What’s in a Newsletter + what platform to use?

I’ve learned a lot as I have worked on building my very first newsletter…

You’re going to want to see my recommendation at the end…the newsletter platform I found is awesome.

Newsletters are growing in popularity

This actually surprised me a bit because you don’t really hear about newsletters much. At least I hadn’t…until I started researching them. It’s a bit like when you research a certain model car and then you start seeing it everywhere.

I guess that is called the Baader–Meinhof phenomenon – or frequency bias.

It makes sense though.

You need to “own” your audience

With all of these social platforms making it so easy to grow an audience, the thing people don’t realize is that they don’t really “own their audience”. That means that if Instagram went belly up and that is where your audience was…you would lose them forever.

Newsletters essentially cut out the middle man and let you publish directly to your core followers. You have the emails and those emails go directly to the people.

Audience “owned”.

Newsletters are another revenue stream potential

Diversifying your revenue streams is almost cliche at this point…but perhaps that is my own recency bias talking.

If you’re on YouTube you can’t (or shouldn’t) rely completely on Adsense to make money. If you produce a podcast then you should think beyond whatever sponsorships you can secure.

You get the idea. Diversification keeps your business safe. If one piece falls down, then the rest can keep you afloat.

The #Historic Newsletter

I’ve written about our Walk with History YouTube channel and our Talk with History podcast. So let me introduce the #Historic newsletter!

I was inspired by the Colin and Samir newsletter…The Publish Press. These two run a YouTube channel that covers the creator economy and they talk to people across the YouTube, Podcast, and online media industry. I listen to their podcast and it is honestly one of my current favorites.

All that to say, they have a VERY successful newsletter that even I read each time I get it. (3 times a week right now) They have regular sponsors, constantly preach revenue stream diversification, and give great advice on growing an online creator centric business.

They use BeeHiiv.com. I did some research and saw that Substack was pretty popular and used by some pretty big newsletters…but BeeHiiv was geared towards flate rates (if over 2,500 subscribers) vs 10% commission from Substack.

The main difference is that Substack keeps 10% of the revenue from each newsletter membership, while beehiiv doesn’t charge these fees. Instead, they use fixed pricing, which is cheaper for writers after they charge more than $3000 per year in memberships.

thestackjunction.com

For me…it’s all about the look, feel, and future customization. I think that beehiiv (which only started in 2021) has that and I’m excited to see where it goes. Plus, Colin and Samir use and I LOVE the look of their newsletter.

Should I start a newsletter?

Well if you have every blogged regularly…then I say go for it. You can create paid newsletter memberships so if you already have a blog, this could be your “premier” option that people pay for.

If you are on other platforms like YouTube, Instagram, or you’re a Podcaster…this is a great way to get some control of your audience and take out that platform middle man.

If you enjoy history, travel, and interesting articles…the #Historic newsletter is free! (if you follow below you can see what our welcome email looks like 😉)

Plus…how cool is it when you get the .com you want? www.hashtaghistoric.com

Work Hard, Change Fast

My motto this year:

Lay low and grind

unknown

I have been working REALLY hard on my other site and the YouTube channel I run with my wife…and it’s been paying off.

We have been fortunate enough to gain over 2,000 subscribers in our first year and I attribute that to years of me experimenting and the fact that my wife is a Historian…and figured out that people like history on YouTube. (niche down they say…and they were right)

I don’t have it figured out though

What do you mean? 2k subs in a year on YouTube is not easy!? What is your secret?

No secrets, just hard work and being willing to change. Change fast.

I love getting feedback as that is really the only way that you can change yourself or your product for the better. That and learning from others…but direct feedback is something everyone should seek.

To improve is to change, so to be perfect is to have changed often.”

Winston Churchill

We released a membership tier and were pretty aggressive with the pricing at the high end. I worked really hard to make those products and I thought I might be worth more money. But then I saw a friend also release a membership…at a much lower, single price.

It hit me right in the gut.

Be Realistic

His YouTube channel is MUCH bigger than our (about 15 times bigger as of writing) BUT he didn’t offer as much as I do. (interactive maps are work to make!)

So I Changed…Fast

Even though I had just released a smooth and well written and logical 3 tier membership, I changed. I got rid of the low and high and merged my perks to the middle pricing. ($5/month for what we are giving is a freaking steal)

It’s ok to admit you are wrong.

What is not ok is to recognize you are wrong and not adjust…not change.

Change is good…so change often and change fast.

oh…and if you like history and/or travel…check out our patreon. (my interactive travel guides are pretty cool)

The Ebb and Flow of a Personal Blog

Personal blogs are a different…no…special…part of the internet.

Has it been a while since you have posted on your blog consistently?

That’s ok.

Because it is yours.

