Send & Grow by SparkLoop

Welcome back to another episode of the Send & Grow podcast. This week, SparkLoop cofounder Louis Nicholls sits down with Nathan Barry, founder & CEO of ConvertKit. 

Nathan started ConvertKit 10 years ago and has since grown it to one of the largest creator-driven newsletter platforms in the world. On top of running an 8-figure business, Nathan's a consistent creator who writes several newsletters, including a new paid newsletter.

In this episode, Nathan talks about the state of creator-driven newsletters today and how creators can build—and are building—massive  6-to-7 figure businesses on the backs of their newsletters. 

We also discuss:
  • how Nathan thinks about paid newsletters and his publishing strategy (1:09)
  • 3 things he sees the most successful newsletter operators have in common (12:00)
  • what the ConvetKit Creator Network is and how it's helping Creators grow & monetize (20:33)
  • how Nathan believes newsletter operators can grow & monetize most effectively (26:36)
  • ....and much more!
You can find Nathan Barry on Twitter, and Louis is at @louisnicholls_

Other links mentioned: 

What is Send & Grow by SparkLoop?

Discover how the best media brands and solo operators are winning at newsletter growth & monetization.

Hosted by SparkLoop's cofounder Louis Nicholls and SparkLoop's newsletter nerd, Dylan Redekop—we take you behind the scenes and share the strategies, trends, and tactics you need to know to build your email audience and revenue.

Featuring exclusive interviews with the smartest media experts and operators out there today. Including from the Hustle, Morning Brew, Workweek, The Pour Over, and more.

Ep 13 - Nathan Barry

Louis Nicholls: [00:00:00] Welcome to the Send and Grow podcast.

I'm your host, Louie Nichols. In my day job at SparkLoop, I spend all my time helping the best newsletter operators and media brands in the world to grow their audiences. So I get to see firsthand what growth tactics, strategies, and channels actually work, which ones you should copy, and what mistakes you should avoid. And now with this podcast, you get that access too.

Every week I sit down with a different guest from industry experts to successful operators, and we go deep on the stuff that you need to know so you can become really effective at growing and monetizing your email audience.

Today I'm joined on the podcast by Nathan Barry, founder and CEO of ConvertKit, as well as running a successful newsletter himself.

Nathan works with thousands of fastest growing newsletters and creators at ConvertKit like James Clear, Tim Ferris, [00:01:00] and more. Nathan, I'm so excited to talk more about creative driven newsletters and where they're gonna be headed into 2023.

First, though, I remember you saying recently that you started a paid newsletter of your own. Can you tell me a little bit more about

Nathan Barry: that? Well, I think paid newsletters are a ton of fun and I wanted to start one cuz I love, I mean, I like to get paid and I like to write. So absolutely a paid newsletter is a good fit. What I don't like about paid newsletters is it creates an obligation to keep writing and, you know, Like you, I run a company full-time.

And so having time to be, you know, or having this commitment of being like, Hey, it's Friday. What are you gonna send out this week? Is not something I was interested in. So I took a different approach. You know, most paid newsletters are like, Hey, it's 10 bucks a month, or something like that. And today I just said, Hey, it's a hundred dollars.

One time, and then I set it up as an email sequence. So when you sign up, you know, you get email one, and then every Friday you get another email. Uh, it was like [00:02:00] maybe six emails long when I launched it, and then now it's 17 emails long and it just keeps adding. So yeah, it's a, it's a paid newsletter about money, which maybe is a little bit ironic, but I found that a lot of creators, you know, were reading content, talking about how to earn a living.

You know, and how to get to 60,000, a hundred thousand dollars a year. And then creators would do that and then realize that they'd like the, the systems that get you to a hundred thousand dollars a year if you just dial 'em up. I said, just, it's still hard, but if you dial them up, right, you've got leverage and so you can get to 200,000 or 500,000, or you talk to these creators who never expected to be making more than like, you know what?

