Testing out new paid subscription perks
PLUS: How to build a successful local news outlet
Welcome! I'm Simon Owens and this is my media industry newsletter. If you've received it, then you either subscribed or someone forwarded it to you.
If you fit into the latter camp and want to subscribe, then you can click on this handy little button:
Let’s jump into it…
In 2019, Melody co-founded Podyssey Podcasts, an online community platform for podcast enthusiasts that’s like a “Goodreads for podcasts.” In addition to its website, Podyssey operates an iOS and Android podcast app, as well as a weekly newsletter where Melody rounds up the best podcast community recommendations. Over 1.5 million people use Podyssey’s website or app every year, and there are over 21,000 enthusiastic podcast superfans subscribed to its weekly podcast recommendations newsletter.
Melody walked us through the products that are absolutely essential to running her business. You can find our interview over here.
BTW, I’m still looking for creators and media entrepreneurs to feature in this series. Go here if you’re interested.
I’m testing out a new perk for paid subscribers
Since launching paid subscriptions all the way back in 2020, I’ve been constantly testing out various offerings to see if they’ll increase the perceived value of a subscription. In that spirit, I’m launching a new subscriber perk: a 30-minute kick-off call.
Here’s how it works: when you become a paid subscriber, it will generate an automated email that includes a Calendly link where you can schedule a one-on-one phone call with me. There are three main reasons for why I’m doing this:
Increase conversions: My hope is that the people who regularly read my newsletter and/or listen to my podcast will receive some value from connecting with me personally. I know I would be super excited to jump on the phone with my favorite creators.
Collect feedback: Many of my paid subscribers are successful media entrepreneurs and operators themselves. Not only can they give me valuable feedback on how to improve my product, but many of them end up as guests on my podcast or Office Hours calls. The one-on-one meeting will give me the opportunity to hear about what they’re building so I know when I can lean on their expertise in the future.
Reduce churn: Churn is a huge challenge for any subscription business. Without churn, my current subscriber base would be 43% bigger than it is today. I have a theory that someone I’ve made a personal one-to-one connection with is much less likely to unsubscribe
I’m super excited to try this out and see how it works. If you’ve ever been remotely interested in becoming a paid subscriber to my newsletter, now is a great time to convert. Use the link below and get 10% off for your first year:
And if you’re an already-existing paid subscriber and want to take advantage of this phone call offer, just reply to this email and I’ll send over the Calendly link.
"Even when you think about incredible, big companies like the BBC and The Guardian, those apps are rarely in the top ten apps people use ... And I felt, when I looked at that data like if the BBC and The Guardian… aren’t breaking that upper echelon, I don’t know if I’m going to be able to do that either.” Yep, the vast majority of publishers shouldn't bother with a mobile app. [Press Gazette]
I almost wrote a newsletter article this week titled "the podcast boom isn't over" and I'm sort of glad I didn't because I would have been annoyed that this study didn't come out until after I hit send. [Podnews]
"It's one of the best times ever to be a comedian. I'm not out trying to hustle and get booked — and that's because I can make TikTok videos in the comfort of my own home or in my neighborhood with my friends and generate millions of views, and hundreds of thousands of meaningful engagements, and build an audience that way." [Insider]
"Readers spent 40% more time with [BuzzFeed's] quizzes using AI than traditional ones ... Under the Influencer, a game built around a chatbot, garners four times as much use as static quizzes." [Bloomberg]
"Niche media is thriving in an era where generalist media seems to be declining. Companies that launch with a little bit of money, but in a targeted way, focusing on one specific thing with authority, tend to build incrementally and more sustainably than companies that try to do it all at once upfront.” [The Rebooting]
A good piece on the cultural impact of MTV News, especially during its first decade. [Tedium]
“The Substack network already drives 20% of paid subscriptions across the platform. A year ago, that figure was 8%.” [Substack]
Outside-the-box business models for local news
Earlier this week I published a piece looking at some of the most interesting business models I’ve come across in the media space. In most cases, the media company created a unique product that caters to their individual niche and audience.
Melissa Chowning wrote in to highlight how these principles can be implemented at the local news level:
I love the business model of a client of ours, Down East Magazine in Maine. They publish a monthly magazine but have diversified well with an ecommerce store selling "made in Maine" goods, and they sell Maine experiences, both to locals and tourists including writing courses, photography workshops, birdwatching experiences, etc.
How to build a successful local news outlet
Over the last few years we’ve seen a veritable boom in local news startups, with media entrepreneurs launching incredibly lean news operations in regions that lost coverage from legacy newspapers.
I convened a panel with several of these entrepreneurs to discuss the best ways to build and monetize a local newsletter, podcast, or blog. The panel included:
Scott Brodbeck, founder of Arlington Now
Mike Shapiro, founder of TAPinto
Ben DeJarnette, former communications manager at LION publishers
Sam Hoisington, publisher of Madison Minutes
Charlie Meyerson, founder of Chicago Public Square
William Johnson, founder of Vancouver Tech Journal
Jer Staes, founder of Daily Detroit
You can watch our discussion in the video embedded below: