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MTF

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Newsletters have been a stable online business model ever since the Internet became popular. For some time overlooked because of social media, they're now making a big comeback.

There are a few reasons why newsletters are now hot:
  • Writers are looking for new ways to make money without being dependent on someone else (like a newspaper, website, or Amazon).
  • With big social media platforms censoring writers, many shifted to Substack (a popular platform for newsletters) which is committed to minimal censorship. But even if you're not using Substack, newsletters in general are resistant to censorship because you control them and can always take your list elsewhere (unlike with social media).
  • Smart content creators realized they're only renting space from social media. A newsletter list allows them to have direct access to their subscribers.
  • Big players invest heavily in this industry. Twitter acquired newsletter tool Revue while Business Insider bought Morning Brew newsletter for $75 million.
And here are a few reasons why newsletters as a business model in general are interesting:
  • Newsletters are in essence customer lists. So while you're building a newsletter, you're also building a valuable asset.
  • Newsletters require very little capital and can be easily managed by one person.
  • Once you figure out how to grow a newsletter, it's easy to start another one and scale to a few newsletters or more. The Agora is an example of a big publishing business mostly built through various newsletters.
  • Newsletters on topics that appeal to many people can grow into lucrative businesses. Example: mentioned before Morning Brew or Subscribe to The Hustle Daily Newsletter recently acquired for $27 million.
  • Newsletters have their own ecosystem. If you're in a popular niche, you can build and grow your newsletter by only interacting with other newsletters, similar to podcasting.
Newsletters can be monetized in many different ways:
  • Directly, called premium or paid newsletters. This is most common for finance/industry newsletters where you're writing content that can make people money.
  • Through sponsorships. Depending on the niche and your list size, you can make anywhere from a few dozen bucks to a few thousand dollars or more per one ad placement.
  • Through affiliate marketing. You have a list and (hopefully) you have their trust so you can recommend products and make money from commissions.
  • Through selling your own products and services. As above - you build trust with your audience so it's easier to sell.
  • Through creating communities or organizing events - once you have enough subscribers, a newsletter can easily turn into a community. You can sell monthly or yearly access to it or organize events for your subscribers.
In this thread I'll post resources, news, tools, and other stuff related to newsletters. Feel free to contribute!

Note: this thread is ONLY about newsletters as a business model. If you use a newsletter as a traffic channel for your business that's cool but that's not the topic of this thread.
 
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Tiago

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One that I like is Tomas Pueyo's "Uncharted Territories".

What keeps me from paying for the premium content, is that there is so much high-quality, free content out there. Maybe if it was super niche I would pay for it.
 

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What keeps me from paying for the premium content, is that there is so much high-quality, free content out there. Maybe if it was super niche I would pay for it.

I pay for three crypto newsletters (paid for a year in advance) but next year will only keep paying for one as it's not just crypto but also a bit on business/lifestyle/investing/macro trends.

Like I mentioned in the first post, I'd have no problems paying for a newsletter that would help me make more money. Otherwise I'd pay if it gave me access to an exclusive community but not just a newsletter.
 

Andy Black

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Newsletters have been a stable online business model ever since the Internet became popular. For some time overlooked because of social media, they're now making a big comeback.

