My Local Email Newsletter Makes Over $200k/Year…Here’s How


This week, Jared interviews local newsletter expert Ryan Sneddon, who shares a ton of great information. 

He shares the strategy he used to get his newsletter, Naptown Scoop

, off the ground and he offers a ton of valuable tips for anyone thinking about starting a business like this.

He talks about everything from validating his idea and growing his subscribers to connecting with advertisers.

Ryan’s goal at the moment is to reach $400k in revenue (he’s already surpassed $300k) and to extend his local newsletter concept to other cities across the US.

Watch the Interview

Ryan begins by talking about his life prior to creating his local newsletter and how he got started in the newsletter industry.

After quitting his job and taking a leap of faith, he buckled down to try to figure out what he wanted to create.

When he saw someone else was building a very successful local newsletter for several different cities and he figured out how much they were making, he dove right in and launched his own in his hometown of Annapolis, Maryland.

Ryan talks about how he got Naptown Scoop off the ground, and details the first steps he took to get started, which involved a combination of Mailchimp, Instagram, and Facebook ads. 

He also shares the steps he took initially to grow his subscribers and how he maintained that growth while finding sources of information for his newsletter.

Ryan discusses the changes in his publishing schedule, and why he decided to publish daily. 

He shares his thoughts on lead magnets and talks about how he narrowed down his ad campaigns, how much he spent in total on Facebook ads, and his current subscriber numbers.

When Jared asks him about evaluating a local market to see if there’s a viable opportunity to create a local newsletter, and Ryan shares a lot of insight and the characteristics he deems as important for a newsletter to be successful.

Then he walks us through the content he includes and where he gets all of his information, and he explains how he knows what type of content his audience wants.

Moving onto monetization, Ryan talks about ads as the primary method he uses to monetize Naptown Scoop and shares information about who buys the ads, how much they pay, and package deals he’s working on.

When Jared asks him about advertisers, Ryan offers great advice as he explains what kinds of businesses he looks for to advertise in his newsletter.

To conclude the interview, Ryan shares his final words of advice about the value of showing yourself as the face of your brand and the importance of networking and attending events in your city.

If you’re considering starting a local newsletter, or you already have one, it would be a crime to miss this episode!

Topics Ryan Sneddon Covers

His software and mechanical engineering background
Why he quit his job and what he would have done differently
How he got the idea to create a newsletter
What his newsletter is about
What the first few months looked like
What he did to grow initially
How he found sources of information
His publishing schedule
His thoughts on lead magnets
The mistake he made with unsubscribed accounts
The type of content he shares
Where he sources the content currently
What content his audience wants
Monetization
Advertisers
Networking

Transcript

Jared: All right. Welcome back to the niche pursuits podcast. My name is Jared Bauman today. We’re joined by Ryan Sneddon. Ryan, welcome on board.

Ryan: Hey Jared. Thanks for having me.

Jared: Oh man. I am excited about this one. We’ve been working on this one for a while. I feel like it’s so good to have you on the podcast and we’re talking all about email newsletters today.

Um, but man, thanks for making the time. I know we went back and forth quite a bit to get this one.

Ryan: Yeah. Thanks for having me. I, uh, I don’t think I ever missed this today. I’ve missed one where I just completely missed the meeting and uh, I felt horrible about that. Did I do that with you too?

Jared: No, no, you didn’t.

You rescheduled and then I got busy and then here we are. So it was all above board and we’re good to go. But, um, I just, it, it, the anticipation, cause I’m excited about this interview and I have been, so it’s been a long time coming. Um, why don’t, if you could, cause we’re going to get into the details of this entire brand that you’ve created kind of via email and, um, uh, just really excited to hear about it, but why don’t you give us some backstory to start with?

Maybe catch us up to who you are or what you did prior to starting this project that we’re talking about today.

Ryan: Yeah, I didn’t actually do much. Um, I’m pretty young. I only worked for one year. Before I actually started doing what I’m doing. And I went to school for engineering, mechanical engineering. I didn’t want to do that.

I just wanted to think like an engineer. Cause I kind of think engineers could do whatever we want. So I did that graduated from university of South Carolina, got a job at a software company, training people who are new clients on the software. So for a year, I got to travel all over the country and go to colleges shortly after I graduated college and go back to college and train the administration on how to use this software.

It was really fun. Uh, love, I love traveling. And so it was fun to get paid to travel some of the trips for like two weeks at a time. So I got a weekend in some cool places like Portland, Oregon and San Francisco. That was a lot of fun. But, uh, like six months in, I decided that I was going to quit. at a year because I’d always wanted to start my own business.

And I feel like I kind of forgot that when I first graduated from college, I, uh, just got caught up in the, who’s going to get the coolest job. And I feel like I won that out of all my friends. I got to travel. I got, I was making a lot of good money, not a ton of money, but good money, especially for South Carolina, where I was living.

And that comes into the story a little bit later. So, I felt like I won that. And then six months in, I kind of woke up and I was like, I don’t, I never wanted to win this game. I want to win the other game, which is starting your own business and being able to do whatever you want in 20 years, not just being really good at working at somebody else’s business.

So I did that six months in, I had been saving super aggressively anyway, because that’s my, my strategy. If I have, if I’m making a lot, I’ll put a lot away. You never know what you’re going to need it for or retirement or whatever. So I’d saved a ton of money. About half of the salary I was making, which was 65, 000.

Not, not a ton of money to be making, but a good first job in Columbia, South Carolina is super cheap. So it was like 400 a month for rent, barely any money on food. Also, a lot of my food was paid for because I was traveling for work. So I. Squirreled away about 25 grand and then quit with zero plan. Uh, it took me nine, nine months to start what I’m doing, but seven months to figure out that I was, it was going to be that, then I thought about it, kind of forgot about it, then wrote about it online in a online entrepreneur community that love the idea that was kind of my validation to do it.

And then I just decided to do it about a month later. And that was three years and nine months ago. And now it’s a pretty cool. Web. Three employees or a couple of employees here. Um, sorry, I gotta turn my phone on. Do not disturb. I keep seeing texts and stuff come in. That’s, I should have done that earlier.

