Ideas and Validation July 23, 2020

7 Newsletter Product Ideas for Indie Hackers

Andrew Kamphey @AndrewKamphey

I've run a weekly newsletter for 2.5 years.
I've run a daily newsletter for 4 months.
I've monetized newsletters in many ways.

I've talked to over 100 other newsletter writers, creators, curators.

@MRRVentures asked me what I thought about opportunities. Here's what I think:

We don't need another ESP. (Email Service Provider)
or do we?

We don't need another directory!
We need 100 more.

WTF do we need?
Find out Below

Existing Solutions

There's an incredible amount of passion and energy in the newsletter space right now. At this exact moment.
New tools are come out all the time. Sparkloop, RabbitRabbit
Email platforms are accelerating growth: Substack
More of the past revived and updated: GoodBits by @MRRVentures
Old Tools are adding Newsletters: Linkedin, Ghost, Medium, all have added "newsletters" to their platforms. But are they really newsletters or just email updates? Not a topic to debate here.

Marie Dolle mapped out the Email industry as it is now. There's 84 icons on the list.

Note: Almost 300 companies are on the CreatorScape 2020

If you like geek out on the original Lumascapes:

map of newsletter industry

But there's way more opportunities. The opportunities lie within what's NOT on the map. Like I said above, Lumascapes now lists thousands of companies.

If you want to create something new, as an indie hacker. You can absolutely add your product to one of the mapped out sectors. Yes You can do that.

You can also reinvent how newsletters operate.
You can also take an existing thing ppl want to do and make it 10x easier.
You can also create new sectors.

What's missing from the newsletter map? You decide.

Already I can tell you here's some companies missing:

The Products

Here are 7 Product Ideas I would pay for right now, if they existed.

And below, I tell you how much I'd pay as a user of these tools.

  1. Better Archives
  2. Tiny Sends Queued
  3. NPS For Emails
  4. Growth Dashboard
  5. Directory Maker
  6. Email Courses
  7. Lead Magnet Manager

If you run a newsletter and have more ideas, comment below. IndieHackers are watching!

Vote your favorite in the comments too.

Let's see if anyone can build them.

1. Better Archives

Can you extract my existing archives from Mailchimp or Substack? Can you present them in a beautiful way?

Can you make them searchable by keyword or topic?

Can you get them into a blog format on my domain so I can get that sweet SEO juice?

Lots of nuance here because when I send an email I usually have other info inside it that I don't necessarily want "archived". Not in a bad way. Just thought I'd send it and 99% of ppl would read it within a week. 2 months later some info doesn't make sense. How can I edit that out of the archives?

I send curated news. That means my newsletter has sections and articles. Can Each of those sections be archived individually as well as in an edition? Can my readers search through the archives, like a library?

I do this now with a google sheet and algolia. http://influence.directory/library/

I'd gladly pay for a way to have this done for me.

2. Tiny Sends Queued

I send a weekly newsletter, and each week I want to send more. Why? Because I'd rather send a few smaller emails each week than 1 big roundup. It's a faster read for my audience and maybe this could be a premium version?

But I have to cross the "mental" gap of having this weekly curated process.

IF I had a chrome extension, (like revue, or pocket, or like the bookmarklet I built) that instead of just saving the links, it sends them. And queues them. I could "queue" 7 emails in a day, and know that my newsletter is rocking and rolling without my interference for a whole week.

Yes this can be done with automation from a sheet. Nocode.Coffee does this really well with no-code automation. Not easy for a normal mortal to build. Where ever people are using lots of automation steps, there's where hackers can come in and make a fortune!

The key here is queuing. I hate that I literally can't just set a time every day to send an email and then fill a queue with them. Substack really angers me about this. Their scheduling buttons are just bonkers for someone who is sending a newsletter every day.
Queuing also helps large publications with many authors. Not sure why substack doesn't figure this out sooner rather than later. If you have multiple authors you'll all need to know who sends what when.

I want to send an email as easy as it is to send a tweet.