Personal blogs are a different part of the internet. Special in my opinion. Some people write long enough (and well enough) to make some money…but many (like me so far) don’t.

That’s ok.

Because it is mine

Perhaps it is just my generation (I fall smack in the middle of Gen X and Millenials) but a blog/website that is mine and mine to do what I want with…has always felt special.

I have followed a blog by Greg Morris for some time now: gr36.com. I also follow Greg on twitter @gr36. I don’t remember how I came across his site but I have always been glad I did.

And I follow him for no other reason than I enjoy the thoughts he puts out in to the world through his blog…and I feel like if we knew each other in real life, we might be friends.

That’s it.

He has done things that I have done here: switch blogging platforms, turned ads on and off, tested features, pontificated on whether or not he should keep writing, etc. Greg has treated his blog much like I treat mine…as an avenue for him to write, create, think aloud, seek feedback…and he has done it for quite a while.

That’s ok.

Because it is his.

It is ok

The beauty of a personal blog is that (hopefully) people are there for you…not necessarily for an ever flowing feed of information, gear reviews, etc. It’s personal…it is yours….it is you.

And that means it is ok to step away and take a break every once in a while. It is ok to try something new, to write on a completely new and random topic…or to take a deep breath and think aloud…while writing those thoughts down.

Don’t worry about the optimal time to publish and there is no need to sweat the thoughts of how long a post is or if it has too many pictures.

It is ok.

Because your blog is just that….yours.

Let me encourage you my friend…the world is better when you are in it…and in this day and age a personal blog is my favorite way to contribute to the digital world we all operate in.

Start that personal blog…or keep the one you have going…make it yours…hit publish whenever you want to…it is ok.

My Blog

I can identify with this….

What I wanted my blog to be changed, and although I tried to rekindle that romance last year, it is now something made just for me. A reflection of myself.

​I’ve enjoyed Greg’s blog for a while. Primarily because it’s just what he says…his.

As someone who has started and stopped his own website/blog a couple times, I like hearing (reading) someone else who has done the same. One of the few reasons I didn’t just stick with writing over on Medium was that I wanted my space.

This is my blog…I hope you enjoy it. 😁

What Is Your Blog? – Greg Morris

Applying the 1% Rule to Patagonia, GoRuck, and You

I have a bad habit…

When I find a company that knows what it stands for and it aligns with my own beliefs…I am all in.

I’m not just referring to the couple soft goods companies in this blog post title. E-commerce company Next Jump has a culture I got to experience that changed my life. Simon Sinek has written books and given TED talks that I write about often and that I will buy immediately in the future – no questions asked.

These aren’t just companies or individuals that have social assistance programs to check a box or “mission statements” that sound good. Rather, these are organizations that make moves that stand by their beliefs but often seen as counterintuitive to traditional success…like Patagonia’s “Don’t Buy This Jacket” campaign.

I’ve been a Patagonia fan since I first started reading about how the founder started the company and my affinity grew as I saw how committed it is to sustainability, quality, and family. Living in Ventura, where the company was started and is headquartered, I met people who worked there and loved it. The stories you hear about employees taking surf breaks, child care at work, and the overall quality work environment are not exaggerated.

Are you surprised that my social media accounts are some version of @PatagoniaDad?

The 1% Rule

I came across the below video by YouTube’s very own Captain Sinbad. I encourage you to take the couple minutes to watch it. He’s very good and I can see why he has over 300K subscribers.

If you don’t want to watch the video…

The 1% rule is simple: improve just 1% each day. The idea is that if you do this, the good habits you develop stack over time. Rome wasn’t built in a day and you won’t be either.

Stop focusing on the end result and start paying attention to the process.

—via theMonkLife.net

There is so much that goes in to this concept, but the basics of it are…well…basic.

Tomorrow, you probably won’t notice a difference. But what’s the result when 1% happens every day? Let’s ask James Altucher…

“Improve a little each day. It compounds. When 1% compounds every day, it doubles every 72 days, not every 100 days. Compounding tiny excellence is what creates big excellence.”

72 days later you might be twice the person you are today. Think you can’t manage that? Let’s do some math.

(continue reading here)

GoRuck

When I said I have a bad habit, that tends to mean that I fall down rabbit holes of learning about these amazing companies…and then buying a ton of their stuff! Fortunately for me, this means that I am buying quality items…usually over a long period of time. (I can neither confirm nor deny that I’ll be writing about a bunch of GoRuck stuff that I might have after Christmas) 😏

I’ve been reading up on GoRuck…the company best known for the GR1 and GR2…bombproof backpacks for every day carry up to one bag travel. They even support a foundation started for a former classmate of mine who was killed in combat. The owner and founder of the company is VERY straightforward and honest when he talks about his company. I am excited to read his new book.