Um, you can edit that out hopefully, but yeah, it’s, it’s crazy. We started three years and nine months ago and this year we’re trying to hit 400, 000 in revenue. I work on it full time, although I’m starting a couple other things and we’re thinking about doing the same concept in some other cities right now.

Jared: It’s really fascinating to hear you talk about kind of the origin story of it. A lot of people, and I don’t mean this tongue in cheek, I actually want to ask you about it. Like a lot of people will say, save up and start their new project while they’re in their current job. And it sounds like from what you were saying, you didn’t even get the idea for your Project until you’re able to leave the job.

Is there something to like, did you always know you needed to leave the job to find your own business idea? Or was that just a leap of faith? Cause you were so sick and tired of working the job and you knew it was holding you back from starting something.

Ryan: The latter. I definitely would not encourage anyone to do it the way that I did it.

It’s, it’ll scare everyone around you. It’ll scare you. It’s way smarter, way safer to start doing what you’re doing or you want to do. Make it a side hustle nights and weekends, especially if it’s the kind of thing you can do on nights and weekends. You know, if you’re going to start something like a fence company and you’re going to actually be out there building fencing, then you can’t, I mean, you can’t, you kind of can’t do that on nights and weekends, but it’s easier with something like this on the internet.

You could do it nights and weekends without a problem. I should have done that. I didn’t. Uh, that’s a totally separate reason though. I, I really hated my job and. Actually, there’s a great job and a great company and amazing people. I just hated the fact that I had a job. And so it sounds so awfully privileged to be to say, and you know, there’s so many people with such a much, much harder life, but, and now I can look back on it and laugh a little bit.

But there was one night I was driving home from my now ex girlfriend’s house. And I literally thought about driving my car off a bridge in Columbia because that meant I wouldn’t have to go to work the next day. And that’s when I was like, Oh shoot, I need to, I need to quit this. If it’s. I’m 22 or 23.

Like I have money in the bank. If that’s really how I feel about this, then I should just quit now. I have nothing to lose. Nobody relying on me. And I live in a super cheap place and worst case scenario, I can always go back and live with my parents. So I’m just going to quit. And I did, but I would definitely encourage anybody, you know, maybe find a job you don’t totally hate or just create it out and build while someone else is paying you.

It’s way easier. And right. If I were to do it again, I’d probably try it that way. Um, If I had known that I had done it the other way already, can’t change the past and here we are.

Jared: Well, it’s hard to be said for the pressure of not having something to fall back on and the pressure forcing you to produce results quicker.

Um, but to your point, it’s, uh, uh, there’s other downsides to it. Um, so here we are. You’re going on four years in on this. You’re, you know, uh, getting to the point where you’re going to eclipse hopefully this year, 400, 000 in revenue. Let’s talk about what it is, what gave you the idea and maybe tell us about what it looks like.

It’s a local business. It’s a local newsletter that’s specific to, um, uh, a city. Give us a little bit more about it. And then let’s go back to what gave you the idea. Um, you said you, you kind of heard about it in an online community.

Ryan: Yeah, my elevator pitch did it this morning. I was at a networking event.

Everybody was taking 30 seconds to explain what their companies do. And I was like, this is all terrible. And nobody’s going to understand or remember any of this. And I was like, I don’t, what’s, what should I say? I should have a really, really good one. Um, cause I’m always trying to think of a different thing.

And then I basically just said, I email half of the people that live in this town every weekday and I tell them what’s going on with, you know, the Events, parties, news, live music, stuff like that. And so that’s really it. It’s just basically the digital newspaper sent through email, but it doesn’t have crime and politics in it.

It tells people what’s what live music is happening, where it’s happening, when it’s happening. One of the big fundraisers fund parties to go to in town, new restaurants, new businesses, opening all that sort of stuff. And, uh, he said, how did I hear about it? I saw someone else doing it. And then. I wrote about it and I was like, I think this is a pretty good business.

And all these people were like, yeah, that is a really good business. I’ll invest in you. If you go do that. I was like, Whoa, that’s not what I was just kind of writing about this. Cause I thought it was cool. Not really trying to do that. And I’m really glad that I didn’t do that. Cause there were people that wanted to, and I was like, I’m just going to go do it on my own.

I’m really, really glad that I made that decision. But yeah, that I just saw someone doing it in Columbia, South Carolina. They had figured out they had a couple of companies or a couple of locations of this. Signed up for all of them, found out their ad rates and made a spreadsheets. We’d go through every day and try to calculate how much money they were making.

I figured they were doing about half a million dollars in each city and they only had two people writing each one. And I figured they couldn’t have had that many back office staff. And so it felt like a pretty good unit economics or. So I decided to go for it.

Jared: And you were in, I believe this is through Annapolis, right?

And that’s the city that you built this around. That’s where I’m building. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. So it’s a different location than the one in South Carolina, but you got inspiration for that one. What does it look like to set this up? And then I’ll have a bunch of follow up questions, but, um, I’d like, how did you get it off the ground and what did it look like in its first year in terms of how you got subscribers, how you built out the emails, because you didn’t have a staff at that point.

And so, you know, what did the first couple of months or first year look like?

Ryan: Yeah, it was really simple, honestly. It was just one of the reasons I love this. I just set up a MailChimp account. I made an Instagram account. I put a post of my, a picture of myself. Hey, this is me. I’m Ryan. This is what I’m going to do.

And then I started running Facebook ads to a very, very simple landing page. I never made it look like, Hey, we’re launching this. I just made it look like, Hey, we already do this and here’s an ad for it. Sign up. So I ran ads for one week before I actually sent the first newsletter. So I didn’t have to send it to like zero people.

So I sent the first one to 70 people. That was all just every single one of them came through Facebook ads or maybe some of them came through that Instagram post, but I doubt it. Um, and then the only two things that I did to grow were I kept running Facebook ads. I spent almost all the money that I had saved on Facebook ads over the next year and a half or so.

And then I posted on Instagram and I posted and I commented on everything else that I could find. So I was scrolling through, I followed every Annapolis business and every publication, anything I could find that was putting out any kind of content about Annapolis. I would scroll all the way to the bottom of Instagram every single day.

I didn’t even know there was a bottom of Instagram. I figured that out through that. Um, and then I would comment on everything, anything I, any picture I saw, That I was like, I could think of something funny to say here. I would comment from the nap town scoop account just so people would see it and get it, get the name out there.

