Trends #0011 — Paid Newsletters

Creative visual of a frog puppet writing to a large audience.

Get Full Access to Trends Pro

This is the first version. Click here for the second version.

🔍 Problem

Advertising alters incentives.

💡 Solution

Write for your readers. Not advertisers.

🏁 Players

Paid Newsletters


🔮 Predictions

  • New types of newsletters will be created. Need an example? Flow State sends you music every weekday.
  • Substack will help writers extract more value (and commissions) from their audience. Their incentives are aligned.
  • It will be hard to cancel writers. Paid newsletters make you accountable to your audience. Not sponsors or their stakeholders.
  • More writers will hold eventsSam Parr held a small meetup at his Airbnb with subscribers. Fintech Today hosts virtual events.
  • Newsletter fellowships will become common. Substack CEO, Chris Best, described the Substack Fellowship as a “mini-YC” for writers. 
  • Most writers will add products to their offering. Paid content is a simple way to monetize. But this leaves money on the table.
  • We will see more newsletter bundles. Bundling newsletters can lead to more revenue and lower reader acquisition costs.

☁️ Opportunties

  • Build a community on top of your newsletter. Use your platform to connect people. Courtland Allen, Pieter Levels and Jack Butcher used this content-to-community playbook.
  • Reach 1,000 free subscribers then monetize. The founders of Substack estimate a 10% free-to-paid conversion rate if you have:
    1. At least 1,000 subscribers
    2. At least a 50% open rate
    3. Good feedback from your readers
  • Start a podcast. You’ll reach a new audience that prefers to listen. Make money from podcast memberships.
  • Build a SaaS for your audience. Jane Portman has Userlist. Paul Jarvis has Fathom Analytics. Justin Jackson has Audience-first works.
  • Use your newsletter as a funnel for books, courses, events and consulting.

😠 Haters

“Reader acquisition costs is a made up term.”
Everything is made up. Stay woke.

🔗 Links

  1. How Newsletters Make Money for Writers with Hamish McKenzie of SubstackHamish McKenzie, Co-founder of Substack, drops tactical knowledge bombs. Find out what he has learned from thousands of paid publications. And why he recommends charging general audiences $5+/mo and professional audiences $10+/mo.
  2. How to Build a Six-Figure Newsletter Without Anyone KnowingGlen Allsopp shares the stories of several six-figure newsletters. Great, in-depth writing. High signal-noise ratio.
  3. This indie newsletter generated over 10,000 paying subscribersRobert Cottrell founded The Browser. He shares what he has learned so far. And how he uses an algorithm to find some of his content.
  4. 1 Company, 1 Employee: Tearing Down Stratechery’s PricingPatrick Campbell, founder of ProfitWell, explains why Stratechery is priced too low. With data from 1,411 current, former and prospective customers. Spoiler alert: Some would be willing to pay $18.40 per month or $201.39 per year.
  5. How My Newsletter for Developers Generates Subscription RevenueAdam Roberts shares how he went from ads to subscriptions.