More eyeballs just not cutting it anymore?
Sugar high from social media spikes wearing off?
Feel like your content is becoming less substantive and your titles are more click-baity?
The media cycle now can feel super-accelerated and in order to keep up it can feel like you need to create sensational content all the time that will lead to more anger-clicks and outrage shares on social media.
But there is a way out of it – we’ve seen it work for other small publishers.
What’s their secret strategy?
How can you escape this vicious cycle and get your online media business onto a sustainable path without worrying about the algorithm at Facebook or Google anymore?
The secret is getting back to basics and giving readers content they want to read… and doing it consistently in a way that creates habits.
That’s how you get the higher quality readers that make all the difference to your business model. And thankfully it doesn’t take some complicated content marketing strategy, you just need to spend more time on your email newsletter.
Here’s proof that your newsletter should be the foundation of your business
Your publication doesn’t even need a website.
Sure, if you’ve already got one that’s great too. But there are media startups out there that are succeeding without one. How you ask?
With email newsletters. Yes, that seemingly old-school technology might actually be the future of publishing.
Maybe you’ve heard of The Dispatch, a center-right Conservative media startup that launched a little over a year ago with all of their content delivered by email newsletter. In their first 6-months, they earned over $1 million from reader subscriptions.
$1 million in subscriptions. No website. Just a newsletter (and some podcasts).
Ok to be fair, they do have a landing page where you can sign up to their newsletter and view old editions through the platform Substack, but the point is that their strategy is centered around their newsletter.
And it’s pretty damn popular.
In their words, they want to:
“slow the news cycle down. We want people to come and visit us and read the newsletters when they come in to their inbox — maybe stop by our website once a day. They don’t need to come back once they’ve done it. And they can have the sense that they’ve kind of finished the news.”
That in a nutshell is why email newsletters are a perfect fit for news sites and other small publishers.
A newsletter creates the same habits that print newspapers and magazines used to and at the same time you are able to take back control of the direction your content is traveling.
Rather than trying to pull in readers through headlines, you are the one who is pushing the news out to your readers through your email newsletter.
Just like the old days when you would drop off the print version on the doorstep every morning.
Think of The Dispatch as an experiment in content strategy, that’s the way one of the founders described it. An experiment where:
“we have newsletters as our core product, and the website is the less important product”
Now compare that to your publication or some other website that you might know that doesn’t even have an email newsletter - think about how hard it is to get consistent readers coming back.
So if that’s the experiment and you can get rid or either the website or the email newsletter - which one is more valuable to your business? Which one should be the foundation of your content strategy?
It’s actually the newsletter that’s more valuable.
But ok, it doesn’t have to be an either/or proposition.
The Dispatch just chose to have no website at first so they could test their content strategy and build readership. And to be fair, they paid a big cost for it since Substack takes 10% of all revenues made through the platform. (so somewhere around $100k in fees)
But if you are in the situation where you have a publication already, you have a huge opportunity to take back control of the flow of content – and get more loyal readers rather than just more eyeballs.
And the secret to doing that is no secret at all – and it’s not a new or complicated strategy by any means.
It’s email newsletters – they should be the foundation of your business.
It’s that simple.