I miss deadlines. Would you?
Some thoughts on B2B newsletters, the endless pivot to video, and Substack's growing moat.
The following hand-crafted selection of links are not particularly new. Most of them have been hanging around in my tabs for the last couple of weeks while I get back up to cruising speed on the sea of journalistic consultancy. But they're all illustrative of trends you might find useful, so worth your time. Let's dive in.
Newsletters could be the new B2B
Around 20 years ago, I was working for Estates Gazette, and many of the subscribers to its premium online product viewed it mainly as a twice-a-day email. This was, admittedly, the age of the Blackberry as a status symbol. But it did open my eyes to the potential of a curated newsletter delivering the right information at the perfect time as a sellable journalistic format, especially to business audiences where the company will pay.
A couple of decades later, the rest of the industry is catching up…
This potential acquisition from Vox Media is interesting on two fronts:
- It's a move from a largely consumer company into the B2B space
- It's good evidence that a newsletter is a good way of starting a niche B2B brand at a low cost, and seeing if there's a market there.
We'll see more newsletter acquisitions like this. The path from mainstream journalism to newsletters will not be a one-way street.
Most newsletters will fail
And especially media ones
I've been a subscriber to Simon Owen's newsletter for a while, it's often a good read, but sometimes it's reading it on a meta level that fascinates me. He's trying to make the newsletter his living — and he's struggling. One of the things he's been consistent about is that building his paying audience is tough. He's taken the plunge of cutting off a lot of his work to concentrate on growing the newsletter, and it's taken a while to start looking sustainable for him.
(I can't do the same: I'd be haunted by nightmares of the tear-stained faces of my daughters asking “Why can't we have dinner tonight, Daddy? Is it because your blogging isn't good enough, Daddy?”)
He's used that struggle as a springboard to examine the reality of life for mid-tier journalists trying to make it pay.
I actually have a theory that trying to launch a paid newsletter for journalists is launching into a terrible market. Journalists are time-poor, and often overwhelmed with information. Why the hell would they pay for more information to add to their overwhelm? And so, the people who most want others to pay for content are among the least likely to pay for it themselves…
I also wonder if too many journalism-related newsletters are targeted at the editor/publisher level, aiming to be a Stratechery of journalism, where the bigger market might be for more practical craft skills-type information. After all, most publishers are very pyramidal in structure, and the potential audience gets much smaller the higher up the pyramid you target.
What do you think? What would you pay for, dear reader?
Geeks are different
Folks, I do a lot of training on analytics for journalists, and the vast majority of them are using Google Analytics. This is a useful reminder from Plausible (a privacy-friendly analytics system I use here on OM&HB) that more geeky audiences are significantly more likely to block it as a tracking source:
A serious recommendation: if you write for a tech-savvy audience, try adding a non-Google analytics package to your site, and see what the difference in numbers looks like…
Not so much a pivot to video, as an endless pirouette.
While we're on the subject of media newsletters in the Stratechery mould, this is an interesting piece from A Media Operator about Vice's struggles to get its content mix right in a profitability sense…
Interesting to note that Vice World News has lured Sophia Smith Galer away from the BBC. She's well known for her TikTok work, and this implies that Vice Media's pirouette to video is still spinning away.
Gonna write about video tomorrow, folks. Be warned. Still time to unsubscribe…
Substack keeps digging deeper moats
Email is an open format, which is what makes newsletters so very appealing as an audience engagement tool. There's no pesky algorithm between us and our readers.
That's a wee problem for the copiously VC-funded Substack, which would really like to build a protective “moat” around its publishers, to keep those VCs happy. Bearing that in mind, read this, and note how it's only about promoting other Substack authors, not those publishing using other platforms…
Lock in can be built in lots of small, subtle ways…
Tweet of the day
Quote of the Day
Content is a magnet. Community is a moat.
— Dru Riley, trends.vc
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