There are a few reasons why newsletters are now hot:
  • Writers are looking for new ways to make money without being dependent on someone else (like a newspaper, website, or Amazon).
  • With big social media platforms censoring writers, many shifted to Substack (a popular platform for newsletters) which is committed to minimal censorship. But even if you're not using Substack, newsletters in general are resistant to censorship because you control them and can always take your list elsewhere (unlike with social media).
  • Smart content creators realized they're only renting space from social media. A newsletter list allows them to have direct access to their subscribers.
  • Big players invest heavily in this industry. Twitter acquired newsletter tool Revue while Business Insider bought Morning Brew newsletter for $75 million.
And here are a few reasons why newsletters as a business model in general are interesting:
  • Newsletters are in essence customer lists. So while you're building a newsletter, you're also building a valuable asset.
  • Newsletters require very little capital and can be easily managed by one person.
  • Once you figure out how to grow a newsletter, it's easy to start another one and scale to a few newsletters or more. The Agora is an example of a big publishing business mostly built through various newsletters.
  • Newsletters on topics that appeal to many people can grow into lucrative businesses. Example: mentioned before Morning Brew or Subscribe to The Hustle Daily Newsletter recently acquired for $27 million.
  • Newsletters have their own ecosystem. If you're in a popular niche, you can build and grow your newsletter by only interacting with other newsletters, similar to podcasting.
Newsletters can be monetized in many different ways:
  • Directly, called premium or paid newsletters. This is most common for finance/industry newsletters where you're writing content that can make people money.
  • Through sponsorships. Depending on the niche and your list size, you can make anywhere from a few dozen bucks to a few thousand dollars or more per one ad placement.
  • Through affiliate marketing. You have a list and (hopefully) you have their trust so you can recommend products and make money from commissions.
  • Through selling your own products and services. As above - you build trust with your audience so it's easier to sell.
  • Through creating communities or organizing events - once you have enough subscribers, a newsletter can easily turn into a community. You can sell monthly or yearly access to it or organize events for your subscribers.
In this thread I'll post resources, news, tools, and other stuff related to newsletters. Feel free to contribute!

Note: this thread is ONLY about newsletters as a business model. If you use a newsletter as a traffic channel for your business that's cool but that's not the topic of this thread.
You know I’m a fan of paid email newsletters (even though I’m not running one currently). I think they’re a great MVP for a subscription product, as well as being a product themselves.

They’re so simple to setup.

They’re also one-to-many communication. No worrying about subscribers spamming other subscribers. No having to moderate comments or vet new members.

They don’t have to be a formal “newsletter” in the sense that it’s published to a schedule, or has great formatting and/or graphics. I had a little $5/mth email newsletter that was like a progress log of me growing my business. I’d update that like I was updating a progress log in the forum.

Something I found refreshing was just posting to my paid subscribers, without wondering how I should try to monetise. They’re already paying, no need for me to sell anything. (I don’t have a free email list as I can’t be bothered sending free emails.)

Looking forward to seeing where you take this @MTF.
 
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I do love the simplicity of a newsletter (both as a reader and marketer).

They eliminate a lot of the upfront time/financial investment compared to other online models. That said, I suppose this also makes them a low barrier to entry?

Will be watching this thread.
 

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Will be following with interest, thank you for posting.
 

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One of the few business models that fulfills the CENTS principle, with the possible exception of Entry depending on the industry/niche.

The Hustle acquisition certainly opened a few eyes to the real possibility of creating a sustainable lifestyle with a list of email addresses. Yeah, that will attract a lot of tire-kickers, but the consistent quality players will stay at the top similar to what happened with blogging.
 
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MTF

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They’re already paying, no need for me to sell anything.

This makes paid newsletters a joy for writers who simply want to get paid for writing, without having to monetize it another way. Your only concern becomes to write good stuff.

They eliminate a lot of the upfront time/financial investment compared to other online models. That said, I suppose this also makes them a low barrier to entry?

IMO a barrier to entry is the least important of the commandments. There are so many business models that are easy to start, yet it doesn't mean someone who copies you will "steal" your subscribers.

It's also important to determine whether you want to create a personal or corp brand. Both have pros and cons (particularly if you want to exit).

I'd personally go with a business brand so that you can replace the editor of the newsletter if necessary (for example, when launching a new newsletter but still wanting to grow the old one) or sell it. Personal newsletters may be easier to grow in some industries (like journalism) but in general I would always go with a brand.
 

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My biggest weakness is finding stuff to write about. My mind goes blank when I try to come up with topics. I've tried to implement systems I found online (including those in Nicolas Cole's book) to no avail.

I'm trying to write about stuff I know quite a lot about.

I don't know if my brain is trying to sabotage me, or if I'm just approaching it from the wrong perspective. Probably a mix of both.

Any ideas?
 