3. NPS For Emails

NPS (Net Promoter Score) measures customer experience. A simple thumbs up or thumbs down link at the bottom of each newsletter would be nice. I can do that myself. I just don' tknow where to send the "traffic" but that doesn't matter.

What I really want is NPS for each section or item of my newsletter. I want to know if someone is clicking on think because they saw it before, or because it's new to them. I want to know if my summary that they read was helpful and insightful to them. And they actually could skip reading BECAUSE of my summary. That would be nice to know.

I can do that all on my own, with links (that go.. somewhere) and in Mailchimp each week just go grab the number of clicks. But, as of now, I have to do it all manually. The links go where I tell them to go.. .but where? and I have to do this task every week. OMG.

I'd also like to "categorize" articles and newsletters to get a bigger picture view of what really drives NPS. What do my readers actually read?

One silly way to see if ppl are reading: Add two links. 1 in the middle and 1 at the end. "Made it this far? Click to let us know!" and then you'd have some basic "reading time" stats. Very good to know if you're selling ads.

4. Growth Dashboard

This one is a little more out there. And there are plenty of options. But not single solution.

The #1 problem for newsletters is growth. How do I grow?
What do I do to grow?
I could tell you 100 ways to grow. I've done it before.

But which one actually works for me?
Which one do I do every day, or every week?

How many backlinks do I have to my main landing page?
How many people link to any of my archives?

How do I get more?
I tried to build a lab for growth (for instagrammers) last year and failed at getting customers. so I know this idea has use, but also highest chance of failure for anyone.

I think the key insight here is how you pull in information and keep it updated and keep it actionable.

5. Directory Maker

There seems to be an onslaught of directories. This is not a bad thing in any way. It's happening to podcasts too.
"Podcast Search Is Broken!" they scream. And then launch a directory.
"Newsletter Search is broken!" they scream. and then launch a directory.

Create a Directory Maker.

We can all have our own LetterList

Current Solutions might be too complicated:

You can monetize these directories with featured posts, connecting sponsors to newsletters, or adsense.

We need more.
We need more directories.
Directories for everyone, for everything.

You get my point?
There's no niche too small.

6. Email Courses

Email courses are an amazing way to grow your core newsletter. But in Mailchimp they are hard to do. You may need to make another audience. You may even need to use a totally different platform.

HighBrow tried to just do email courses.

But what if you want to use an email course to advertise your newsletter?
How do you do that?

I set mine up as a whole other audience in Mailchimp. And each email with a video, ends with "subscribe to my other newsletter". That's the best I could do. Because people are signing up for the course, not the newsletter.

I'd like to be able to offer different velocities as well. All with the same material, to the same audience. And they can switch between them as they wish.

  • Daily Emails
  • Weekly Emails
  • Self Paced

If I wanted to do that, I'd have to create 3 different email courses in mailchimp automation and make links to each one, in each one. wow, lots of work.

7. Lead Magnet Manager

There's a ton of ways you can "advertise" your newsletter. But the channels all lead to the landing page.
One of the most powerful ways to grow is giving away a digital product.

You can create useful products for free, for potential subscribers.

The way I do that is create a landing page for my newsletter and highlight a download they get in the first email. But then I have to add that to my welcome email. Right now my welcome email has 2 downloads. Because I offered two different lead magnets.

I'd actually like to have the user get the lead magnet right away and the other lead magnets later. But I only have 1 welcome email.

And I don't need to host free downloads on gumroad and use zapier to get the emails to my newsletter list. That's not a real solution. That's a hack.

Wouldn't it be cool to have a landing page for 10 different lead magnets?

Can an IndieHacker help a brotha out?

Can you build a manager for my lead magnets?

Can I build a landing page on carrd and know that the user gets the download, gets on my list and we're all happy?

Can all the lead magnets be interconnected? If someone signs up for one lead magnet, I'm sure they'll like others. I'd like to be able to automatically send them a series of emails with the other lead magnets they missed.

Oh wait, but what about the subscribers I already have? They might like the lead magnet too. Can they get it on the landing page? How would that work?

