In today’s Finshots we will be doing something different. Instead of talking about the latest financial or business news, we will be taking a look at newsletters. More specifically discuss why they’re all the rage these days and offer you a first hand account of building a newsletter.


The Story

We were never fixated on creating a newsletter. All we wanted to do was publish content, write good stories, that sort of thing. But when you’re starting out, you have to deal with some very peculiar problems.

How are you going to reach people?

How do you make sure they read your content daily?

And how do you do it without spending boatloads of money?

If you’re the optimistic kind, you’d say something like — “Build an app and ask people to download it. That will do the trick.”

But consider the amount of friction you’d induce if you went down that route. When nobody knows who you are, people aren’t going to download your app. That’ll just stymie growth.

Besides, building an app isn’t exactly an inexpensive affair.

If you want to make sure it’s decent, you’ll likely have to spend a fair bit of money and some time weeding out the bugs. A more inexpensive alternative is to make a website and promote your stuff on social media. This is definitely cheaper and less time-intensive. However, if you want to build a loyal audience with a reading habit, this sort of strategy falls flat on its face.

So you need something else — Something that is easy to create, easy to adopt, and easy to use every day.

Any options come to mind? E-mail!

Building an e-mail newsletter isn’t very expensive at all. In fact, if you’re using an off the shelf solution like Substack, you could be up and running in a few minutes. More importantly, user adoption is near seamless. The only thing people have to do is submit their e-mail and voila they’re a subscriber. And once that’s done, they’ll start receiving your updates on e-mail every single day (if that’s what you wish). In fact, they’ll likely see the updates as well because most people open their e-mails at least once a day.

It’s the most affordable solution for an up-and-coming content company that aspires to build a loyal audience with a reading habit. So you shouldn’t be surprised that newsletters are in vogue.

But why are they in vogue all of a sudden? What’s with the timing?

Well, there’s a rather simple explanation here.

If you haven’t noticed yet, there’s a cambrian explosion of content. Youtubers, Instagram Influencers, LinkedIn gurus — They’re everywhere. Today, you can use content to build a brand and create a business empire if you’re industrious. Gwyneth Paltrow, the American actress started “Goop” as a weekly newsletter back in 2008. In 2021, Goop is a multi-million dollar lifestyle company.

And it’s not like you have to build your own brand. If you’ve got a sizeable audience, you can promote other brands and make money without taking on any liability. Think Finshots — We’ve been in this business long enough to know the kind of money fin-tech companies are willing to pay to reach our audience. And let’s just say it’s decent money.

So it’s not just a newsletter thing. It’s a content thing.

Affordable internet, smartphone penetration, and social media platforms have offered content creators more ammunition than ever before. And newsletters — Well, they’re just a consequence of all this activity.

Having said that, however, newsletters aren’t always going to work to your advantage.

If you’re going down this route, remember, your content has to do all the talking. You can’t use your personality. You can’t use your charm. You can’t use a whole lot of what comes naturally to you. Words will have to do your bidding and it can get difficult at times. Which kind of explains why there are more Instagram influencers out there compared to people working on newsletters.

Also,  if you’re distributing your newsletter on e-mail (as is the norm), then there is this other constraint. It’s very easy to build an audience. But it’s almost impossible to scale. Think about it — When you publish content on YouTube or LinkedIn, the platform may choose to bump up your post and help other people discover your stuff. On e-mail, that can’t happen. Sure, you could choose to publish your article on a website and then promote it on social media, but it’s not the same thing. So if you ever hit a roadblock, then that might be a sign you’ve outgrown the whole newsletter phase.

Finally, there is the monetization problem. If you’re running a newsletter as a side hustle, then you could make decent money by running ads. But if you’re thinking of building a content business with a sizeable team, then newsletters won’t cut it. You’ll have to make more money to sustain operations and you’ll have to diversify. You may have to go app-only and dabble with social media. And if you’re seeking more eyeballs, then you may have to push out more content. On newsletters, this is tantamount to spam. On an app, it’s an extra notification.

Bottom line —  If you’re aspiring to build a company on the back of a newsletter, it’s not always going to be smooth sailing.

So why are we doing it? Why is Finshots running a newsletter if it’s so terrible? Is this a devious ploy to dissuade others from adopting a similar strategy?

No! It’s not.

We don’t just run a newsletter. We have an app, a website, a decent social media presence, a podcast and we may even dabble with YouTube soon.

Also, we are not just a content business. In fact, we make most of our money selling and simplifying insurance. It’s a product that’s been in the works for about 6 months now and it’s shaping up quite nicely. Of course, there’s a lot of things that still need fixing. But we will get there.

In fact, let me confess right now. This whole story is a segue to this last bit.

Because there’s one other benefit to a newsletter that we haven’t yet outlined.

See, if you are a company that’s trying to hire people that really really believe in your vision, I am sure you know how difficult it can be. But if you had a newsletter with a young passionate audience, then you could do something like this

Readers of Finshots,

My name is Shrehith. I happen to be one of the co-founders here and I have been tasked with finding talented people who could join our little enterprise. It’s not big or fancy or anything. It’s just… Well, you know who we are. We simplify all things finance and right now, we are doing the same thing with insurance. It’s a complicated affair. The terms and conditions, the myriad exclusions, the list of policies — It’s horrific.

But we want to make it a lot less complicated. And we are building solutions that hopefully can achieve this intended objective. So if you want to work with us, more specifically — work on this new insurance project “Ditto”, then please visit this careers page on AngelList and consider applying to our company.

We are hiring for multiple roles across engineering, ops, founder's office etc and you’ll find more details on the same page. Also, if you know anybody who may be interested in working with us, then you could forward this e-mail to them as well. It will help us loads and also validate our hypothesis that newsletters can come in handy when you’re on a hiring spree.

In any case, that’s it from me today.

Until next time…

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