Paid Newsletters: Million-Dollar Newsletters, Smart Paywalls, Freemium

“A small list that wants exactly what you’re offering is better than a bigger list that isn’t committed.” – Ramsay Leimenstoll

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❓ What You’ll Learn

  • How to build reader habits?
  • How to build a moat?
  • What are examples of local newsletters?
  • How many subscribers do you need?
  • What are smart paywalls?
  • How to get your first 100 subscribers?

💎 Why It Matters

People are willing to pay for quality content.

🔍 Problem

Paid newsletters help writers serve niche audiences.

Writing for their readers. Not sponsors.

💡 Solution

Paid newsletters help writers serve niche audiences.

Writing for their readers. Not sponsors.

🏁 Players

Paid Newsletters

Paid Newsletter Tools

  • Rewardful • Start affiliate and referral programs with Stripe and Paddle
  • Buy Me a Coffee • Accept donations, sell memberships and share exclusive content
  • FeedLetter • Anonymous and instant feedback tool for newsletters and websites
  • Grammarly • Correct and edit grammar mistakes and typos
  • Memberful • Membership software for independent creators, publishers, educators and more
  • MemberSpace • Turn any parts of your website in member-only areas

Paid Newsletter Platforms

  • Gumroad • Payment processor with built-in newsletter tools
  • MailerLite • Digital marketing tools designed for revenue and growth
  • Ghost • Open source digital publishing platform with built-in paid newsletters
  • Kajabi • Membership management automation tools
  • Patreon • Membership-based website for content creators

🔮 Predictions

☁️ Opportunities

  • Pick a niche. Cater to readers with long-tail interests.
  • Set a schedule you can stick to. Build consistent reader habits and anticipation.

🏔️ Risks

  • Key-Person Risk • Readers subscribe for your unique perspective. They will be disappointed if you can no longer deliver the value you promised.
  • Piracy • People can copy or share your paid content for free.
  • Burnout • A lot of newsletters are run by solo authors. Juggling research, writing, editing, publishing and more.

🔑 Key Lessons

🔥 Hot Takes

  • Paid newsletters will use smart paywalls. The Globe and Mail built Sophi, an AI-powered paywall engine. Which uses data to gate certain content or show it for free.
  • Paid newsletters will get grants for future growth. Føljeton received a $680,000 grant from the Danish government and undisclosed amounts from private sources.
  • Paid newsletter platforms will offer additional services. Substack offers writing, tech and legal support for independent writers.

😠 Haters

“What about newsletter fatigue?”
You underestimate the scale of the internet. Which is full of niches in which you can succeed. There are 51,000,000 Youtube channels. Have you heard of “YouTube fatigue”? Subscription fatigue is overrated.

”You told me to write for readers, not sponsors. Then you told me to run ads in the free version.”
Sponsorships and direct support models have misaligned incentives. But we shared a lot of successful examples using both business models.

“I need a large following to succeed with a paid newsletter.”
What’s your definition of success? There are paid newsletters with hundreds, thousands and tens of thousands of paid subscribers. Abigail Koffler grew This Needs Hot Sauce to hundreds of paid subscribers from scratch. Terry Godier shut down “Conversion Gold” with 18,000 subscribers.

“I can only monetize a fraction of my audience.”
Yes, the average free-to-paid subscriber ratio is 5-10%. It’s a matter of incentives. Do you want to write for sponsors or readers?

“Going paid limits growth. Not everybody is willing to pay.”
Try freemium. Where paid subscribers subsidize content for free readers. Lenny Rachitsky moved to a paid newsletter and grew from 8,000 to 58,000 subscribers in 1 year.

Bari Weiss and Matt Taibbi have teams. These are not one-person paid newsletters.”
They do now. Both started as one-person, paid newsletters. Then built teams to ramp up their publishing cadence and improve research, writing and editing.

🔗 Links

  1. Looking for examples of paid newsletters • The tweet behind this report. 
  2. Getting Your First 100 Signups • Quick tips on how to get 100 first subscribers.
  3. How To Get Newsletter Subscribers • Collection of the most valuable advice on how to get newsletter subscribers by Josh Spector.

📁 Related Reports

🙏 Thanks

Thanks to Uwe Dreissigacker, David Klingbeil, Soma Mandal, Victor Park, Tom Maciejewski, Krish, Swapnil Puranik, Ralph Quintero, Stewart Townsend, Maciej Cupial, Richard Reis and Felipe Collins. We had a great time jamming on this report.

✏️ Emin researched and wrote this report. Dru researched and edited this report.

📈 What else?

Trends PRO #0102 — Paid Newsletters has more insights.

What you’ll get:

  • 37 Paid Newsletters (429% More)
  • 27 Paid Newsletter Tools (350% More)
  • 12 Paid Newsletter Platforms (140% More)
  • 13 Predictions (334% More)
  • 19 Opportunities (375% More)
  • 6 Risks (100% More)
  • 9 Key Lessons (200% More)
  • 8 Hot Takes (167% More)
  • 10 Links (233% More)

With Trends Pro you’ll learn: 

  • (📈 Pro) What are token-gated paid newsletters?
  • (📈 Pro) What is personality-driven journalism?
  • (📈 Pro) What are examples of million-dollar, one-person paid newsletters?
  • (📈 Pro) How to presell paid newsletters?
  • (📈 Pro) How to build strong bonds with readers?
  • (📈 Pro) How to gain lifelong subscribers?
  • (📈 Pro) How to monetize free subscribers?
  • (📈 Pro) How to increase your conversion rate?
  • (📈 Pro) How to diversify your revenue?
  • (📈 Pro) How to lower platform risk?
  • (📈 Pro) How to get readers to share your content?
  • (📈 Pro) How to build your top-of-funnel?
  • (📈 Pro) How to price your paid newsletter?
  • (📈 Pro) What are interactive paid newsletters?
  • (📈 Pro) What are newsletter fellowships?
  • (📈 Pro) How to grow your paid newsletter?
  • (📈 Pro) How to build a referral program?
  • (📈 Pro) How to build your newsletter in public?
  • And much more…

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