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37 Comments

Why is everyone building newsletters?

Even if I'm aware that trends come and go in entrepreneurship, I don't really understand this big hype around newsletters lately.

Is it a way to build an audience, or is it an attempt to make some quick bucks on the internet (hoping to escape the painful route of developing/selling a real product)?

Why are you building a newsletter? I'm really curious to read your answers.

  1. 9

    I believe it's the Substack effect that made barriers to entry really low. It reminds me what happened a few years ago when Shopify made it so easy to start an eCommerce that everyone started a dropshipping store.

    1. 4

      Yes, agreed.

      Look for @csallen's comment on this post:

      "More people participating in online communities → more people deciding to create communities → more people creating tools and education around community → better communities → (repeat) more people participating in online communities…"

      Pretty much it.

    2. 2

      That's a good point, Andrea. It's also happened a few months ago with podcasts.

      1. 1

        A podcast is not an easy thing to start, at least a good one. Maybe is the same with newsletters.

  2. 9

    In 2000: Why is everyone building blogs?

    It's like a new trend. Some build an audience with a real sense of community, while a few build it to sell, we can safely assume these people are hoping to escape the painful route of developing/selling a real product.

  3. 7

    Ownership. Social media and publishing sites will try to own your content and can wipe you out in one update. Ownership gives you freedom to create on your terms and reap the long-term benefits. No-one can wipe your mailing list.

    1. 1

      I don't think you've much control over your subscribers, as they are just a number of emails sitting in your list.
      You get long-term benefits when people spontaneously decide to follow your content (regardless of the platform), and the value you create is the unique ownership you can rely on.

    2. 1

      I disagree. Substack can wipe your mailing list. WordPress or any self-hosted publishing software cannot wipe your audience. It really comes down to who you chose. I agree with the social media part.

      1. 1

        Substack allows you to very easily export your list. It would be prudent to do so regularly just incase they do go bust overnight or something.

      2. 1

        While it's possible, what's really important is to own the subscriber list. And, unlike social platforms, this is something email platforms take away from you.

        By the way, your domain registrar or web hosting provider can wipe your self-hosted WordPress blog, too.

        1. 1

          Haha, yes, domain registrars and web hosting providers can wipe out the whole internet, not just my blog or my newsletter. If that happens, I'll switch to this

  4. 5

    I subscribe to a three paid newsletters, I also run a paid one myself.

    IMHO, the best thing about paid newsletters is that people who run them are writing super valuable stuff. The write consistently. And they know they need to write well, otherwise their subscribers will disappear.

    I've mostly unsubscribed from the majority of free newsletters. Most of them are pretty poor or mediocre. They waste my time. And try to sell me crap I don't want. At least I know that the paid subscriptions don't force unwanted stuff onto me. They are not trying to sell me stuff, apart from keeping me as a customer.

    Also, newsletters are a matter of perspective. Many of the newsletters are turning into niche communities. I love this as a way to discover and meet new people in a mostly safe environment.

    1. 1

      What are the three newsletters you pay to subscribe to and how much are they? Just curious.

      1. 1

        These ones.

        Pricing is generally $10-20pm / $100-200 per year.

  5. 4

    I'm glad you asked this question because I had noticed this coming up quite a lot of late and I don't know how or why it's become such a thing.

    Newsletters, even the ones I subscribe to knowingly and look at from time to time I still find a bit annoying, even though I don't unsubscribe. Not sure I would ever buy into one though.

    It kind of makes sense if it was something unique and gave people value like Scott's Cheap Flights (https://www.indiehackers.com/podcast/020-scott-keyes-of-scotts-cheap-flights).

    Or any other such newsletter where maybe the receiver gets exclusive deals for things.

    Is that what these monetised lists are? Or is it just links to content people might find useful?

    Maybe it comes off the back of some of the major newspapers adding paywalls to their online content? People will pay for just content of interest?

    1. 1

      I think you bring up great points. Newsletters in the traditional sense (a periodic email with information) aren't very compelling as a paid product, as that same (or similar) information is often given out for free on the internet.

      But I definitely see the growing newsletter trend as a way for individuals to create and own a relationship with their loyal customers. It's a bit like a social media influencers followers, except that relationship is 100% public, and is difficult to monetize outside of sponsors or merchandise. It's also a lot like Patreon, except Patreon (in my experience) is often a subscription to digital content or just a regular donation

      I like how open and flexible newsletters can be as email can hold any mix of text, images, or media. It's basically a precious ticket into a person's personal feed.

  6. 2

    Easy way to create value for readers.

    Platforms like Substack removing traditional barriers of entry.

    Little/no initial capital required.

    Highly scalable.

    Multiple ways to monetize.

  7. 2

    All about that email list.

  8. 2

    It’s a mix of things:

    • financial opportunity- there are newsletter success stories + simplicity of the business model make it attractive.

    • substack making its easy to put up a paywall on emails (and offering the service for free until you charge money).

    • substack promoting the idea of newsletters as a business. Don’t think anybody else was doing that (at least outside of the internet marketing world). Substack not necessarily doing all the promotion themselves but getting funded put them on the radar of a lot of people so they get talked about.