But then also I started finding content through Instagram about new businesses and stuff happening around town. So that became a dual purpose thing, growth and gathering content. But it was really very simple as far as how it started. I was doing those two things to grow. And I was looking at every possible source of information I could about what was going on around town.

And just curating that into a newsletter. I started doing it every week for only for two weeks. And then I figured if I was going to do this and sell ads, then I wouldn’t make enough money doing it once a week. So I switched just the three times a week. And then once we sold out of all the ads, they’re all of the easy to sell ads because we have ads with pictures and ads without, and there’s way fewer ads with pictures.

So once we sold out of all the ads with pictures on three days a week, It took about three, three years, but I decided to go to every weekday and that’s where we are now.

Jared: Facebook ads. Everybody listening is probably going to be somewhat familiar with that. What, um, like what were the, what were the building blocks of the ads?

And I’m trying to think local, guessing you’re probably targeting just the local area so you can get pretty specific with your audience. Were you offering something? Um, what was the draw when people got the ad to kind of sign up for the list? Um, Yeah.

Ryan: I don’t like offering something, uh, to sign up as I don’t like lead magnets, lead magnets lead to less engaged audiences.

Excuse me. I need some water.

I, from the start, always have done this, always will do this. Only wanted people to read it or to sign up because they liked the idea of the product and they just wanted to sign up to read it. Not because they wanted to get something else by signing up. So the ads were very, very simple. Uh, I chose to cover everything within a 10 mile radius.

Because that’s as, as small as I could target Facebook ads. So I was like, cool, well, that’s all we’ll do then. Um, and that’s never changed. It’s always been 10 miles. The ads were super simple. I started out basically just targeting every person within 10 miles of Annapolis. And then as I started to look at the Facebook ads and see which age groups and genders responded best, we started eventually targeting pretty much only women over the age of 35, uh, just cause they were so, so much cheaper to get on the list.

And then the, the ad copy itself was very, very simple. I use this stock photo that I, to be honest, I don’t even remember how I got it or I paid for it. Um, it’s just this woman who was holding a phone in front of her and the picture’s not even good. It’s like taken through glass. There’s kind of a glare.

Um, but it’s just this, you know, averagely pretty woman looking at her phone probably about 30 or so. I don’t know. And I just put the words on it. I always know what’s happening in Annapolis and I spent like almost all the money on that one single ad. So I blasted that woman’s face all over Annapolis. I like to think if she ever, if she exists and she comes here someday, that every famous is like vaguely familiar to everybody, like, but they won’t know why they won’t remember where they saw her, but they’ll, she’ll just, they’ll be like, Oh, she must just have one of those faces.

And she’ll be like, why is everybody staring at me? And she’ll have absolutely no idea that, you know, a hundred, she’s her face has hundreds of thousands of impressions. All around town. Cause I spent 20 grand on Facebook ads with her face on it.

Jared: You got to imagine by the time you were done running an ad campaign like that, like, you know, or maybe you’re still writing about a year plus, like given the audience size, I’m sure not everyone’s on the list, but I’m sure everyone’s at least seen it in Annapolis at this point.

Ryan:Yeah. I mean, if they’re on Facebook and they live in Annapolis and, and they’re a woman over the age of 35, they’ve like almost certainly seen it. Right. Maybe a little bit less likely if you’re in other demographics, but. Yeah, pretty much. I mean, we have a database of 25, 23, 23, 000 readers or emails, only 18, about 19, 000 of them are active right now.

So we have 4, 000 people who have unsubscribed and I want to get them back and figure out why they unsubscribed, but you only have 41, 000 people that live in town here. And there are some surrounding areas where We probably get that number up to 120, maybe 150, 000, but yeah, pretty significant amount. And that doesn’t include, I, this is dumb.

I used to delete people if they unsubscribed, like not just keep them inactive, like just fully delete their account. I was like, Oh, they’re done with me. I’m done with them. I’ll save money on my MailChimp account. And I’ve probably deleted another 5, 000 email addresses. So that was a little bit dumb. It’s the things you don’t know when you’re starting that you can actually keep those and maybe download them and load them into Facebook and retarget those people.

Uh, the things I didn’t know starting out and they’re now, so we’re going to do a retargeting campaign of those inactive subscribers soon. Try and get some of those back. Uh, but yeah, that’s, that’s how the ads worked. And that’s how most of our growth has happened. We have some SEO content that if you Google certain things, we come up first and People sign up that way.

And we have a referral program that’s accounted for a good amount of people, but Facebook ads at the backbone of the business.

Jared: Um, you, you just touched on a bit. It was one of my questions I wanted to ask. I mean, perhaps you chose Annapolis and this concept because you lived in the area, so it made sense, but are there, have you learned along the way, any, anything that you could offer for people evaluating a local market and whether or not it’s too small, too big, has the right demographics, I don’t want to put words in your mouth.

So any other qualifiers to look at, you talked about how Annapolis is like, I think you said 41, 000 people, you’ve got over 20, 000 of them on your list. Like any tips on how to evaluate a market for whether it’s a good opportunity or not.

Ryan: Yeah. So from a content perspective, people are the same everywhere.

And so anybody would read this anywhere, even, you know, town of 2000 people, people still care what’s going on. It might be a little bit harder to find the information, but. Or not, I don’t know, but the people are going to read this everywhere. It, the problem is whether or not you could turn it into any kind of successful side hustle or even main business.

Um, and that, I think for that, you need at least 50, 000 people. Naples is pretty small. I think it’d be a lot easier to build this in a bigger city. And I am looking at some bigger cities to do it again. But not too big. I think that’s another key thing is I don’t like to go. I don’t think I’ll ever go over 250, 000 people.

Uh, and even that would be pretty huge. And I think I’d have to do a little bit of a different strategy because it’s hard to be, excuse me, as local. Like you can’t cover everything in a town of 250,000 people. I could publish the live music calendar here and get pretty much everything on it and fit it in an email and not have to have you click out to a different link, just cause the town’s a good size for that in a city of 200,000 people.