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My biggest weakness is finding stuff to write about. My mind goes blank when I try to come up with topics. I've tried to implement systems I found online (including those in Nicolas Cole's book) to no avail.

I'm trying to write about stuff I know quite a lot about.

I don't know if my brain is trying to sabotage me, or if I'm just approaching it from the wrong perspective. Probably a mix of both.

Any ideas?

Can you post a lit of stuff you know a lot about?

Did you make a list of people who you like talking with and figuring out what content they might be interested in reading?
 

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My biggest weakness is finding stuff to write about. My mind goes blank when I try to come up with topics. I've tried to implement systems I found online (including those in Nicolas Cole's book) to no avail.

I'm trying to write about stuff I know quite a lot about.

I don't know if my brain is trying to sabotage me, or if I'm just approaching it from the wrong perspective. Probably a mix of both.

Any ideas?
Help people in online communities. Repurpose for your newsletter.

That way you’re not “finding stuff to write about”, you’re “finding people to help, helping them, and then helping your subscribers”.
 

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Help people in online communities. Repurpose for your newsletter.

That way you’re not “finding stuff to write about”, you’re “finding people to help, helping them, and then helping your subscribers”.

This is sort of how I started my new newsletter. Some time ago I wrote the thread on discomfort, it resonated with a lot of people and I realized it's something I'm interested in anyway and could write more about it.
 
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Madame Peccato

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Can you post a lit of stuff you know a lot about?
  • Writing
  • Content marketing (SEO, writing, research, etc.)
  • Technology (especially helping people fix their PC issues)
  • Philosophy
  • Literature
  • Gambling (lol)
  • Gaming
I think the real problem is that I don't particularly care about any of those. I'm more of a "know a little bit about everything" person.
Did you make a list of people who you like talking with and figuring out what content they might be interested in reading?

I talk to lots of people on the daily (thanks Internet), but they're mostly "casual" friendships. We talk about whatever happens to be the topic at hand. They are mostly interested in consuming entertaining content.

Help people in online communities. Repurpose for your newsletter.

That way you’re not “finding stuff to write about”, you’re “finding people to help, helping them, and then helping your subscribers”.

This is an interesting idea. As I said earlier, my biggest hurdle is that I don't really care about any subject in particular. I have a lot of horizontal knowledge so to speak, but in-depth...meh. Maybe in content marketing, but even then I'm not a fan of it.
 

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This is an interesting idea. As I said earlier, my biggest hurdle is that I don't really care about any subject in particular. I have a lot of horizontal knowledge so to speak, but in-depth...meh. Maybe in content marketing, but even then I'm not a fan of it.
Maybe you're like me and care more about helping people instead? If so then lean into that.

I've written about this a lot.

Some of those threads:
 

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I'm more of a "know a little bit about everything" person.

I'm like that, too which is why I found one topic that relates to a lot of stuff I do and sort of connect everything back to it.

In your case, something related to philosophy could work well as it's a broad subject that allows you to explore whatever you're interested in.

Other than that, you can also pick a topic you'd like to study and use your newsletter as a tool to document your journey. Maybe it'll take off. And if it doesn't, you'll still at least do something and learn.
 
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Regarding the successful newsletters already cited, does anyone know what their traffic generation methods were/are?

Did they have YouTube channels, blogs, or did they venture more into paid advertising?

I assume the methods were more written-based, given so many subscribed to an email newsletter.
 

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Thanks for your answers @MTF and @Andy Black, I'm way less confused now.
Maybe you're like me and care more about helping people instead? If so then lean into that.

I've written about this a lot.

Some of those threads:
Yes, I'm definitely more interested in helping others. It's how I stumbled upon my current main source of income, freelance writing.

I have a hard time finding people to help, as I don't use social media. I have a LinkedIn account but I don't understand that place AT ALL.