GoRuck events are growing in popularity
GoRuck events are growing in popularity

In 2019 GoRuck made the decision to move their large scale manufacturing to Vietnam…and the owner wrote a long and very honest blog post about why.

One of the many things that struck me in his post was the below chart.

GORUCK’s growth 2008-2018

Crazy growth aside…what struck me was those first couple years with $0 revenue. And while the chart displays no data for ‘growth’ for those years…I would argue that they were growing a little bit every day.

1% perhaps?

Consistency and The “Why”

Simon Sinek is most famous for his talk about the Golden Circle and pointing out that successful companies plant their flag in their “Why” first and their product second.

I believe that the companies I’ve mentioned naturally follow the 1% rule because they are founded on a belief, a purpose, or a mission that speaks them, their employees, and ultimately their customers. As Captain Sinbad pointed out when talking about the movie ‘Money Ball’, Billy Bean shifted his focus to metrics that actually matter.

These companies are focusing on what matters…they know their why. They consistently stay centered on their why and communicate about their products through that rather than vice versa.

People don’t buy what you sell. They buy why you sell it.

Simon Sinek

When you frame your work life around something foundational to who you are or what you believe…it almost becomes easy to improve by 1% every day. As long as that why is genuine and (in my opinion) not self centered.

“Our findings suggest that the psychological reward experienced from helping others may be deeply ingrained in human nature, emerging in diverse cultural and economic contexts,” said lead author Lara Aknin, of Simon Fraser University in Canada, in a news release.

article on American Psychological Association study

What This Means to Me (and should mean to you)

From Simon Sinek’s “Why” to GoRuck’s slow take-off.

GORUCK founder with WWI vet at Omaha Beach for 75th anniversary
GORUCK founder with WWI vet at Omaha Beach for 75th anniversary

From Patagonia’s “Don’t Buy This” campaign to Next Jump’s deliberately developmental company culture.

These companies inspire me!

They inspire me to continue to refine my own why, to improve 1% every day, and to do so selflessly.

If they don’t inspire you, I hope that I can.

I hope you have a fantastic day. 😁

The art of asking the right questions

 A great definition I saw for questioning is that questioning enables us to organize our thinking around what we don’t know. So, in a time when so much knowledge is all around us, answers are at our fingertips, we really need great questions in order to be able to know what to do with all that information and find out way to the next answer.

I like the point of framing what you are putting your brain power towards by organizing it via the right questions.

Asking the Right Questions

Handwriting is the BEST

Then there’s memory. Print book readers retain more information.

As a new study from the Developmental Neuroscience Laboratory at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology argues, the same goes for writing. Handwriting helps children and adults remember information better. Typing is a shortcut.

The team, led by Professor Audrey van der Meer, hooked 250 nodes to each participant’s head to collect 500 data points per second. Once they were strapped in, a dozen 12-year-old children and a dozen young adults wrote by hand, typed, or drew. The clear winner: using paper, not devices.

This makes me happy.

Why?

Because while I do love my tech and productivity apps, there is just something about writing (journaling, note taking, etc) that cannot be matched.

Seems scientists agree.

Handwriting shown to be better for memory than typing, at any age

Typeface Matters

When done right, social responsibility gives back—to the charity and the business. And, as this research shows, something as simple as typeface choice matters.

Donors were one-sixth more likely to give when the typeface matched the message. In this case, that meant “warmth-focused” messages were handwritten while “competence-focused” initiatives were machine-written.

​Typeface has interested me for a couple years now. I might be embarrassed to tell you how much time I spent choosing the font for this site…and then tweaking it.

Seems like for some businesses it is time well spent.

Typeface matters: Donations go up depending on typeface choice

Just ONE

Surpasing 100 Direct Subscribers…

Thank you.

I recently surpassed 100 direct followers and I wanted to thank everyone who has commented, liked, and hit that follow button here.

If you see my about page, you’ll see that across all my platforms I am over 8,000 followers…but I’ll let you in on a little secret. I hit a hot streak over on Tumblr a few years back and most of my “followers” are from over there (where I still cross post). That was back when I was climbing and photo focused.

Tumblr’s state of affairs is a whole separate topic, but please know that I consider my followers here much more “present” as I see a lot of interactions via likes and comments from you all.

I remember posting over there once that I was shutting down an old website of mine. Of the over then 7,000 followers I had I got one email.

Just one.

However, that one email was from someone who told me that my posts had inspired him to start his own climbing inspired website. He even sent me a climbing chalk bag that I have to this day.

I had posted over there as the “caffeinated climber” from my now defunct climbercafe site. A site that I enjoyed creating and building but ran out of time to keep up…but I inspired one person to action.

Just one.

And that one made it all worth it.

If you take anything away from this today, remember…write for the internet you want…you may just inspire that next one to action.

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