That’s going to have to be a link out of the email. And, and maybe we have a couple of featured gigs, but you can’t publish all of that in there. So I don’t, I like this. I think I’ll stay between 50 and 250,000 people. Probably love to be closer to that 100,000 number 150. I think that’d be the sweet spot.

Um, it’s, it’s nice to have an affluent area because that’s a good crowd to advertise to, and people are always going to want to reach those people. Um, and then, you know, it’s also nice to have a cool place to live where people are jazzed to live there. People are jazzed to live in Annapolis. We have, it’s a really nice place.

We have. Great weather in the summer. We have a ton of water. So it was great boating here. We’re close to DC and Baltimore and you got lots of airports. Smart people live here cause they work in government defense contractors. It’s really, it’s a good group of people to advertise to. Um, so that’s a good thing for me and they’re jazzed to live here.

So they’re actively looking for things to do here. It might be a little bit harder and. Towns where it’s not as desirable. And, you know, we asked people why they live there and it’s like, well, cause my, my parents and my grandparents lived here and my grandparents before them. Uh, but at the end of the day, those people still want to know what’s going on in town and they want to know how they could spend their Friday nights.

So, you know, all people are the same. It’s just in my mind, who would be great to advertise to. And also like, if you look more at trying to do this from a perspective where you’re going to go and do it as a main business, instead of a side hustle. Then you want somewhere that’s probably growing and cool.

When I say cool, I mean like new infrastructure, new restaurants, people, people investing there. Again, a place that people are jazzed to live, jazzed to invest is great.

Jared: You, you talked about how in the first couple of weeks you moved to sending two emails a week. You’re now, if I have my notes right, you’re sending five emails.

Okay. So you started sending three emails a week. Pretty much. Let’s just call it right out of the gate. And I did two, two weeks

Ryan: of once a week. And then I was like, this is not going to be enough. So I did an audience survey. Do you guys want this three times a week or just once a week? And it was literally, and at that point I only had like 150 subscribers.

So it wasn’t like I was doing this to a big group, but they were like, 50 50 right down the middle, three times a week versus once a week. And that’s when I learned, don’t do that. Don’t survey, just do it. Um, cause, and so I figured, well, if I lose every single one of these people, there are only 150. I’ll get more.

Uh, so we switched to three days a week. I, I, I did go through and take the survey a bunch of times myself. So it was like 55 percent three times a week. There you go. And then I’ve got a screenshot of the results, but just don’t survey people. Just do it. You don’t have to ask.

Jared: What did the content look like out of the gate?

Cause at that point it’s just yourself. What were you filling the content with three days a week? Um, you’ve hinted at like what’s going on that weekend, live events, music, that kind of stuff. But did you have a certain structure you landed on? And again, I’m just trying to give people an idea if they can get their mind around what a local newsletter looks like in the early days.

Ryan: Yeah, so the structure’s been the same the whole time. Uh, the format’s a lot better now. It’s, it’s much prettier. But it’s always been the same. I just go through the sections with an intro, try to put something funny there, easy to read, get to. warmed up for the newsletter. I like to think of it. Then there’s a little preview of three things that are going to be in there that day.

Then they’re not always there, but I always keep the space reserved for what I call the top story or the headline story. That’s usually something I’m promoting myself. Like today, it’s a big fundraiser that we’re doing for a big fundraiser in town. Um, then tomorrow, I don’t think we have one tomorrow. Yes, we will.

We’ll have another announcement about that fundraiser. Uh, but then, um, Under that is an ad. That’s always been an ad. Underneath of that, I call it the digest. It’s like the general miscellaneous news. If, uh, let’s say I’m trying to think, I’m trying to think of good things. It’s easy to think of bad things to write, like disasters and stuff, but Let’s say Annapolis won an award from Condé Nast as the best town to spend Christmas, then that would be like general news that would go in there.

Or sometimes if it’s not a huge story, but it’s another piece of our content, I’ll put it up there just because I want it to be higher in the newsletter because the higher is always better. Underneath of that. That is the local business section. If a new restaurant’s opening, it’ll be there. Some of the businesses going out of business, it’ll be there.

Um, if there’s an opportunity for like some big grant money for a business, it’ll be there. Then underneath of that, there’s another ad with a photo. And then underneath of that, there is a events calendar. Basically it’s not really an events calendar though. It’s more of a selection of events that we pick, uh, want to do an events calendar at some point, but I just haven’t.

Um, and then underneath of that would be what I call civil news. It’s like city council meetings, county council meetings, board of education meetings, super boring. And then, uh, we have weather and live music and then sports at the bottom. And that’s it.

Jared: Guys, so many questions. Okay, where do you find all this information?

Ryan: That’s one of the most common questions I get asked. In the beginning, it was all content gathering. Us going out and going to get it. I say us because I don’t like it.

Jared: Okay. So many questions, but the big burning one is where do you get all your content? I mean, you just walked through just one day of newsletter of email and it’s so many facets to it. Where do you get all your content?

Ryan: In the beginning, we were going out and getting everything. I made a list of places that.

We’re producing content about Annapolis, the actual newspaper, a couple of local blogs, press release pages for government agencies and businesses, Instagram accounts that put out stuff regularly. And we were just kind of curating the best of the best of that. What would people want to care about or want to know about and care about?

Um, and always giving credit back to the place that originally posted it. It was all curation in the beginning. Once you get bigger. And it doesn’t take very long because people always want press, you get sent a lot of stuff, which is on one hand, a blessing because it makes your life easier. You don’t have to go out and get everything.

And on the other hand, it’s annoying because a lot of it doesn’t fit my standards at least. And so I have to say no a lot. And I just hate doing that, especially because some of these events are, I know that these people put their heart and soul into them. And. Sometimes I just can’t cover it because I know that it’s such a small interest group that I can’t do it for all of Annapolis.

Um, but that is, it’s really nice when people start sending you stuff. And then eventually you start, instead of like send it, people sending you events, then you start to build relationships and like commercial real estate agents are great relationships to build because they’ll represent a new restaurant coming into town.

And then because they want to add a bunch of value to the owner of the restaurant. They will tell the owner about you and, you know, and then the owner will reach out to you. Or maybe if, you know, I went to high school for some reason, people from my high school love to go to commercial real estate. And so I went to high school with a lot of the people in commercial real estate around town, at least one person that every one of the major companies actually.

