Inside.com Year-end Letter
If you’ve never heard of us, Inside is a network of newsletters that serve as your personal industry research assistant by providing a smart, concise roundup of the most important news in a topic. We cover dozens of industries from artificial intelligence and augmented reality to beer and cannabis. Below is a year-end letter we shared with our team, our investors, and most importantly, our readers.
In today’s 2017 year-end letter, I’m thrilled to report that Inside.com will be ending 2017 with record subscribers, revenue and newsletters.
We’re heading into the end of 2017 with 30 newsletters, up from 9 in 2016:
We’re heading into the end of 2017 with 535,000 subscribers to the those newsletters, up from 118,000 in 2016:
We ended 2017 with 42,000 pre-subscribers — people who have signed up for newsletters that we plan on launching when they hit critical mass.
Most importantly, we launched three specific revenue streams in the second half of 2017, all of which are off to a promising start: subscriptions, corporate patrons and advertising.
Premium subscribers get three times as much content as our free subscribers, so please consider signing up so we can keep investing in great writers to make you smarter and more informed: inside.com/premium
Corporate Partners get their logos at the bottom of every newsletter, as well as Premium Subscriptions for entire team: partnerships.inside.com/
Advertising comes in two flavors, in-newsletter ads and dedicated emails. Dedicated emails are the most powerful options, giving our partners an entire email to explain their product to our elite readers. We limit dedicated emails to one time per month, and we are testing the ability for paid subscribers to opt out of them (in our test, 98% them didn’t opt out of ads).
Our readers — that’s y’all reading this email — are just exceptional individuals to market to, with 81% being director-level or higher in your jobs, 84% having household incomes over $150K and 86% US-based, primarily in major metro areas.
Finally, we added a promising new delivery system for the top 5% of our users and content: Inside Essential Alerts. These alerts are limited to the most important news and are delivered to the most intimate channel on your phone: your SMS inbox.
So far, 3% of our email subscribers have added an SMS subscription, with 18,500 total SMS subscribers during our beta test.
At the end of each year, I like to contemplate not only what we’ve accomplished, but what we’ve learned about the marketplace.
1. The Year of the Subscription
Subscriptions are still an amazing revenue stream for content, a lesson that folks like the New York Times and Wall Street Journal seemed to forget while chasing advertising, SEO and social media strategies over the past decade. The New York Times has hit $250m in subscription revenue after a great growth spurt for the past year, and WSJ is seeing a similar trend.
As one WSJ executive told me, “we used to be great at getting money from our users — we took our eye off the ball.”
Vertical content available for purchase by the patronage model continued to surge, from email newsletters like Stratechery (‘1 day free, 4 days paid’), to Sam Harris’ Waking Up podcast (‘contribute only if you can’). Tapping into this trend, Patreon will pay out $150m directly from fans to the 50,000 creators on its platform, and Kickstarter just launched a Patreon competitor to offer subscription options.
Proving one of our key beliefs: you don’t need everyone to pay, you just need 5% of your audience to pay.
Of course, Netflix surged to 110 million paid subscribers and Spotify to 60 million, while Disney put their foot down and said “enough, we’re going to go direct!” Disney will consolidate their war chest of IP to their own, “less than Netflix per month” service in 2018.
2. Facts matter
One important truth we’ve learned in 2017 is that the news media is critically important to having an informed citizenship. We have clear evidence that Russia successfully stirred up massive discord in America using social platforms that were designed — according to the best interpretation of history — to bring us together.
Those same platforms we’re used to traffic in memes and advertisements that promoted device lies. While the New York Times with 1,300 journalists are able to parse the truth 24 hours a day on a global basis, Facebook with 19,000 employees has abdicated their responsibility to even check the ads people display on their platform.
If a tech company like Facebook says something is hard or impossible, while building the largest consumer business in history in a decade, they are really saying “we don’t want to do this.“
Every day our team does our best to read everything, consider it and do the hard research of figuring out not only what is most important, but also what is the most true. This isn’t a perfect process, but having a process and dedicating yourself to improving that process, is a lot better than throwing your hands up and saying “we can never really know the truth!”
3. Gatekeepers kill Partners & Run Take All the Ad Dollars.
In the past couple of years we’ve seen YouTube, Google’s search engine and Facebook radically change the rules for content providers investing on their platform. We continue to believe that investing in these platforms provides a negative expected value, while communicating directly with our customers over SMS and email provides a lasting, direct and positive value.
Two gatekeepers represented over 90% of the growth online advertising, Facebook and Google. Those two companies should not be trusted by content creators based on the historical evidence, and candidly any investment in those platforms is a distraction from what really matters: writers providing exceptional value directly to you, our loyal readers.
For 2018, we’ve got four lofty goals.
First, we would like to double the number of newsletters we publish, going from 30 to 60.
Second, we would like double the number of subscribers, hitting 1M email subs.
Third, we would like to hit 250,000 SMS subscribers — 25% of our target email goal.
Fourth, and finally, we would like to partner with a major brand or publisher who has over 100,000+ emails on their list, but is underutilizing email and SMS as a content channel.
In order to hit these goals we will need to raise a round of capital or triple our revenue. So, we have a simple ask today:
- Please consider a Premium Subscription
- Sign up for Inside Essential Alerts
- Please hit reply and cc the marketing decision maker at your firm, if you would like to explore our very effective marketing options.
- Please hit reply if you have a large, under-utilized email list and want to discuss using our CMS and creative team to drive massive results for your organization.
All the best,
Jason, Austin, Lon, Kim and the entire Inside.com team
PS — Seriously, shoot us an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) to tell us what you think about Inside — the team loves to hear from you. :-)