of New York creator Brandon Stanton

HONY grew from a Facebook group of 64k people to a worldwide community of more than 20million people. The Profile spoke to the creator, Brandon Stanton, for an hour long interview. (You can read or watch the interview)

How to use events to grow a diverse audience

Even in these times, virtual events can be a useful method to build a loyal audience.

💻 Technology

Need a new favicon? This tool has got you covered

Quickly create letter or emoji favicons and export as an SVG.

The Pandemic's digital shadow

"The coronavirus pandemic is accelerating a dramatic decline in global internet freedom."

🤷 WTF?

Why social media is so good at polarising us

Mathematicians are teaming up with political scientists to create models of how social media divides us, and results suggest at least one popular solution might actually make the problem worse.

#122 — Making a living from a newsletter

#122 — Making a living from a newsletter

In this week's issue you can read about why the rise of content is upon us and how chasing scale at all costs is no longer the way forward.

A little update from us — in the past 10 weeks alone, Ghost has made more than $140,000 for independent publishers and newsletter authors, all while our membership feature is still in beta! We've got some big releases coming up — watch this space 🤫

💯 Top picks

How I (unexpectedly) now make a living writing a newsletter

Lenny Rachitsky (ex Airbnb product manager) writes a newsletter which tackles reader questions about product, growth and people management.

Lenny's Newsletter launched in June 2019, adding paid subscriptions in April 2020, and now has more than 35k subscribers, of which 2k are on a paid plan, earning a six-figure income. We think it's safe to say you're not going to want to miss this slide deck about everything Lenny learnt on this journey!

💸 Business models

The rise of content, a path to sustainable growth

"In 2017, Forbes told us that content will always be king and three years later, its reign has only gotten stronger."

How The Correspondent drives interaction between members and its journalists

"...rather than looking just at reader revenue and membership numbers, it judges triumphs by more amorphous measures like member collaboration that contribute to its goals of being a diverse, progressive, accessible and transnational media outlet. Of course, members that interact more are less likely to churn, too."

✍️ Modern journalism

Membership 101 program

Apply for this program led by The Texas Tribune’s RevLab, in coordination with The Membership Puzzle Project to access a 5-week course for newsrooms who are thinking about developing membership programs.

How publisher data can define the “next web”

"The Telegraph’s subscription business has overtaken its advertising revenues as the publisher says it has stopped chasing scale at all costs."

💻 Technology

Writing is a matter of showing up, day after day, with the right tools and materials

Ann Handley's latest newsletter issue includes some cool recommendations for writing tools that can help you gather inspiration and ideas.

Spotify is leaning on influencers to win the podcasting wars

"Spotify has made its intentions clear: It wants to be the largest audio platform in the world—not just music, audio."

Google launches a suite of tech tools for reporters

"Google is putting AI and machine learning technologies into the hands of journalists."

Google Analytics 4: What content strategists need to know

Things are changing in Google Analytics — here's what you should know.  Thanks to subscriber Deborah for recommending this article.

🤷 WTF?

Is everybody doing OK? Let’s ask social media

"Researchers are looking at online behavior to gauge public mental health. The results aren’t pretty."

#121 — Making money on YouTube

#121 — Making money on YouTube

Your weekly curated publishing news this week includes a breakdown of how the top tech channel on YouTube makes money, tips for running newsletters of any kind, and find out how a publisher has reduced their churn rate to 1%.

Enjoy, feel free share with your friends, and see you next week!

💯 Top picks

How does Linus make money?

Ever wondered how YouTube stars make money? Linus Tech Tips, one of the largest and most successful tech channels on YouTube recently posted a video illustrating their revenue sources. It's a really good example of how modern-day publishers are diversifying revenue streams.

💸 Business models

How I run a revenue-generating newsletter without burning out

Umar Hansa, creator of Dev Tips, discusses how running a newsletter on the side is possible in an IndieHackers interview.

“There is not a country on Earth where this model is not working”: Digital subscriptions are helping publishers build a stronger future

It's not just about the big players going from strength-to-strength. Independent, regional, new and specialist brands have also registered impressive growth.

Your monthly guide to sending better newsletters

Get all of the latest news, ideas and stories about sending great emails in one place in this month's issue of Not a Newsletter [Google Docs].

[Podcast] The state of bundles in 2020

Ben Thompson (Stratechery) and James Allworth (Harvard Business Review) chat about the state of bundles in 2020 on the Exponent podcast.

✍️ Modern journalism

This local news publisher has the lowest churn rate in the industry!

"A churn rate of 1% means that you expect your customers to be around for 100 months, which is over eight years, which is phenomenal" — Ed Malthouse, Research Director, Spiegel Research Center

What books by journalists are you reading?

Some reading recommendations from Kristen Hare: "though each book came out just before the pandemic, for me, they offer something necessary right now — a reminder of the real change local journalism creates."

💻 Technology

Open Sourced: The hidden consequences of tech

"Recode’s new multi platform journalism project explains and exposes the hidden consequences of tech — the good, the bad, and the complicated."

Publishers are using Reddit to brand build and drive awareness

"Reddit has both baffled and bemused publishers over the years, but growing evidence shows that the two parties are working together more closely."

Data visualisation made easy

Flourish allows you to create data visualisations for better storytelling without needing to code or install anything — with free (public) plans, as well as personal and business plans.

🤷 WTF?

The news site was bogus. Facebook still let it build a real audience.

"In early August, the Globe Independent launched a website filled with news stories plagiarized from NBC News, the Washington Post, and other outlets."

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Anders Norén
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:
5:07 AM - 4 Jun 2018
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Andy McIlwain
Publisher Weekly - Issue #29… 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
Thanks for the votes! I recommend this newsletter by @TryGhost (@JohnONolan) for thoughtful takes on publishing, subscription biz and future of creators:
4:38 PM - 8 Jul 2018
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