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Curated Email Newsletters: No Sign of a Unicorn

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Miles Burke
Purple Unicorn

Recently, fellow //Startup News contributor, Lean Hackman, questioned the business validity of a side project of mine, This article helps explain my reasoning.

Whilst I have no expectations of grandeur, or even a full time salary from my little email newsletter, there are actually a few publishers who are making some serious money publishing email newsletters.

Peter and the Cooperpress team do an excellent job of making email newsletters a business. They have a swathe of different weekly titles targeting developers, and a massive 330,000 subscribers. Hence how they can afford 9 staff.

Chris Osborne, a nomad entrepreneur, has close to 11,000 subscribers to his excellent FoundersGrid daily email, which funds his traveling lifestyle.

So, back to my humble growth marketing email.

It started off purely as an experimental side project. My aim was to spend no more than $99, and see if I could get some form of traction, in both audience and financials. I managed to get to my stretch limit with both, exceeding 1,500 subscribers, and making a few hundred dollars, which is more than I’ve spent so far.

It has been a great way for me to connect with others, to give back to the community in a way, and for me to learn more with all the reading I’ve been doing. I’ve posted the lessons I’ve learned on my own personal blog along the way, which has received some great feedback.

There’s less than two weeks now, until I hit the three month deadline, and so naturally, I’m looking ahead at what I can do to make it sustainable.

I’m still less than 2,000 subscribers, which means that I’m on a $8 a month plan with my curation tool, Goodbits. They have, however just recently revamped their software, and as a result, they have also changed their pricing. I’m on a plan that is grandfathered, so the moment I hit my 2,001 subscribers, I’m up for a whopping jump in costs, to $49 a month.

I may end up having to reconsider how I’m doing this as a result. I can stick to goodbits at $49 a month, until I hit 10,000 (at which point it jumps to $99/month) or look at using another platform to send my emails.

Looking around at other newsletters, the average per thousand rate for sponsorship seems to be $25. That means at 2,000 subscribers, I’d expect a $50/issue income. 4 of those a month makes me $200, which really doesn’t seem like it’s worthwhile.

The trick with email newsletters seems to be getting plenty of subscribers and increasing the frequency.

Here’s the rough income figures…

Weekly ($25cpm)
2,500 $62.50
5,000 $125
10,000 $250

Twice a week ($25cpm)
2,500 $125
5,000 $250
10,000 $500

So, my overheads with increase in frequency don’t change, however my income could double. It’s also nearly double the work. $500 a month for two hours a week work is OK though; issue is, I need to ramp it up to 10,000 subscribers.

Email newsletters, just like most SaaS products, are a long game. I have no expectation of getting to 30,000 subscribers (like the Cooper Press example) in the next 12 months. If I did get to 30,000 subscribers, and sent twice a week, I would be making $6k a month. That becomes really interesting. However, it also gets harder to find sponsors for email newsletters at $750 an issue.

In any case, I feel that the connections I’ve made, the topics I have written about on my blog as a result, have made it worthwhile. I’ll continue and report back in a few months on how I’m feeling.

Meanwhile, I don’t expect to see a unicorn any time soon.

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Picture of Miles Burke

Miles Burke

Miles is the founder of employee survey start-up, 6Q, Founder & MD of an award-winning Perth digital marketing agency, and curates the Australian Software Guide.
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