And, um, actually the only one that I didn’t go to high school with is somebody who’s worked with my dad. Who’s also in commercial real estate for a while. So he also always calls me, uh, or at least that’s how he kind of knew to call me. And so, Those people are great because they’ll tell me about any new business coming into town if they did the deal on it.

And that’s a great source of information. Um, another one is marketing agencies. Sometimes a local, a new local business will contract a marketing agency and, and they’ll tell me that it’s going on. Uh, so you start to get a lot of people telling you stuff once you get bigger, which is really helpful. Um, and then also sometimes you can be the only place that’s getting that information because.

They’re not calling anybody else. Maybe they don’t have as good of a relationship with any other publications if there are local publications in town. So that helps to, to be the, the only one because people then share, uh, especially any new business opening up that always gets a lot of shares. And that’s always a good thing to cover.

Jared: I mean, it sounds almost like you’re a quasi journalist in many ways. The way you’re describing it sounds exactly like I have a friend who’s a journalist and you build contacts and sources. And as you progress, you start getting stories brought to you and things. It’s very fascinating.

Ryan: Yeah, I don’t like to think of myself as a journalist.

Um, partially because that offends journalists because I’m not a journalist. I didn’t go to school. I’m an engineer for not a journalist. Um, and then also I don’t like the way that a lot of journalists kind of act. You know, I feel like there’s a superiority complex in that profession that I just don’t think people enjoy.

Um, at the end of the day, it’s just if you have an audience, people are going to want access to your audience. So they are going to bring you stories and That’s, that’s just a very simple fact

Jared: when it comes to content construction. How did you learn what types of content people like the most versus what you mentioned earlier?

You mentioned something about this just isn’t a big enough story. It’s not a story that a big enough group of my audience is going to like, like, how do you kind of figure those things out? Because If you put a big email together, you can look at things like open rates and click through rates. Those are traditional measurements, but how do you know which stories or which parts of the email are the most liked?

Ryan: A couple of different ways. The first way I started in the beginning, I grew up around here, not in Annapolis, but about 40 minutes away. And I loved Annapolis. So I knew enough about it to know kind of the baseline events that were A big deal. The Naval Academy is a major part of life here. And so anything there, that’s a big event.

And when I say big, I mean like open to the public and I grew up going to maybe. So I know that it’s a well loved thing that obviously you have to cover. You can do a now that we’re bigger, especially it’s, it’s actually significant sample size. You can see what people are clicking and you can know. Oh, like every time we put a new restaurant in, everybody always clicks on the menu link.

So let’s, let’s put the menu in actually even better. Instead of let’s put the menu link in and they’re clicking out of the newsletter. Maybe they won’t come back. Let’s just put a picture of the menu in so that they stay in the newsletter, but they still get what they want.

Jared: And

Ryan: then also I’m just a quick learner.

I learned what they, if people are talking about an event, I am very much involved in in the town and hearing things. And so if you’re hearing people talk about a big event, Then you probably know it’s going to be important. And then also it’s just a little bit of trial and error. You go to something and you see, wow, I covered this once.

Uh, but this is, this is huge and this is really important to the town. Maybe next year we should cover this a lot more. And then you do that and just start to get this internal knowledge of what makes the town tick. And then once you know the kind of the demographics, you can also kind of assume what they’re going to be into.

You know, our audience is 75 percent women. So if a new, I’m trying to think of a good business example, like

we cover almost every business opening in town because that’s just what we do. Um, I love business as a business owner myself. And so when I support all the businesses I can, but I know sometimes I know that someone’s going to do better than others. If, uh, Just a great example. If a really hot new men’s hair salon came to town, it would probably be a less popular click than if a really hot new women’s hair salon came to town.

Right. Um, that’s just a really basic example, but you just, you start to learn that, especially as you gather data about the audience and that’s all self reported. From surveys that we’ve run. But yeah, so if I just, I talked for a while, if I went to go back and summarize my answer to the question, I’m always trying to get better at simplifying things.

One is I’ll call it gut feeling. I grew up here. I know what makes the town tick to is experience and seeing what people click on and what people talk about in town. Three. I guess it’s more just common sense. People love restaurants and that’s every town, every person in the world. Food is one of the things that brings us all together.

People love restaurants. If a new restaurant comes, you just kind of know I should cover that.

Jared: Let’s move into everybody’s favorite subject monetization and how you monetize this. Um, I’m really curious to hear some of the details. Uh, you’ve touched on ads. And so I’m going to gather that’s the primary source or one of the larger sources of revenue.

But let’s dive into the revenue model for the newsletter as you’ve outlined it and any details you think are important.

Ryan: Yeah. Ads are the biggest part of it. Um, just a quick math here.

Last year as we’re about, let’s call it 84 percent of the revenue, the other other 16 percent would be an event that we do. Um, we sell a lot of tickets for that. We sell a lot of sponsorships for that, which I don’t know if that could count as ads, but it kind of could count as ads. But the, that, that is just a total wash on the profit and loss because every dollar we make from, I mean, we spend a ton on the party.

The party brings in like 35, 000 of revenue, but we spend like 30 on it and then just give away all the rest. Um, so that’s the basic, it’s in, but it’s out. So I don’t even think about it in terms of the revenue. Um, so yeah, ads are the biggest way for now. I don’t have a couple other ideas that kind of wanted to, but, and then some other crazier ideas that we also talk about that are not actual ways of monetizing.

They are ways of monetizing. The audience, but it’s not revenue that adds to the newsletters revenue. It’s new businesses that are kind of grown out of the newsletter. Um, and we can talk about that after ads. It’s probably makes more sense.

Jared: Okay. Okay, cool. What is a typical ad look like in terms of the parameters that you give a brand?

Um, if you can, any information on like roughly how much you, you charge for it, who’s buying these, you know, what kind of businesses are buying them?

Ryan: Yeah. So I’ve got three different kinds of ads that we’ve created that we put in the newsletter. One is our top one. It gets his logo at the top of the news, the whole newsletter top of the whole newsletter, right under my logo.

Uh, then it’s the top ad. Sometimes it’s the first thing people see. If it’s, if we have a headline story that day, sometimes it’s not, but it’s got 150 words in it or can have 150 words, a picture, a bunch of links. It can be pretty big, uh, that, you know, that theoretically could be 10% of the newsletter based on word count.

