Is a paid newsletter good for writers if most people read only one?

Editors Note: This article is republished with permission from Juris Kristobans’ blog over at The Email School. Head on over to his website for more in depth real world studies and lessons about building and growing a newsletter. Subscribe to The Email School for curated updates from 70 different newslettters.

Read the original article here.

All the cool kids are writing newsletters

Everybody wants what everybody wants and nobody wants what nobody wants. It’s true when we talk about newsletters. Currently, it’s a popular topic to talk about. Cool kids have one, and you should have one too. While it’s easy to scale and cheap to set them up, it’s much harder to grab readers attention, impress them with content and most importantly, consistently write.

It used to be newspapers, magazines, and now newsletters.
One message is obvious. Let’s write more cool stuff and deliver via email. Almost every day on Twitter, we can read tweets that say: Learn how to write and build an email list.

When I was a kid, my parents used to subscribe to 20+ printed publications. And when I think about newsletters, it’s the same magazine or newspaper. We subscribe and email service providers(ESP) deliver to us. It comes in digital format without the textured paper, pages you can flip through, the smell of ink, awesome full-page ads and status symbol (it was prestige to read pink Financial Times). It was magic to receive a stack of newspapers, magazines and letters in the post.

We love to subscribe to newsletters, and we all learned how to ignore them. We subscribe to them spontaneously with a separate email address, immediately forward to a different folder or ignore them forever. Lastly, we dump in the bin without opening them at all. It hurts many creators feelings.

There are so many newsletters out there. I’m curious whether they are that useful, extraordinary, and people love and actually read them. I know. I used actually word exactly eight times in this article.

And it’s hard to talk about it without the facts. So we did a little research.

Inspiration and insights came from Toby Howell’s brilliant Twitter thread.
Perfectly imperfect data collected 31.10.20 around 11:30 BST. 

This blog post is with updated stats after I published the original tweet.

1. Most people read only one newsletter :O

I thought it would be interesting to know how many newsletters people read on the daily/ weekly basis. It turns out not that many. 113 people out of 191 people read only one newsletter. I must say it’s very hard to get loyal and engaged subscribers. However, there is still some hope because quite a few people read 2-6 newsletters. See chart for more detailed info.


This chart represents the same data as the previous chart, except it shows data in %. It turns out 59% of people read only one newsletter.


2. Tobi’s Top 16 Newsletters

While this chart could be misleading. It represents Top 16 newsletters Tobi’s followers actually read. To make it clear I say Tobi’s followers because if somebody else would tweet similar tweet they would get a lot of answers that people read tweet author’s newsletter. People like to be friendly and kind to other people. One reason why these newsletters are so popular is that creators are very active on social media and genuinely lovely people.

Editor’s note: Check out how popular Morning Brew is! They’ve just sold majority stake in their newsletter for $75M. Obviously they’re experts at cultivating a community.


3. The majority of top newsletters send out 1-3 times a week

Another reason why top newsletters are so popular is that they email a lot of content every week.


Editor’s closing notes:

While this study was a small experiment on twitter, it brought up a very interesting question. How sustainable is the subscriber-based model like the one that substack promotes? If it’s a one-subscriber one-newsletter kind of world… is the subscription-based model going to pop in the near future?

It’s not all doom and gloom. Like most things that make money online, diversification is key. Relying on subscriptions, sponsorships, banner ads, or product sales is risky. Relying on all 4 methods of monetization is way safer.

As a newsletter publisher, you have a responsibility to your subscribers. Literally, thousands of people trust you enough to read your thoughts, ideas, and curations. No pressure but… that’s kinda awesome. Especially if they’re loyal to just one newsletter at a time.

Juris Kristobans

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Editor: Claire Heginbotham