    • stories of non newsletter businesses starting out as newsletters. Eg Product Hunt, Indie Hackers. It’s a way to build an audience, test an idea and create communities or products.

    • more realization that social platforms are too noisy to get consistently heard. And if you do build large followings, you get screwed eventually. Own your relationship, own your traffic.

    The perfect storm maybe. Until something new but old comes along. Back to blogging?

  9. 2

    Lack of attention + Information Overload = New space for curated newsletters.
    It's a new kind of media, more personal, more nichey, more detailed.

    I'm running one (plus one on the works) but I'm not looking for quick bucks but rather establish a real and solid connection with my readers.

    If I want to build a product and a sustainable business in the future or go for the paid newsletter route I already have a community, and this is priceless.

    The old way "create product THEN find customers" is getting harder and harder for bootstrapping businesses.

  10. 1

    I just wrote an updated post about the newsletter trend here and the main takeaway is due to:

    1. The internet has drastically decreased the cost of finding ppl and selling them stuff
    2. Increased control of audience
    3. Increased convenience in starting a newsletter

    About a year ago when I first wrote about it I thought it was a shift away from broadcast, general content, to more specific content

  11. 1

    I feel that's more about keeping in touch with your audience OR growing your audience - I mean, helping people get ready for paying for something :)

  12. 1

    Hi, I'm a freelance essayist and and author and started a newsletter to reach a unique niche audience that no one else is reaching. it's hard to place my often controversial articles and I have so much material sitting around that I'd like people to read. I have a strong non-mainstream voice. Please take a look and tell me what you think. https://snarkysenior.substack.com

  13. 1

    I've been reading for years about how a self-hosted blog + email newsletter is the best way to build a community outside of the social media walled gardens. I'm not sure why I finally started a newsletter this particular year, but it was a long time coming.

  14. 1

    How and where do I find newsletters (paid and free ones)?

  15. 1

    Wow! It looks like you opened a can of worms on this one. All the same I feel as if I should answer too. I started with a blog on the subject of Project Management, however, I’ve made the switch to spending more time on my newsletter as opposed to my blog. The reason for me, I see the audience. I know my writings/work is going to x-amount of people and x% opened it.

    It’s nice to see the impact I’m making even if I can’t really “see” it.

  16. 1

    For me its fun, a way to connet, learning in the process, and hopefully helping others learn along the way.

  17. 1

    Newsletters goes straight to your audience inbox, which get higher chance of people reading it.

    At least for now, before there are too many newsletters

  18. 1

    I've had this same thought. I honestly want less when it comes to emails.

  19. 1

    I like the trend towards newsletters and people building a more personal audience. I think as social media content has become more and more saturated, whilst being at the mercy of the algorithm, people have become tired.

    Newsletters / building email lists is a chance to grow an audience with the most direct access to them - their inbox. If you produce good, interesting, regular content that you send to your newsletter subscribers, you're going to reap the benefits.

    I also agree with some of the comments that Substack has reduced the barrier to entry, and as more people see more Substack newsletters, they want to jump on that train.

    The truth is it's still really hard to build an email list and engage your audience properly, but at least you have a little more control than on social media channels.

  20. 1

    Ease of entry due to substack

  21. 1

    I started a Substack today because I want to try something new. I think I limit my potential by being such an outright introvert. I'm not prepared to go on social media but I do like writing and I actually believe I have a wealth of knowledge and experience that others might benefit from (don't we all 👀).

    I may not stay the course, but I believe in trying stuff. Some of it will work for me and some if it won't.

    https://division77.substack.com

  22. 1

    I'm not building one but it's way too appealing. What's wrong with making some quick bucks on the internet. You gather information that you already interested in and share with others in return of some $$. And some $$ may not mean much for 1st world country citizens but in many places $1K is more than enough to feed a family. Whoever were blogging for ad revenues turned that into subscription based models.

    1. 4

      Honestly, I'm not a believer in making quick bucks, especially if the end goal of the majority of us is to build a sustainable internet business.
      It's ok to gather information in exchange for some $$, but what value are you creating in the long term?

      1. 2

        It's hardly a quick buck when it is done well and in a valuable way.

        I spend 4-8 hours putting together a single curated newsletter that people love because they learn and discover things (in minutes) they never would have without subscribing.

        I've spent a year refining my process and now I'm just starting to reap the rewards.

        One could say the same about online courses. It is well known that a massive percentage of people who buy online courses never finish them, despite (often) spending lots of money on them. One way I look at newsletters is that they are like courses that you deliver over time, but in a much more valuable and feedback driven way.

      2. 2

        As I said I'm not doing it. But I believe it offers time as a value. A well curated newsletter issue can bring you almost everything about a subject without you digging through all of the mess in today's internet, someone already does it for you like a personal assistant. And you'll be fulfilled with the great amount of information.

        It's like saying all those paper magazines are not a business and worthless. They share articles and asks for money.

        As a side not I'm not paying for any newsletter, I don't like this hype as well. But catching trends and riding those waves is what I think amongst the characteristics of an entrepreneurship.

        Also I believe majority of us is busy curating articles for their next issues. :)

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