So many questions. You, hackers, have the answers.

How much would I pay?

I'll go into a few ideas of how much I'd pay for each of these products, if they existed. And potential alternative revenue streams.

  1. Better Archives: $10/month or $50 per export
    I'd pay if this is helping me gain SEO. OR if I can monetize this. Ideally I'd put this behind a paywall as a newsletter creator. Can I? maybe with Memberspace. If I'm charging $5 a month for members (on substack) this library becomes a huge benefit to me. I only need 3 monthly members to offset the cost of the better archives. I'd also consider charging per single export. maybe someone wants to create their own database somewhere and doesn't want to copy/paste 50 editions. Saving someone a day of work for $50 is nice. If someone buys your service for $10 a month, and leaves after 1 day, that sucks for you. Maybe $50 a year from a customer is great LTV. or they choose to do $50 a quarter t update their library.

  2. NPS For Emails: $9/month
    This is tough to put a price on since it's an optimization. And I think this could be technically hard to do. NPS is an interesting concept I don't see much talked about. Some companies are huge around this: nielsen and ratings in TV are big parts of the industry.
    For alternative revenue streams: I'd talk to @Dinkydani and @Jivings about Subscription Score.
    Or talk to me and Anthony at HypeLetter. Maybe there's a good tie-in without having users pay.

  3. Tiny Sends Queued: Free Chrome Extension or Put a Paywall.
    If you make this a chrome extension that queues up emails in my substack, or in mailchimp, not sure how much I could pay. If it were an entirely new ESP, not sure how many people would convert. If I could send emails from this in addition to my normal one. So I don't actually have to move. okay maybe easier to adopt. I'd be happy to give you a percent like Substack if I can make it a premium option for my existing newsletter.

  4. Growth Dashboard: $19/month.
    If it actually works, you can charge even more. 20 to 50 bucks a month for growth is easy to spend if a newsletter has other ways to make money. This could also be free: Why? Because you should be able to use this to sell services to newsletter operators.

  5. Directory Maker: $49/month
    Sheet2Site Pricing will lead you the right way. He's got plenty of happy customers. Customers will probably only build 1 directory. And should be able to monetize it themselves with featured list and ads for $50 a month or more. 1 featured list or ad a month covers the cost of your service. Show a traffic chart next to the buy a featured spot. You'll have advertisers rolling in.

  6. Email Courses: $14.99/month and up from there.
    Mirror Mailchimp's pricing and I think you'll succeed. Yes if I do email courses and run a newsletter on mailchimp I'd pay double. But I'd also have a huge amount of power and growth levers!

  7. Lead Magnet Manager: $39/month
    I'd pay around the same I'm paying for sparkloop or referral tools. I'd also judge it along the same lines. Am I growing more subscribers than I'm paying dollars? Meaning It's worth it for me to spend about $1 per subscriber on growth. Is this tool saving me 2-5 hours a week, and also allowing me to do something I couldn't? Is my newsletter growing more than 50 subs a month from these lead magnets alone? I'd much rather get subscribers this way than through ads alone.

What's Your Story?

Newsletters are now used by so many types of people and businesses. There is bound to be someone to say "market's not big enough".

I've heard the same refrain over 50 times from people I talked to about my newest startup: HypeLetter

But in reality, the market is much much bigger than you can imagine.

Yes, I'm an IndieHacker too.

Talk is cheap.
Time is not.

I'm not giving you these ideas because I can't build them.

It's because I don't have time.

I implore you to make the market bigger.

If the market is bigger, we all win.

How do we do that?

We build it.

We make it so.

We make each part.

You don't have to trust me. Trust yourself, talk to newsletter writers. We're a chatty bunch.

Join the Newsletter Crew community on IndieHackers. 267 of us (as of July 23rd, 2020)

If you are building something and want to talk to 10 newsletter writers, drop a pitch in the group and give us a calendly link. Tag me. I'd be happy to share it in other groups:
Facebook: Newsletter Creators, Newsletter Nerds
Telegram: Newsletter Geeks

Maybe @yaroslawbagriy will interview you for NewsletterCrew.com

Maybe @frankmeeuwsen will feature you in ThanksForSubscribing.app

Maybe next year you'll have your logo on Marie's map

  1. 2

    I was truly inspired by your email archive idea and directory app.

