Scaling from a one-man personal finance blog to a $102 million acquisition

Welcome! I'm Simon Owens and this is my media newsletter. You can subscribe by clicking on this handy little button:

Quick programming note: This will probably be one of the last newsletters sent out for 2020. I might be able to squeeze out one late next week, depending on how smoothly our travel from Florida back to DC goes.

I have a lot of good stuff in the works, though. I’m working on an ongoing series of articles about companies that, in my opinion, handled the “pivot to video” quite well. I also want to write an article that looks back at the growth of my newsletter and podcast over the past year and sets some goals for the year to come.

Ok, now on to this week’s newsletter…

The Penny Hoarder sells for $102 million

WOW. The Penny Hoarder grew from a one-person personal finance blog into a huge ecommerce business. Here’s a deep dive I wrote into how that business works. [Medium]

And here’s my interview with Alexis Grant, who built the editorial team that allowed The Penny Hoarder to scale. [Simon Owens]

And here’s a write-up of today’s sale. [Tampa Bay Times]

Journalists will learn influencing isn’t easy

Taylor Lorenz argues that indie journalists launching on platforms like Substack will have to absorb many of the same lessons influencers learned years ago. [Nieman Lab]

Roku Torments Entertainment Giants in Quest to Dominate Streaming

This is a good overview of how Roku went from being a scrappy hardware company to a Hollywood power player that could go to war with the world's largest media conglomerates. [WSJ]

Here's one thing I learned from the article: Roku forces media companies to provide it free streaming content for the Roku Channel as a toll for including their apps on the Roku platform.

Are local news reporters overpaid and lazy?

GOP consultant Liz Mair posted an ill-conceived tweet that blamed the struggles of local news on overpaid, lazy journalists:

She’s since deleted the tweet after being ratioed, but I wrote a tweet thread about my own experience as a local newspaper reporter, including what I was paid and what my my editors expected me to write each week. [Simon Owens]

This journalist launched a news outlet for French expats in the U.S.

One of the best ways to scale a bootstrapped media company is to cover an underserved niche, and Emmanuel Saint-Martin found one in the French expat community. There are about 300,000 such expats in the U.S. alone, and many have specific information needs that aren’t well served by either mainstream U.S. or French outlets.

In 2007, Saint-Martin launched French Morning, which he initially maintained in his free time while working in TV news. Today, the site employs a full time staff of 10 and about 20 freelancers, and it operates city specific verticals all across the U.S. It also recently expanded into the UK.

I interviewed Saint-Martin about his audience development strategy, how he monetizes his content, and whether he plans to scale his model to cities all across the world.

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Hulu insiders say the company's culture has changed under Disney and question its future path after a scrapped international expansion

Back before Disney+ even launched, I thought it was going to be extremely awkward for Disney to balance the priorities of multiple streaming services, and it looks like we're seeing that awkwardness bear out. [Business Insider]

'I figured I'd give it a year': Arthur Sulzberger Jr on how the New York Times turned around

A good overview of the pressures The New York Times's owners faced as the paper was contemplating its own demise in the late 2000s. It really is an amazing turnaround story, comparable to Apple's turnaround under Steve Jobs. [The Guardian]

After selling a startup to YouTube, this cofounder is betting podcasts are the next big money maker for influencers

I had these folks on my podcast about a year ago. Companies like this will make it a lot easier for smaller podcasts that don't have 50,000+ downloads per episode to find sponsors and monetize. [Business Insider]

Congrats To This Dumbass, Who Now Has To Give Defector $500,000

In addition to this post being hilarious, it also reveals that Defector has 34,000 paying subscribers, and is likely generating $2.7 million a year in revenue. [Defector]

I don’t have 34,000 subscribers

But you could help me get there by taking just a few moments to recommend my newsletter on social media. The reason I ask each week is because I’ve actually seen substantial growth as a direct result of your recommendations.

Here, I’ll even provide you some language you can copy and paste:

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