Making A Game Out of Online Business

Tobin Slaven
Jan 30, 2017 · 7 min read

How cool would it be?

I have this idea… a “how cool would it be” kind of idea that I want to share with you. And I want to share it for a couple of reasons.

Mostly I want to know, do YOU think this is as cool as I do? Because if you do — that is just a little encouragement I would like to hear. I am feeling really eager to pursue it and see if I can make this happen.

Also — maybe if I put it out there in the Universe, someone else might also think it is cool enough to build. In which case great, I will be their first customer!

So here is the idea: what if you could take your favorite hobby, that thing you do on your own time, when you have the extra time, that passionate interest where you read the news on a certain topic, or that thing that just fascinates you and draws you in every time you see it mentioned…

What if you took THAT idea… it would really help here if you can target THAT specific topic in YOUR mind — because if I am all wet with this hypothesis, I want you to tell me!

Let me give you some examples

For some of you here (my friends in Maine), that topic might be about living in Maine and Maine culture (whoopie pies and the best damn seafood on the planet). For others, it might be chili recipes…

… or pugs;

… everything you know about antique firearms;

… the best deals for getting to tropical beaches and resorts;

or why and how some long-time married couples still flirt like teenagers — whatever it is. You know (if you will take a second) what THAT topic is for you.

Got it? Please don’t cheat. I could really use your help, and it might actually be something really useful for you too.

Do you read about that topic? When you see something in the news, online or in a magazine, do you stop to read what they have to say. Are you generally more knowledgable about this topic than most of your friends?

Hypothesis coming…

Well, I think (this is my hypothesis that I want to test) that the attention you have given this topic, this accumulated stuff in your head that you know, but most other people don’t — has a value, a real, cash in hand value…

… at least if you can connect with other people, like you, and who have the same interests but maybe don’t know or haven’t seen the stuff that you have, yet.

So what I want to do, is create an online game where each “topic expert” (that is what I am going to call you temporarily) could pour their heart out… for a couple of hours each week (you know, the time you are most likely doing anyways if it is really your passion)…

And YOU could get paid for it.

There, I said it.

I don’t why I have had so much fear about coming out and saying that [insert multiple cuss words here] combination of words. But they literally have been stuck in my throat for the last two years.

Do what you love (share about it) and get paid for it

I think maybe, it was because saying “get paid for something you love doing anyways” feels a bit spammy, right? Like someone promising something that cannot possibly be true.

Well, I am not promising anything. And I am not selling anything. I already get paid pretty well for what I do online, and that is because I know I can bring 10x the value of what I get paid (that is my personal goal and formula that I will explain more, one day soon) back to the people who pay me.

What I really am just talking about today, is a dream I have (a “how cool would it be” hypothesis) to create an online game or platform that would enable people to do what they love, and earn a second income stream from doing it.

And I do believe it is possible.

In fact, the last couple of years I have been collecting examples of people doing just that. Last week’s newsletter shared the link to the podcast Side Hustle School [link here] that is a daily series of 6-minute stories about exactly that. New income for busy people who don’t want or need to quit their jobs, doing fun, side hustles.

But here is my SECRET SAUCE:

Maybe not so secret now, since I just yelled it in all caps ;-)

I think there is an easier way. Side Hustle School is great and inspiring, but there are SO many different ways people are creating their side hustles — that it is a bit overwhelming.

Not just a bit overwhelming. The people I know best (including myself) feel paralyzed because there are so many options of “things you could or need to do.” Where does one even start?

That is why I stumbled onto the idea of making it a game. You see, putting a ball thru a circle over and over again — sounds kind of boring. But add lines on a floor, put the hoop 10 feet in the air, or require knocking the ball with an oddly shaped club — and all of a sudden, people around the world line up to play the game (like basketball or golf, respectively).

It is the constraints of the game (the rules of how you have to play in a certain way) that make it a game, and THAT ultimately makes the games fun.

If you are still with me, I love you for it (you are my real peeps). Because I have rambled and even promised a SECRET SAUCE and still haven’t been able to spit it out.


Not the boring, printed on paper, full of just enough stories to fill out the pages kind of newsletters that you glance at and throw away like advertising.

No. I am talking about a relatively new breed (last 10 years or so) of online “curated newsletters” that have been quietly flying under the radar.

They are growing in size, popularity, AND they make money. Sometimes big… money.

Most people don’t know much about them. And they definitely don’t know how some of them grow to the point they get sold (often to big media investors) for millions of dollars. Other examples are providing a full-time incomes for solopreneurs and small staffs of creative entrepreneurs.

From writing newsletters.

About topics that they know really well, or just love so much they spend their “me” time absorbing more information about the hobby.

Here’s the magic box

So what am I going to do about this — and WHY SHOULD YOU CARE?

First: The upcoming season of The Ask Me Anything Show (this is my big announcement teased last week — btw) is going to be “All About The Business Of Newsletters”

You guys, have no idea how I excited I am about this. I am giddy about it…

That’s why I feel like I am doing something pretty cool. Because I am so excited about this, it almost doesn’t matter if anyone else tune’s in. But I hope you do ;-)

I even know it might be a [enter another (fecal matter maybe?) explicative here] show, and I am STILL beside myself eager to get rolling on this!

SO… if you have no idea what a curated newsletter is, why you might want to create one, or why you would even want to subscribe to one — I am going to go DEEP into those questions.

Especially, HOW they make money…

How you GROW from a list of friends (like this one) to a list of thousands of other like-minded people…

And WHY they (email newsletters) are working so well when it was supposed to be social media that was going to take over the world.

Secondly: I am going to use my own newsletter [link needed here] as a learning lab space — for you, for me, and anyone else who wants to come along for the ride.


If you are on the newsletter list now, and this topic is just annoying to you, please UNSUBSCRIBE. It’s okay. We are only breaking up and we can always be friends later.

But for whatever reason, I am really nerdy about this topic of newsletters. I can’t help myself anymore. I have been wanting to do this for a long time. Why I didn’t do it sooner is a post for another day.

I am going to talk about the game of online newsletters. A lot.

I am going to live in the “GOON-Docks” (get it? Game Of Online Newsletters?) and I am going to invite all of you to become GOONies with me.

So you have my permission to cut these ties if you are not feeling it. Come back and visit us again in 6 months or a year. You might be surprised to see what these “Goonies” are able to do with a simple newsletter…

Or not.

But at least we will know, because we are going to go right to the source of the people who do this on a daily basis.

  • What works?
  • Why are they doing newsletters?
  • How did they get started?
  • How do they make money from a newsletter?
  • How much are they making?
  • How much could a person expect to make from curating a newsletter about their hobby of collecting used tupperware?

So sayonara or see you soon. Your decision.

But IF you want to follow this series of stories, you can sign up here, and you will even get to see the match behind what the value an email subscriber actually is — a little side research project of mine over the last year.

You will also get the upcoming interview schedule for The Ask Me Anything Show — Season 1: All About The Business of Newsletters, and show recaps in case you miss the live broadcasts.


Mild mannered digital marketer by day; First World Freedom…

Tobin Slaven

Written by

Mild mannered digital marketer by day; First World Freedom Fighter by night; In search of fellow solopreneurs side projects, and secondary incomes.


Mild mannered digital marketer by day; First World Freedom Fighter by night; In search of the seekers, and entrepreneurial dreamers. Care to join me?

Tobin Slaven

Written by

Mild mannered digital marketer by day; First World Freedom Fighter by night; In search of fellow solopreneurs side projects, and secondary incomes.


Mild mannered digital marketer by day; First World Freedom Fighter by night; In search of the seekers, and entrepreneurial dreamers. Care to join me?

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