Who will launch local newsletters in the suburbs?

Why are so many newsletter startups launching exclusively in cities?

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Who will launch local newsletters in the suburbs?

In case you haven’t noticed, local newsletters are having a bit of a moment. Axios Local just launched in eight new cities, bringing its total count to 14. 6AM City announced a new funding round and that it plans to be in 24 cities by Thanksgiving. City Cast, which is run by former Slate editor David Plotz, intends to be in 10 cities soon. And I recently interviewed a co-founder of WhereBy.Us, which is now operating five city-based newsletters.

All these newsletters have a few things in common:

  1. They’re daily and usually sent in the mornings.

  2. They have a news digest format, with an aim to bring the reader up to speed on several stories in just a few minutes.

  3. They operate with small staffs, usually just two or three editors.

  4. They’re monetized with native ads that appear directly within the newsletter.

Oh, and there’s one other thing all these companies have in common: they seem to have no interest in launching newsletters in the suburbs.

I noted this observation in my private Facebook group, and it prompted several good responses.

Daily Detroit host Jeremiah Staes wrote:

Suburbs are tricky. They need an identity for it to work and people need to think of themselves as part of that place, and not just live there. Not impossible at all. Just something to note.

Charlotte Ledger founder Tony Mecia wrote:

I think there is often a mismatch between these local newsletters, which tend to have young reporters covering bars and restaurants and events, and the interests of suburban readers who are older and have kids and maybe aren’t as interested in the hot new club.

These are all good points, but I still think there’s a pretty big opportunity being left on the table. Take Richmond suburb Chesterfield County as an example. Not only does it have 350,000 residents, but many of Richmond’s affluent white collar workers live there. Surely it could sustain a newsletter just as well as any small city? And there are hundreds of suburbs spread out all over the country that are just like it.

I’m not trying to claim there aren’t any suburb-based digital media startups. I’ve covered several within this newsletter, like Arlnow and TAPinto. But most of them are traditional news sites; I haven’t seen many examples of the digest newsletters that are currently in vogue, and I certainly haven’t witnessed much interest from the VC-funded media companies that specialize in local news.

Why? Is it because the suburbs are less sexy, or is there something else that I’m missing?

My latest free article: Can a hit YouTube channel thrive after its founder departs?

The King of Random had 8 million YouTube subscribers when Grant Thompson suddenly decided he didn't want to create videos anymore.

His initial inclination was to shut down the channel entirely, but his friends and colleagues convinced him to bring in a new host.

What's a realistic conversion rate for paid newsletters?

Let’s say you launch a paid newsletter and want to generate $100,000 a year in revenue. How many signups will you need for the free version so that you can convert enough readers into paying subscribers? I ran through the math over here.

Quick hits

The Verge’s editor was interviewed about why he acquired Hot Pod. [Digital Content Next] I wish the piece had spent some time exploring The Verge’s larger ambitions with launching more subscription newsletters.

A cool story about a Spanish Twitch broadcaster who's become a breakout star in the soccer world. [NYT]

"Among subscribers, listeners of HBO Max podcasts watch more than twice as much programming on the service as those who don’t." [Bloomberg]

This chef lost her job, started posting cooking videos to TikTok, and signed a major book deal, all within a few months. [Insider]

This person uploaded her experiments with creating cotton candy to TikTok, generated over a million followers, and now has a thriving online store selling packaged cotton candy. [Insider]

Substack is acting like a traditional book publisher. [YouTube]

This business-focused publication in India is succeeding with a very simple premise: publish one extremely high quality article per day. [Reuters]

This is an interesting idea: moving daily print papers to a once-a-week print schedule. You could publish all your longform features in the print edition to make it a must-read. [Local News Initiative]

Fortune generates $100 million with 219 fulltime employees. That's $456,000 per employee, which seems impressive. [WSJ]

Tumblr rolls out its subscription tool to all U.S. users. [The Verge] It's hard not to wonder what would have happened if Tumblr had launched something like this like five years ago. It may have saved it from falling into a death spiral. Now it might be too little too late.

"Wirecutter has a dedicated social team whose job it is to read comments on articles, gather feedback and use that to help guide editorial direction." [Digiday]

ICYMI: His barbecue site generates $100,000 a month

Smoked Barbecue Source became one of the leading search results in Google for those who wanted to learn how to grill.

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Simon Owens is a tech and media journalist living in Washington, DC. Follow him on TwitterFacebook, or LinkedIn. Email him at simonowens@gmail.com. For a full bio, go here.