    I hacked a website together that lets you import your email inbox, selects out specific mailing lists, and puts them on an archive page. Checkout the examples section for a couple mailing lists I imported.

    Questions:

    1. What do I need to add for you to subscribe to this service today?
    2. For your directory idea, I feel like my tool could easily be pivoted from archive to directory of archives. Anyone could join a mailing list and have all of the emails published onto a directory website.
    1. 1

      I knew this would be tricky.
      So I see you take a newsletter and put it into a blog post on your site.
      I'm not understanding how you're going from my email to your domain.

      Do you go from Substack to Ghost?
      Also:
      I send emails through mailchimp and I'd like the mailchimp archives to be made into blog posts on my domain. That's where the sweet SEO juice needs to flow to.

      $25/ month is a bit pricy for basically being copy/paste 4x a month (if weekly)

      My google sheets substack is daily though. But not all make sense as blog posts nor searchable.

      FYI: Search is a big key factor in that archive idea. Apparently http://curated.co/ has a search that I had no idea existed. Nor did most people. Search brings a lot of value to archives and Also I want to point out that the idea involves cutting out sections into searchable units. As well as editing the newsletters down into the content that makes sense as a blog.

      1. 1

        I'm not understanding how you're going from my email to your domain.

        Those are just examples to show how I can extract the HTML of an email and render it on websites with different designs.

        Do you go from Substack to Ghost?

        The examples are hand curated. Depending on who my first customer is, I can choose the optimal integration strategy for their needs. To create those pages, I export emails from my personal email (@gmail.com), and rendered the content on a static website (various jekyll themes). But I could pull from substack or ghost if that provides a cleaner experience.

        $25/ month is a bit pricy for basically being copy/paste 4x a month (if weekly)

        You're not wrong, but I am struggling with the market-size of this. Lets say there are 10,000 newsletters in the world right now. if I capture 5% of the market at $10/mo that's $5k/mo. I want to be tackling bigger problems than something that nets me sub $30k/mo. Compare this idea with the problems curated.co, ghost, or substack solve. If I can only charge $10/mo, then this feels like a nice feature to ghost or substack.

        FYI: Search is a big key factor in that archive idea

        Yeah, search is also expensive to do well. I feel like if they can't give me $10/mo without search, then this problem might not be big enough.

        1. 1

          I want to be tackling bigger problems than something that nets me sub $30k/mo.

          Happy to talk TAM. If you're looking at newsletters as personal blogs then newsletters are not the right market to be in right now. It's small. Very small.

          Substack now is doing around $50k /month actual revenue and have over 50,000 publishers as well as 100,000 paid subscribers and have been at it for 3 years.

          Podcasting is $1B ad market. Creator Economy is much bigger.

          Email Marketing however is EFFING huge because it's businesses running them. And I think newsletters being email have a lot of potential overlap with email marketing.
          This chart is from 2018, but shows that businesses actually make money from Email.

          ROI of Email
          Source

          1. 1

            Email Marketing however is EFFING huge because it's businesses running them. And I think newsletters being email have a lot of potential overlap with email marketing.

            Yeah, I definitely agree with this. As I was building this, I looked down my inbox at business's newsletters and tried to think about how this would be valuable to them.

            Many of the business newsletters I subscribe to are similar to indie creators / personal blogs in that the content is mostly links to their own blog. There isn't much SEO value to grep since they already have pages dedicated to showcasing their recent blog articles.

            I think substack, while really small right now, is in a much more promising space than an archiving tool.

  2. 2

    Great lay of the land.

    The world of newsletters is big.

    Must say, I like what @yaroslawbagriy is doing with interviews on Newsletters.

    Would definitely suggest people head over to newslettercrew.com

    Another tool to know about:
    If you have a newsletter and you're looking to monitise - check out https://hecto.io (full disclosure - I built this ).