Then halfway down we have another ad. With a photo, it only gets about a hundred words. And then towards the low live music calendar, we have three different text based only ads or text only ads that can have up to 70 words each. And that’s the five ads we sell every day trying to sell a couple packages right now where it would be sponsorship of a specific section with a little bit of a different look than those ads actually did just sell one to a music festival.

They sponsored our live music section for the entire month leading up to their music festival. Um, I don’t, I think. I think it’s a great idea. I don’t think we executed on it well. Um, not going to throw anybody under the bus, but I wanted, I just don’t think that the pictures were very good that they provided us, um, that it wasn’t big enough that it was a music festival.

The dates weren’t big enough, the location. Um, I just, I think we could have done it a little bit better, but I think that is kind of our next frontier is selling those packages and they can be pretty profitable packages. And it’s It’s pretty easy. Um, and it’s makes a lot of sense for the, depending on who the advertiser is.

So like that was music festival, they sponsored the music section, theoretically, people that are reading the music section would be very interested in going to see a music festival. So that should work out really well. We’re going to do, uh, we’re working on getting a boat sales company. To sponsor the weather section because the weather section is the one that’s getting checked by all of our voters here.

I want a bank to sponsor the local business section because all the local business owners are checking that section to see what else is going on in town. So that’s the, kind of the next frontier. That’s a little bit less thought out, but we’re starting to work into that. And then we also do some social media sponsorships.

That’s mostly in the form of Instagram videos, reels, and then. Those are all things that we’re currently doing some things that I want to do in the future are not so much dedicated emails. I like the idea of never sending the audience anything other than what they signed up for, but we’re about to make a pretty big data collection push and try to not have the data be anonymous like it has been in the past.

But if we can actually associate your email address with your data, then we could, instead of say, going to an advertiser and selling a sponsorship for the entire newsletter, we could. Break out different, we can still sell those general sponsorships, but we can sell specific packages to specific advertisers only reaching specific parts of the newsletter.

So we’re sending all the same editorial content each day, but let’s say just to make it really easy, one half of the newsletter is getting this ad a and one half is getting at B right on the segments that we’ve broken out based on their data. And, Advertiser a only wants to reach at a audience. A advertiser B only wants to reach audience B.

You can do that. We can sell it not only for more because it’s better targeting, but we can sell twice as many or three times as many or whatever. That’s kind of the next frontier, but I have to figure out how to collect that data, the best way to do that, how to store it, what I’ve talked to my attorney and actually figure out legal stuff.

Like what do we, All that. That’s, that’s like a longer term project, but I think that’s the real, real big revenue unlock because then it’s just data is power. You know, if we have really, really great data, we can sell very specific ads to  advertisers and charge a lot more for it.

Jared: I mean, to your point, like that example of like a men’s hair salon versus a women’s hair salon, if you somehow were able to parse the audience male versus female, you could just split that in that model and then therefore, you know, men wouldn’t be getting something for a female hair salon or a women focused hair salon.

So yeah, that makes a lot of sense. Um, let me, if you could, like, what are, what types of businesses are the biggest? Yeah. Advertisers. I mean, you don’t have to name any names, but just from a high level, is it real estate agents or restaurants or, you know, attorneys in the area? Like, what are the big? Um,

Jared: So talking to advertisers and you don’t have to say any specific names, but I guess I’m just curious if I could ask from an industry point of view, what types of businesses are your biggest advertisers? Is it real estate agents?

Is it lawyers? Is it restaurants? Like who kind of goes after the big ad spots?

Ryan: Big ad spots, real estate, residential real estate. That is, um, we have an exclusive agreement with the only advertiser we work with. So he’s our biggest client by volume. That’s a fine, but we’ve had that since the beginning. So he’s actually, we have worked with one other agent, but it didn’t work out so well.

So that ended, um, we really, we do a great job for this one. And I think we’re just going to stick with one because we do a great job for him and we struggle to do anything for the other one. So even though they were in completely different market sectors. You know, one was luxury. The other one was normal.

I don’t know. Cut that out. If she ever listens to it, she’ll be offended by that. Uh, even though it’s true. Um, so that’s, yeah, real estate. Medical is another one. Uh, anything with a really high customer value is basically what we look for. I almost don’t want to give specific industries just because I think it’ll confuse people.

The idea. Is and always has been. First of all, I want to work with the best. Um, the best working with the best brands in town gives us more credibility and especially because we’re really young, there is a certain credibility that you get from being around forever. You know, there’s another publication here that’s been around for 20 years.

Our newspaper parrots all the time that they’ve been around since the 1800s. They’ve been around since 2020. Uh, that doesn’t say anything other than the fact that I’m an idiot and I started in COVID. Um, so we have, I try to pick the premium brands in town to associate with. And so, Also within that [00:47:00] brands where our businesses, where their average customer value is very high, because that makes it easier for us to sell to them.

If we’re selling, let’s say 10, 000 of the vans a year or 20, 000 of the vans a year, and we’re selling to a real estate agent whose average listing is 2. 2 million. That’s a lot easier to justify than signing to the ice cream shop who’s making 7 an ice cream cone, right? One’s gonna make their money back.

The other’s not it’s pretty easy to imagine that from their perspective So it’s a much easier sale And so that’s really what we look for is a high customer value because it’s just easier to make the sale Mm

Jared: hmm,

Ryan: and we try to go for bigger long term packages Also, because it’s just easier again, on our end, uh, my sales guy wrote up our numbers on the board the other day from the last four years and it was like, Ryan, I’m concerned the number of clients we have is going down, but it’s the revenue is going up every year.

And I was like, yeah, I want it to be that way. Um, so he was a little bit concerned that the number of clients is going down, but it really was by design. All of the numbers are going in the good direction. The revenue just overall is going up. The revenue per client is going up because the number of clients is going down.

And then also the share of revenue that made up by the top 10, yeah, top 10 advertisers by spend is also going down every single year. So while we are getting less and less clients every year, that number is shrinking. It’s fine because all the, the number, all the indicators are healthy.

Jared: Yeah. How do you sell the ads?