Your threads are always a delight to read, I found out the clarity of purpose one the other day. If I had to describe my thinking on this subject, I'd say...very muddy.
Other than that, you can also pick a topic you'd like to study and use your newsletter as a tool to document your journey. Maybe it'll take off. And if it doesn't, you'll still at least do something and learn.
This is something I can do. Do you have any example of newsletters / articles / social media accounts / YT channels of people sharing their learning? I only see people who are already expert at their craft, so I'm having a hard time imagining how to write what I'm learning about in an engaging way.
 

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Help people in online communities. Repurpose for your newsletter.

That way you’re not “finding stuff to write about”, you’re “finding people to help, helping them, and then helping your subscribers”.
Thanks Andy, great advice, and a brilliant way to learnt your craft if you intend to write newsletters. Since your post about not lurking I have determined to respond to at least two posts a day, encouraging and helping where I can. This in turn has caused me to review my writing style and language usage, and since this topic began I'm now considering writing a free newsletter to develop and improve my communication skills, and also getting me out of my comfort zone.
you can also pick a topic you'd like to study and use your newsletter as a tool to document your journey. Maybe it'll take off. And if it doesn't, you'll still at least do something and learn
I like this idea, by taking action I can still learn something even if the newsletter doesn't take off.
 
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I think I already mentioned that I had a paid email newsletter that was like a progress thread of me growing my business. I wasn't consistent about sending emails, but easily managed it for over a year. It was fun to write, and I'd get the occasional reply from people who got inspiration from various issues.

I used Substack, and subscribers only paid $5/mth. I had maybe 15 subs at one point.

I noticed that I paid way more attention to it even with just one paid subscriber.

I discontinued it because I wanted to move to New Zenler which I think could be a great platform for paid email newsletters.

I documented my journey here:
 

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Your threads are always a delight to read,
Thanks!

I found out the clarity of purpose one the other day. If I had to describe my thinking on this subject, I'd say...very muddy.

Maybe I can unmuddy it for you.

Business is simple:

Help people. Get paid. Help more people.

Start. Sell. Scale.

And start by following Mother Theresa's quote:

"Never worry about numbers. Help one person at a time and always start with the person closest to you."


I don't like or understand LinkedIn. It's not my kind of platform, although I do interact with people on it.

Communities work best for me.
 

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Regarding the successful newsletters already cited, does anyone know what their traffic generation methods were/are?

Did they have YouTube channels, blogs, or did they venture more into paid advertising?

I assume the methods were more written-based, given so many subscribed to an email newsletter.
I think paid ads could be a great way to get email signups.

Most of our clients use Google Ads paid search campaigns to generate phone calls or enquiries, but Google Ads is great for generating email signups.

I remember running paid search campaigns for a startup to acquire 15k job-seeker email signups a day.

I started messing with it in the progress thread below, before abandoning it when MailCheat(Chimp) shutdown my account (too many signups from too many different countries?) and then Google shutdown my account as well (because I had "Google Ads Tips" in the ad headline?):
 
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I think paid ads could be a great way to get email signups.

Most of our clients use Google Ads paid search campaigns to generate phone calls or enquiries, but Google Ads is great for generating email signups.

I remember running paid search campaigns for a startup to acquire 15k job-seeker email signups a day.

I started messing with it in the progress thread below, before abandoning it when MailCheat(Chimp) shutdown my account and then Google did as well (because I had "Google Ads Tips" in the ad headline):
Great insight, Andy. Appreciate it.

I haven't touched Google Ads since one of my accounts got shut down many moons ago. I didn't know you could send people to landing/signup pages (I think that was what I was penalised for back then).

Will be reading through your thread. Thanks for sharing.
 