    It's a newsletter market place, for us and by us.

    Get your newsletter on there and get seen.

    1. 1

      @mister_bruce thank you for the kind words and recommendation, I really appreciate it :) If there are any subjects you want to hear more about email me a [email protected]

  3. 2

    Love this post. Super tempting to hack on a Directory Builder...

  4. 1

    Great elaboration of the pain points.

    Recently I have been working on https://thelist.space.

    It allows you to easily create lists of content on the internet. The lists could be shared easily by just copy-pasting the link. You can also upload the data by simply uploading a CSV file with all the links.

    I believe this would come really handy to partially solve the problem stated in point 1 and it does completely solve the problem stated in point 5. You just have to upload the links and we do the job of finding the title & the description if you are feeling lazy to enter them :)

    For example: https://thelist.space/752258740435333121 this is the page of newsletterer Conor Dewey. In his newsletter he has the following sections:

    1. What I Read
    2. What I Wrote
    3. What I found interesting
      So, on list space, he created 3 different lists for the above and started putting articles he shares in the newsletter in them. Now his subscribers have a wonderful place to browse easily through the archives/directory.

    It would be great if you can have a look and share any feedback @AndrewKamphey.

    I am all ears to make it more useful for the newsletter community! If you are facing any problems please let me give you a short demo you can book a slot as per your convenience at https://calendly.com/prafful-sahu/30min

  5. 1

    Excellent post @AndrewKamphey, refreshing twist from the opposite "how can I find ideas". Would be awesome to see more of them here! I found this while searching for growth dashboard as I am currently trying to find one for myself.

    You mentioned that there were "plenty of options but not a single solution" – what are the options you are referring to? Google Sheets, database visualization, etc. or anything else that you had in mind?

    Addition: What I was looking for was more of an integrated system to manage growth experiments, visualize data, etc.; We currently do that with a bunch of different tools but getting them to communicate is painful and I was wondering if there are some ready-made solutions that I don't know of.

    1. 1

      Yes you named good ones. A specific growth dashboard solution would have to be 10x better than Google Sheets, or Airtable, or Notion, or Coda, or roam research, or a white board set up in the corner of your office/bedroom.

      What is the communication you need?

      From the brainstorming I've done I have yet to figure out why the different growth experiments need to be networked or even how to network them. Might be might biggest failure when I built creatorgrowthlab.com I just couldn't wrap my messaging around the answer to "why?"

      You could "hack" a referral program to let you know which growth lever did what since then you could track the specific mechanism.

      Yet, without measuring you, as a newsletter creator, will know and viscerally see what works.

      You'll know if you did FB ads, Google Ads, or did a podcast.

      We sorta know that all growth levers work, when pulled. But we don't know how hard we have to pull for results nor is there any particular way to easily 100x anything that works.

      Maybe sparktoro helps to 100x if guest posts, podcast guesting works.
      Absolutely easy to 100x FB ads and Google Ads.
      Hard to 100x if trading shoutouts or media trades work with other newsletters.

  6. 1

    Awesome content! Thanks Andrew!

  7. 1

    great break out of the industry andrew! we landed on substack ourselves - and saw that you mentioned carrd which i'm a big fan of as well! cheers!

  8. 1

    Wow a great post @AndrewKamphey 🙏. I am not much into newsletters but the Directory-Maker caught my attention. So the idea is that everyone can have a letterlist for them selves and not using the letterlist as a SaaS ? So let's say I am company XY and I am buying the Directory-Maker, then add all the featured newsletters into my directory, then I can add sponsors when sending the newsletter and I can earn money ?
    As the Direcoty-Maker owner I don't know how much costs you will have to host the Directory-Maker plus the costs for sending all the emails for all the companies like XY. I guess 50$ might not be enough :)

  9. 1

    Very nicely done!

    About to launch a platform which might address some of your challenges. Never considered newsletter writters as a specific customer, I am now :)

    Would be great to discuss with you before reaching out to larger audience, here is my calendly link https://calendly.com/apsion/30

    1. 2

      Happy to chat. grabbed a time early next week!