Is this, uh, I don’t want to actually, I don’t want to put any words. You’re about like, what’s the process you’ve landed on for selling these ads?

Ryan: It’s mostly kind of what I just talked about. Finding people that are already spending money. It’s easier to convince you as who are already spending, spending money to spend with you.

If I ever come across people that they’re like, well, we don’t do any paid advertising that I’m like, I’m just wasting my time now because it’s almost impossible to convince those people to actually advertise. But if you find someone who’s already spending money, that’s a good thing. You want to find somebody who has money.

You don’t want to go after the business that’s barely surviving and you kind of get that. by real estate, talking to your realtor friends, finding out how the market is just reading the news, seeing where things are, but like the real news, not just like the panic. Oh, prices are going down, recession, all that.

Just talking to real people that are in there finding out who’s got the money and from the people that have the money, who’s spending the money, where are they spending it? So, you know, kind of what you’re up against. And then finding those high customer value businesses. And then we just go in and we basically say, look, you’re a, I’m looking at our board right now.

You’re a veterinarian. Your average customer is worth thousands and thousands of dollars a year to you. And they stay for, if you get a puppy lifespan of a dog, I don’t know, 14 years, 14 years, times a couple thousand dollars a year. If we get you one or two clients, you’re probably going to be profitable and we can get more than one or two clients.

I’ve gotten my veterinarian, I think the last time we talked and we’ve been working with them probably close to about a year now, uh, we’ve gotten them over 45 new clients. That is hundreds of thousands of dollars of value. And they’ve paid us about 15, 000. That’s the kind of sale that we look to make where somebody who knows their numbers, knows what their average client is worth.

Our audience and says, yeah, I can get that many customers, whatever out of your audience. So this can be a positive ROI for me. I can do that. It’s just so much easier when they see that and they know their numbers. We know our numbers. And that’s usually the sales process is it’s, it’s kind of a bet where like, We bet you that we can get you for our real estate.

We bet you we can get you one new listing for our nonprofit. Who’s got a membership program. Like we bet you, we can get you enough members to pay for this ad. And we bet you we can do it in the first year. If they are going to stay for more than one year, then you’re going to come out ahead. Um, I, I really believe the best way to, To get wealthy in this world is to create a lot of value for other people and then take a small percentage of it.

Um, so that’s, that’s what we’re trying to do here. If I, I lose sleep at night over the advertisers that I either know or suspect aren’t getting a positive return on investment. And most of the time I’m pretty good at seeing who they are and I’ll go to them and proactively ask if they’re actually happy and making money.

And usually they People don’t like confrontation. They’re like, well, I don’t know. And I’m like, do you need to cancel your ads? Cause I don’t want to take your money. If you’re not making more money out of it, that’s the whole point of this. That’s the whole point of advertising. I knew when I was starting based on, and this is super conservative, people only staying for a year, people having a low, lower open rate than we had and not selling all of our ads.

I was like, if, if I can pay less than 7 for an email address, Then I know I can do that. I I’m good on those Facebook ads will be profitable. And I always tell them this. If I had a campaign that ever people costed emails cost more than 7, I had to stop running it because it wasn’t profitable. All you, I, the, the concept, the fallacy of a marketing budget, I guess when you’re, it’s probably a good thing.

I don’t know, but I’ve just never thought of it in that way. It’s every dollar you spend on marketing should make you at least two back. Um, Ideally, you find somewhere where it makes you 10 back. And that’s, we found a couple of those clients and that’s who we try to find.

Jared: Yeah. I mean, it makes sense. I think everything you outlined and I hope everybody listening really took it to heart, like looking for companies who have high average value per client, certain businesses are going to just be naturally sticky for this type of a newsletter and this type of an audience.

Um, you mentioned that, you know, you’re like with the veterinarian example, you kind of are able to calculate roughly how much business your newsletter gave them. How are you tracking that sort of thing? Um, uh, how are you giving brands the ability to track that? Or is that up to them? Or do you have tracking that you utilize so you can kind of show the value back to the, uh, the advertiser?

Ryan: Right now it is up to them. So a lot of them will generate us specific links, right? Some of them run special promotions. Like the way that the vet knows is everybody who shows them the scoop ad, when they walk in, they get a free dog toy. And so they just keep, keep track. They put it in their system. How many people have, have done that?

Um, and so maybe it’s even a little bit more than that because not everybody’s going to remember to do that or whatever. It’s probably pretty close. I am going to have a new system shortly here. Within by two months that I offered clients probably at no charge or minimal charge, just kind of whatever the cost is where we can actually get a specific phone number just for them and we can put a little bit of code on their website where and we use a special link when we have a link to them that.

If someone goes to their website, it changes their phone number to this phone number, and then we can see exactly how many people called that phone number. Um, it’s actually pretty scary. We can even guess with reason, this software can guess with reasonable accuracy who that person is. Um, we will not share that information, but I’ll have it.

Um, and the reason that I’ll probably do that is a good segue into, Another monetization strategy of this is that I’ve started another business in town that I’ll be advertising through this newsletter. And so I want to know exactly how many people call from my newsletter so we can just see how valuable that advertising is for us.

And I believe it’ll be pretty valuable, but if we do this tracking system and It’s not, then maybe we don’t advertise the business through the newsletter. I don’t think that’ll happen, but that, that is probably going to be the impetus for getting a system like that, where we actually offer tracking to our people.

And I think it’ll be more valuable because not everybody knows how to track. Like the other day we ran an ad for somebody. We sent almost 500 people to their website from this ad. It was the second most popular thing in the newsletter. It, it was a really high click rate for an ad. And it was a really good business that should have gotten at least four new customers out of that, which would have meant they would have paid me 675 for an ad and earned at least 3, 500 bucks.

They said they got nothing. And I, honestly, I just don’t believe them. I think they don’t know how to track that’s, I not going to tell them that, but maybe in the future it’ll probably be mandatory. Hey, we’re going to use, we’re going to get you this specific number and we’re going to see how many calls you get.

And if you tell me that you got zero clients, but I see that you got 30 phone calls, I’m, I am going to call you out on that. Cause then I have the data back it up and be like, so you’re telling me you talked to 30 people on the phone and I can see how long they were on the phone. I could see all of it.

