Newsletters are becoming popular by a minute. One reason is, you are in charge. What you get into your inbox - or what you send to people - is completely in your control. Sure, I write this blog, no one tells me what to do and if someone wants to read it, they are completely free to do so. But if they can't remember my name, don't use RSS, and don't tag and bookmark everything, they'll have a hard time figuring I wrote a new article. Not with newsletters.

I've been a subscriber to many newsletters over the years, but only recently did I start paying for some. That is an interesting experience. Growing up, I saw the struggle of newspapers and other writers to monetize content and predicted, that paid content will be the future. But did I imagine this?

No, I didn't. I never imagined paying $15 for a newsletter like European Straits. Probably because paying to read only one writer seemed weird. On the other hand, Nicolas is such a prolific scribe that a month worth of articles is still like a book, so $15 isn't that much.

The industry made a sharp turn in the last couple of years, but to be honest, it should have been expected. Couple reasons:

  1. Newsletters are old technology, only now in emails. According to Wikipedia, the first one was published in the early 17th century in Strasbourg (a European technology, yay!)
  2. Even though most newsletters I've ever received were trying to sell something one way or another, companies were sending them to their existing customers without upselling as well.
  3. The world of finance has known about paid newsletters for ages. You don't expect to get stock tips for free, right? If there is value, there are customers.
  4. Ben Thompson charges for Stratechery for at least 7 years. Before that he was working for Automattic, developers of WordPress, but then decided to go full-time writer and charge his readers money.
  5. Do you really care how you get to the news? Most of us probably use phones and tablets for consumption. Modern devices create a seamless enough experience that you can read in a browser, e-book reader, or e-mail client and never notice.

So even though it was unforeseen by the mainstream view, quite a few people were making money from it before Substack even started. Now everyone is starting their own.

Newsletter tips

Five tips you might want to subscribe to:

  1. MorningBrew - I'm a fan, I admit. Funny daily business news from across the Atlantic. They say it's morning but I read it with my lunch. Midday cappuccino? (free newsletter)
  2. European Straits - Nicolas is an interesting business thinker, partner at a VC firm The Family, and an author of Hedge, which I do recommend as well. (freemium model, you can get something for free or a lot for a couple of euros)
  3. Thoughts From The Frontline - John Mauldin's free newsletter about the current state of affairs in the economy and where we might go next.
  4. Brain Pickings - Probably my first ever subscription, soon I'll be celebrating 10 years reading it. Sometimes hefty or lofty essays on creators from the past, I subscribe to both Sunday digest (you get all new articles from the week) and Midweek pick me up (a selected essay from the past). (free, donation-based)
  5. Sustain by Sifted - Sifted sends about five different newsletters and I'm subscribed to some of them, but Sustain I find the most interesting. Startups and sustainability is a niche that sounds promising, entertaining, interesting, and hopefully profitable. (free)

I'm probably a subscriber of fifteen (or fifty?) more newsletters but these are the top picks.