      1. 1

        Thanks for your time today! Thanks for the useful information and keep up the high energy :)

  10. 1

    Wonderful post.

    A decent Directory Listing can be made in a few minutes using Siteoly Super simple. Just hook a Google sheet and pick up one design from about 40+ designs.

    For example, I just created https://marketinghelp.listt.xyz from Google sheets. This is just one card design.

    Would love to build a newsletter list using Siteoly real quick.

    @AndrewKamphey Any pointers on what is the most popular newsletter list right now so that I can curate one?

    1. 1

      From the few moments I spent on siteoly's site, it looks like the exact use case that Sheet2Site also has.

      1. 1

        Siteoly is similar to sheetosite but yet different in a lot of things.

        Recently answered the same at https://www.indiehackers.com/post/nocodesheets-is-now-siteoly-7ae17c1e1b?commentId=-MCmXbKNkSu14Nlgub_J

        Yeah, I will try to create a newsletter directory and see to publish it here.

  11. 1

    This is such a well thought out post. Thanks for this Andrew

    1. 1

      Just built up over 2 years of nuanced frustrations :)

  12. 1

    What do people think about letting users see the email before joining?

    Does it inhibit people from joining or are they more enticed?

    I'm sure it depends on content but I have definitely just signed up for newsletters because I was curious.

    1. 1

      IF I had a choice between see or unseen.... I'd rather that people subscribe to the newsletter because they want it and continue to read it, not just to check it out and unsubscribe. But I don't think there's a duality here. I think you can show archives for proof of "I send cool stuff" and then sign up because "you wanna see what else I send"

  13. 1

    Lead Magnet Manager: can BookFunnel do some of this?

    1. 1

      From what I can tell, it's no better than gumroad is. And in fact a little bit less so since it's quite expensive.

      If you already have a beautiful signup page on your website, you can just upload your free “reader magnet” to BookFunnel and create a download page for it. When readers sign up for your mailing list on your website, you send them the BookFunnel download link in your automated “welcome email”.

      1. 1

        Got it, thanks.

  14. 1

    I definitely agree with The Lead Magnet Manager idea. I do thatish on my WordPress site thelandofrandom.com with the My Tools section. I create lead magnets, share them via their own landing pages on Product Hunt, subreddits, and other places - and then centralize them on my site. However it would be nice to have a lead magnet manager for all that. Great idea!

    1. 1

      And each one is tied to your newsletter's main audience?

      1. 1

        I tend to create them for Niches and tie them in to my main audience. My newsletter hits enough topics that I feel I can honestly pull it off.

  15. 1

    Also thanks for including NewsletterCrew.com! Really appreciate it. If anyone's interested in being on the podcast, DM me on Twitter @yarobagriy.

  16. 1

    Thank you @AndrewKamphey for the amazing report! I have one idea that's on my mind to pursue. I think it'll be very essential as newsletters become a force to reckon with. The idea is a newsletter buyers/sellers market. On episode 7 ofo the NewsletterCrew.com I spoke with @kintulabs about his 2 newsletter acquisitions. He said he got pretty lucky selling them. But what about the individuals not so lucky? I think this would be great as companies acquire newsletters as a solid channel for marketing. Essentially, it would be a EmpireBuilders but very specific to only newsletters.

    1. 2

      It's interesting thought piece to think: What is unique about newsletters that a bespoke marketplace could handle?

      It's also interesting to think about what brings someone to sell a newsletter. There are a few different reasons someone might not want to continue running a newsletter, or writing one but would like the newsletter to continue in some way.

      I bet there's a small amount of people who would take on email lists into their own email list and be happy to pay some amount of cash. An amount less than buying everything.

      Upon stopping updating a newsletter, could someone rent the list for 1 month, send emails and try to persuade those to sign on to other newsletters?
      could 4 newsletters share the next 4 editions and say "you liked this newsletter for X number of weeks, you may like this one too" 4 times, 4 different email newsletters.