You tell me you talked to this, this phone number for 10 minutes and you didn’t make the sale. Like, come on. Um, obviously it won’t be as confrontational as that, but that’s how we can get to the point of really, really proving our value. Um, In ways that we don’t have to rely on the customer to be super savvy, savvy in their attribution.

Jared: Yeah. I can imagine a lot of local businesses are just not dialed in to attribution, tracking these sorts of things. So I can see that being huge value.

Ryan: Yeah. You ask how I sell a lot of these businesses we walk into the concept that we’re promoting is completely new to them. The concept of marketing being profitable and thinking about ROI there.

It’s like, It’s, it’s mind boggling to a lot of them. They’re like, wait, I thought it was just like post stuff on social media, maybe send out marketing emails. And I’m like, no, it’s you should marketing is such a buzzword. It probably perpetrated by people who just like getting marketing budgets and, and not having to worry about actually proving results.

You should be getting results out of your marketing. You should be cutting off. everything that doesn’t provide you money back. If I’m not, you should not renew with me, but I’m pretty confident that will be your most valuable thing. And then you will renew and you won’t renew other places. Uh, so that’s, that’s really a novel concept to a lot of local businesses.

Of course, I also like the really big businesses that don’t just don’t care. Um, there were such a drop in the bucket in their marketing budget that They just keep renewing it. It’s easy. Um, I like that too. We have a couple of clients like that. That’s just nice, easy money that I believe we’re doing a good, good job for them.

They think we’re doing good enough and their renewals are more, instead of like sitting down and having a meeting, it’s like, Hey, can you send me another proposal for another year of what we’re doing? And we have one client that literally pays us in full for the next year with the leftover from last year’s marketing budget.

Um, so that’s how small we are to them. It’s, it’s kind of nice.

Jared: as we wrap up, um, any snippets or final tips for people that might be wanting to do this in their local neighborhood. It could be mistakes you’ve made along the way. It could be outlier tips that we didn’t get to that you think are really important, just any final things to kind of wrap up and put a bow on this really great last hour of content.

Ryan: Don’t be shy. Put your face all over it. People connect with people, not brands. And then that’s part one of that. Part two is get some really nice clothes embellished with whatever logo you have. Pick the clothes that are hot in your town. Like in my town, we’re a sailing, we’re a boating town. So I got some really nice Helly Hansen jackets made and I wear them everywhere when it’s cold enough.

Right now it’s not, obviously. But, uh. Well, not obviously I shouldn’t say that we’re recording this on June 11th, so no jackets for me, but then go to everything you can and literally everything, every non profit fundraiser, even if you have to buy tickets, it’ll probably be worth it. Eventually you’ll start to get invited and not have to buy tickets, or you could donate advertising and get yourself some tickets, go to those things, go to networking events, find out which ones are waste of time and which ones are not skip the ones that are waste of time next time and go to the good profitable ones.

Go to restaurant, grand openings, go to business, grand openings, go to concerts, just go everywhere and make sure that your face is attached to this thing. And you will start to become very well known around town. You’ll get invited to things that’ll boost your credibility. It’ll, you’ll notice when you go to events like this, that you’ll talk to people.

And when you get home and you look at your, whatever email system you’re using, you’ll notice. That yesterday when you didn’t go to anything, you got 20 new subscribers tonight, you got 60 and it’s a really noticeable jump. That’s my biggest piece of advice. Don’t just do this and lock yourself in a room.

I did that for the first 10 months and then it was a, excuse my language, a holy shit moment. The first time I did go to something wearing something that I, a shirt that I’ve made for the newsletter. And. It was crazy. It was a total mindset shift from that point

Jared: forward.

Ryan: And it wasn’t even, it didn’t even have my actual logo on it.

And I went to this like business professional business, casual event wearing jeans and a t shirt. Uh, and it was like everybody there wanted to talk to me. They were like, that’s the scoop guy. And there was, that was, that was a really

Jared: eyeopening moment. Well, as we come to a close, thank you so much for sharing here.

This was really like top to bottom, a great overview with a lot of depth to it about a local newsletter. Can you tell us the name of your newsletter and just where at all people can follow along with what you’re doing?

Ryan: Yeah. My newsletter is called Naptown scoop. If you want to check it out. You can go to nav town scoop.com um, and that, that way you sign up for it there though.

So if you just wanna check out a couple issues, I would go to nav town scoop.beehive.com, uh, beehive with two B-E-E-H-I-I v.com. Um, that way you can just check out the archive if you don’t want to actually subscribe and get it every day. And then. I write about what I’m doing a lot on Twitter. I’m at life of underscore scoop.

And then also have a, a newsletter where I write a little bit more tactically about this and actually provide some updates of how much revenue Naptown scoop is making and what we’re doing. That’s working and who I’m hiring and stuff like that. And that’s also a. That’s in my Twitter bio or at life of scoop dot beehive.com.

And that’s, that’s it. I’m always looking for people in other cities to do this with. That’s, I’m kind of at a point where I’m ready to do that now and want to do more of these. And so I’m hoping to find really good partners to do this in their city and have me on board to, you know, instead of having to take 10 months to learn that you should go to all these events and three years to learn the things that I know now, three and a half years, four years, Uh, you know, I’m from day one and I think the next time I start a new one, which should be in the next month here, I think I’ll get it to the point where this one is now in a year or a year and a half.

And that has taken almost four years to get here now, but it’s just, I know so much more now. And I’m always so much better at something. The second time I do something, I imagine a lot of people are, but I feel like that’s very, very noticeable in what I do. I’m very, a quick improver and I, I don’t try to get.

Amazing at anything. I just try and get like pretty good at a lot of things. And I feel like I’d get to that point pretty quickly. So I’m excited to see how fast I can take off this next one.

Jared: Well, good stuff, Ryan. Thank you for joining us. I learned a ton. I appreciate you coming on. This is going to be a good one for people to hear through all the way through.

So thanks again. Thanks for having me, Jared. Thanks for dealing with the internet issues. No problem. I don’t even think anybody’s going to know

Ryan: they won’t, but we will.

Jared: All right. Talk again soon. See ya. All

Ryan: right, cool.



Source link

Comments are closed.

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. We'll assume you're ok with this, but you can opt-out if you wish. Accept Read More