Eric Adamowsky publishes The Report 3 days a week, an emerging newsletter that’s taking on the click-baited news cycle of business, tech and finance news by adding meaning and context. We cover his plan to reach 1 million readers, how to deal with bots, and the maths explaining why he’s betting on an ad-supported business model over paid subscriptions.
Tell me about you, Eric. Where are you? Where did you grow up?
I grew up and am currently located in Syracuse, NY (go Orange!) I came full circle back to upstate New York after living and working in NYC and Boston over the past decade.
How did The Report come about?
I’ve always been interested in newsletters. I published my first options trading newsletter during my freshman year in college. Needless to say, balancing classwork, trading methodologies, and newsletter growth made for an interesting college experience, to say the least.
As an avid news junkie, I felt that there is a significant amount of noise and clickbait headlines that has permeated mainstream news. I get it — publishers have to generate clicks and pageviews to monetize their content.
I just wasn’t happy with the user experience, and the 24-hour news cycle has led to really thin content for the sake of a click. Not really adding value when readers only have a few moments to get ‘caught up’.
The Report was built on the idea that business, technology, and finance news should be easily understood, quickly digestible, fun to read, and ultimately should always communicate why it matters.
What else are you working on?
After leaving my former role, The Report is my sole focus and full-time endeavor. I plan on returning to my entrepreneurial roots to focus my time, capital, and attention on growing our readership base and to ship and deliver a world-class product.
How many subscribers do you have, right now? What have you done to grow the audience? What worked? what didn’t?
Right now, the list is very much in its infancy with a hair over 500 subscribers and growing quickly. Right now, tactical media buying and referral are the two main channels at the moment. I plan to scale into a bonafide referral program and expanded media buying in the near future.
Lead generation is tricky, expensive, yet rewarding if executed with precision. Luckily, I have a deep background in lead generation, email ops, and financial modeling — both of which will become more critical when I am looking to build out CAC/LTV models and beyond. The most important metrics I focus are on are growth rate, churn/retention, and CPA (cost per acquisition).
What’s your big goal for The Report? How does it fit in with your other projects?
Big goal? I’d say 1 million subscribers by this time next year, or September 2021. It’s lofty and ambitious, sure, but keeps me extremely motivated (and busy)!
A million readers is audacious and I love the ambition. What do you have to do differently to breakout into this serious scale?
Ambitious, absolutely. The plan is to aggressive scale across partnerships, media buying and other sources to grow the subscriber base — leveraging capital as efficiently as possible. In my professional experience, growing an audience is something that does take time, but can be accelerated significantly with strategic media buying. I also envision that there will be a fair amount of organic growth via our referral program once we reach critical mass to leverage word of mouth.
I’m obsessed with other peoples’ processes – how does your newsletter come together? What’s your workflow? What tools do you use? Who else is involved?
I have a fairy standard stack of tools that I use to deliver each issue, ranging from a small writing team to our ESP and a platform that I author each email in. I also use a standard set of attribution tools like Google Analytics and Delighted for feedback.
I also have several different partnerships and integrations that I am working on to improve deliverability, reduce bot activity (a very real issue), and to improve overall user experience.
Yes! Bots are a nightmare yet nobody talks about fake signups. I’d love to hear what you’re doing there, that doesn’t ruin the experience for readers.
This is certainly something very few operators talk about, though everyone deals with. Sophisticated bot networks and other nefarious players are certainly growing and will continue to do so as long as there is an opportunity. We use a variety of proprietary and third-party validators to ensure clean data. We also plan on a very regular and aggressive list hygiene program (e.g. removing non-openers within a 30 day period). It’s a real issue that will always have to be dealt with, but ensuring proper hygiene practices and aggressive oversight of third-party lead generators is key.
How are you thinking about the newsletter ecosystem in 2020?
Long story short, I am incredibly bullish on the newsletter ecosystem this year and into the future. With the post-cookie world upon us, being able to own and control an audience will be key to sustainable and value-driven monetization. Advertisers have, and will continue to look to newsletters for their scale and ability to reach qualified folks — especially those who have great loyalty, engagement, and first-party data.
I also see the curation economy in full effect in the newsletter space. The amount of fragmentation, noise, and clickbait in mainstream news is astounding. A well-curated experience for readers is essential, and I want to deliver that experience.
What’s your business model for your newsletter?
As of right now, my model relies on generating a substantial number of new readers. At this time there are no ads in the newsletter, but in the future, I will likely introduce relevant sponsors that will partner with The Report.
Why ads over paid subscriptions? (paid seems very trendy right now)
The paid model is easy. By that, I mean operationally. Write great content, and folks will pay monthly. It’s the dream for many operators to just focus on content and collect payment from loyal readers without having to chase advertisers and get into the world of ad ops, email ops, and sales. Platforms like Substack make that very easy for writers who don’t have any background in email operations, ad sales, media buying, etc. For some, it’s great!
With paid, I think revenue is limited. With a paid model, you are only limited to the number of folks paying. With an ad-supported model, you are able to monetize all list subscribers instead of only the fraction of readers that pay for the newsletter. If I have a newsletter with 100,000 subscribers and 3% of folks paying $5 per month, I am recognizing $15K in monthly revenue no matter how many emails I send — it’s fixed. For that same size list, if I am able to command a $20 CPM and sell sponsorships or an assortment of ads say 15/20 issues for that month, I am recognizing $30K in revenue (with the understanding there may be some overhead costs associated with the procurement of ads). That’s not to say either model is right or wrong, as both have their advantages. I just see ad-supported as a more powerful model at scale if you dedicate the time and have the resources needed to purse advertising options.
What big idea would you love to work on if you had unlimited time and money?
What a great question! If money were no object, I’d love to focus on water as a resource. We still live in a world where 1 in 10 people across the world don’t have access to clean water. 1 in 4 don’t even have a decent toilet.
Something that we take for granted in developed countries is a matter of life and death to those in those areas. It certainly isn’t profit-motivated but has the ability to transform someone’s life in a way many folks in the first world luckily never have to think about. That’s worth doing in a big way.
Noble. Hopefully you’ll get those million readers so you can make this happen.