6 things I learned at The Newsletter Conference

👋🏻 Welcome to Newsletter Examples, where I highlight the formats, strategies, and best practices of leading newsletters to help you grow and monetize your newsletter.

Today, I’m sharing 6 takeaways from last week’s inaugural Newsletter Conference, where I spoke about making 🔥 content—and enjoyed meeting some of you talented peeps!

Rockin’ my OG Hustle trucker cap, which I earned from 15 Hustle referrals

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Takeaway #1: There are riches in niches 💸 

In a Q&A with A Media Operator’s Jacob Donnelly, Workweek’s Adam Ryan described how he got hooked on B2B media after working at Spiceworks, which made $75m/year by connecting IT professionals.

Workweek runs a similar playbook, connecting people in health care, HR, and other professions. The quantity of subscribers doesn’t really matter, Adam told the audience. You just need the right subscribers in the right niches.

On a different panel, Ari Lewis, co-founder of Payload, discussed plans to launch a nuclear energy newsletter. He picked that niche after learning that there are two nuclear energy associations that together bring in ~$60m/year in revenue.

When you’re considering what niches to build in, Ari says, look for industries with “a lot of existing sponsors and members.”

Takeaway #2: Cheap pizza & homemade cookies helped huge newsletters grow 📈 

Adam Ryan, a former Hustle colleague of mine, also mentioned the free “Beer & Pizza” talks we had for superfans during our early days.

“We had a speaker, we gave them a 40-ounce beer, and said you’re done when the beer’s gone,” he joked. 

The 🍕 and 🍻 cost The Hustle a few hundred bucks, but it more than paid for itself. Months later, when we turned to our subscribers to raise money for the business, it was the free pizza people who contributed the most (~$300k!).

Aine Stapleton, head of growth and ops at Intrigue Media, told attendees how she used to give homemade cookies to college students to persuade them to sign up for International Intrigue.

She still gets emails from those students and continues to benefit from ties she built with professors who tell their students to sign up for the newsletter.

“If your teacher tells you that you’ll do better in class [if you subscribe], you’ll do it,” Aine said. (Aine, we need that 🍪 recipe!)

Takeaway #3: Meme makers are 🔥 partners

One of International Intrigue’s most successful promotions involves working with meme makers who shout out the newsletter in their IG stories.

International Intrigue pays an upfront fee, plus a variable amount based on how many subscribers sign up. The deals cost an average of 30-50 cents per subscriber, far lower than most promos, and have driven solid numbers. (Hmmm, that’s cheaper than beer and pizza!)

Takeaway #4: You can start making 💰️sooner than you think

Boye Akolade, co-founder of Future Party, gave a shout-out to The Assist for the money they’re making on paid sponsored content. When The Assist signs up new subscribers, those subscribers receive a survey asking them 5 productivity questions. In response, The Assist sends them a report with 5 downloadable productivity hacks, paid for by different company sponsors. What’s your version of this look like?

Takeaway #5: Create communities carefully 🧑‍🤝‍🧑 

Rachel Schindler, co-founder & VP of product and growth at Punchbowl News, said her political newsletter started a Slack channel to share behind-the-scenes Capitol Hill coverage.

But they let anyone (not just paying subscribers) in the channel, with no rules to guide the conversation. “It was “basically hell,” Rachel said.

After 4-6 weeks, they shut down the Slack channel—and recently started a texting service with Subtext for paying subscribers that has “really really paid off.” (I ❤️ Subtext. It’s an inexpensive way to create a community around your most loyal fans.)

Takeaway #6: We should tweet way more 👊 

“If you’re not publishing great content to social every day, you’re missing out on growth,” Matt McGarry of Newsletter Operator, said on one of the day’s last panels.

He creates up to 5 social posts off the content he puts in one newsletter. He does another thing I love: he posts teasers of what’s coming in the next day’s newsletter, which he said drives hundreds of sign-ups.

Hope you enjoyed this week’s email. I’ll be back next week with my regular examples, inspired by all the great newsletters I heard about at the conference!

☮️ -Brad

P.S. I’m guest editing the Sunday Long Read this week, which curates the best dozen or so stories on the internet. I’m sharing links to my favorite newsletter stories as well—if you’ve got a favorite, please pass it along!

P.S.S. Want access to the 5 pages of notes I used to prep for my Newsletter Conference panel? Reply to this email with “notes please” and I’ll send ‘em your way!

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