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Types of Newsletters

Here are some different types of newsletters:
  • Curated newsletters. By far the most common type of a newsletter these days. The editor provides a weekly (or more frequent) roundup of news from the industry/niche, interesting articles to read, etc. This type of content is easy to produce since your job is to find, read, and filter the best resources for your subscribers. You don't have to be an expert and you don't have to write much except for a paragraph or two explaining why you decided to share it. Example: Midlife Health, Wealth, and Personal Growth | Further (in this case the editor expands more on the links he shares)
  • Expert newsletters. Also a very common model. If you're an expert in something, you write for your newsletter as if you were to write for your blog or another platform. You can write your commentaries on the news, provide how-to articles, or report your own stories like journalists do. Example: Marketing Examples - The finest real world marketing examples
  • Hybrid curated/expert. You share links to third-party articles/news and give your take on them. With this type, you don't have to be as knowledgeable about it as if you were the "proper" expert. Just enough knowledge to understand the industry may be sufficient. Example: The Publish Press
  • Research newsletters. You share with your subscribers your own analysis of something. What's more important here than understanding everything about a certain topic is your ability to synthesize knowledge. This is a very popular choice for business newsletters. Example: Trends.vc — Discover new markets and ideas
  • Opportunities newsletters. Usually in finance/business, you share with your readers new opportunities, such as new opportunities to invest money, new business models to explore, etc. This is similar to expert newsletters, only more focused on a specific theme (like a new business idea each week) and not general how-to advice. Example: Contrarian Thinking
  • Student newsletters. You can become an expert in something by launching a newsletter in which you'll share how you're learning a given topic. Instead of pretending you know all the answers you're sharing your challenges, book notes, successes and mistakes, etc. Eventually you may transition from this type into a "proper" expert newsletter. Example:
  • Discomfort Club (this is my new newsletter; instead of pretending I'm an expert I'm providing book notes and my thoughts as I learn about this topic).
 

MTF

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This is something I can do. Do you have any example of newsletters / articles / social media accounts / YT channels of people sharing their learning? I only see people who are already expert at their craft, so I'm having a hard time imagining how to write what I'm learning about in an engaging way.

Share your notes on books/videos/podcasts/whatever you're learning from, post your thoughts as you learn (successes and mistakes) or come up with an interesting challenge that would appeal to your target audience and chronicle it.

One cool example I saw recently on YouTube (100 days of cold therapy):

View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UQbeMVtYd6E


He doesn't have many views yet but after publicly chronicling his 100 days of cold therapy, would you be way more likely to consider him someone worth listening to in this niche?
 
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I'm having a hard time imagining how to write what I'm learning about in an engaging way.
People love following journeys. Add personal touches to your stories. Photos and maybe even videos.

Let them know they’re following a fellow human being.

Think about the progress threads you enjoy following in the forum. Which stand out to you and why? The trials and tribulations draw us in and have us cheering them on from the sidelines. Those threads can be so much more engaging than a “Here’s how to do XYZ” post.
 

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People love following journeys. Add personal touches to your stories. Photos and maybe even videos.

Let them know they’re following a fellow human being.

Think about the progress threads you enjoy following in the forum. Which stand out to you and why? The trials and tribulations draw us in and have us cheering them on from the sidelines. Those threads can be so much more engaging than a “Here’s how to do XYZ” post.

And vulnerability makes you more relatable.

You're not that experienced guy who already knows everything about everything. You're someone similar to your audience. That makes you a "real" person and someone they can emulate easily.

I have no problem admitting I'm a student and make mistakes and fail all the time. Way better to be a student than a fake expert.
 

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I have no problem admitting I'm a student and make mistakes and fail all the time. Way better to be a student than a fake expert.
Even into my seventh decade I still see myself as a student, life changes too much for you to ever stop learning.
And vulnerability makes you more relatable.

You're not that experienced guy who already knows everything about everything. You're someone similar to your audience. That makes you a "real" person and someone they can emulate easily.
I like this, I am a bit of a jack of all trades, this is giving me ideas to run with, thank you.
 
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You inspired me to start another Follow-Along newsletter @MTF. Thanks!

Start Sell Scale HomePage.png
 

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Regarding the successful newsletters already cited, does anyone know what their traffic generation methods were/are?

Did they have YouTube channels, blogs, or did they venture more into paid advertising?

I assume the methods were more written-based, given so many subscribed to an email newsletter.

For The Hustle:


(mostly blogging)

Morning Brew:


(word of mouth and referral program)

Here's an article written by a guy who grew his newsletter to 130k subscribers in 20 months:


Here are some ideas as well:

 

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