A doctor who's like specialized or whatever, but here, here is a creator making $400,000 a year and is going like, what do I even do with this? And no one likes to talk about money for whatever reason. And so I was like, I'm gonna make a newsletter. We were just for people making over [00:03:00] $200,000 a year as a creator and we're gonna talk about all the ins and outs of money.

So it's been fun. I launched it for a hundred bucks. I later increased the price to 150 as, uh, The content grew and all of that. It's now made $50,000, which is kind of wild for, you know, our random side project. And it brings me joy. And that's my paid newsletter. Awesome.

Louis Nicholls: That's, it's amazing. I think a question I've always had around paid newsletters.

Yeah. Cause I've never done one myself, but obviously we, we work with a lot of people who do, and they tend to be more in the, the $50 a year kind of range. Right. 50 to a hundred dollars a year, five to $10 a month sort of thing. And I know from. Other creator products, sort of more stereotypical info products that the pricing is often sort of, or the, the packaging is often anchored by like the format in which the product is delivered.

Right. So I think it's really sort of, Whether it's true or not, it's sort of commonly held knowledge that a book is going to be anchored at maybe less than $50, [00:04:00] whereas you could package the same thing as a, a written course for 200, and if you turn that into a video course or a live course, that could be a thousand, 2000, 5,000 or, or

Nathan Barry: make it a cohort based course.

Exactly, yeah. You know, then yeah, you do have these tears. It's, it's super interesting. How

Louis Nicholls: did you see sort of the pushback to, to the newsletter being a hundred dollars? Was that seen as. Reasonable or were people saying, oh, that's, you know, that's a lot for, for something delivered in email, which email is normally free, right?

Nathan Barry: Like you didn't even pay a designer to put this in a pdf, you know? And it's like, yeah, cuz I wrote it last week. You know, like, it's not, it's not packaged up as a quality of the book. I mean, I think it's super funny because our perceived value on books is that they're quite low. Right, like you should slave away on this for years and you should have many editors that do this, and then you should package it up, like have designers that work on it.

You should package it up and print it and physically ship it to my house and yeah, I'll pay you 14 bucks for that. That seems fair, you know? But [00:05:00] then for some reason in other formats, like you could just sit down and record a video course, and I've bought many video courses that you can tell that someone just sat down, taught the material, you know, and you might pay a hundred dollars or $500 for it.

And I've been thrilled to do it because the, the quality of the information was so high. I remember this video course that I bought years ago from Patrick McKenzie patio 11, for anyone who only knows him through the internet. He, he was talking about AB testing and conversion rates and all the stuff that he was getting paid a ton of money from, like, you know, big software companies to implement for them.

You know, he put it in course form. I don't remember, maybe their early access was 500 bucks and then the ultimate price was like 800 or a thousand. I don't think it took him that long to make. You know, he could've done it in written form and people would've said like, oh, this is worth $50. But it's just like the position that he had is like, look, I get paid $50,000 to consult on this.

You could do that, or you could buy this for 500 bucks or a thousand bucks, and it's like this [00:06:00] amazing deal. So I think the perceived value. Is definitely anchored by the format and you can overcome that in other positioning, but like it's a factor. If you wanna charge a lot, go to video. Probably in my case, you know, I wanted to do text cuz I wanted to play with these ideas.

I. And, and text over email specifically cuz if I write an email and then later I get good feedback on it and I tweak it, or I have a better example like logging into a ConvertKit sequence, I can make some changes, drop in a different quote and be hit save and be done in like five minutes versus sending it off to a designer and making new pdf, uploading it, redistributing it.

Here's version 1.1. So that, that's one thing I'd like the format. And really what I did is I just said, if this is too expensive, do, do not buy it. Because the target audience for my material in this case, right, saying it's for people making $200,000 a year or more. One, you're selling something that's hard to get.

You know, like these, part of the part of the pitch for it is that it's conversations that aren't normally happening that you [00:07:00] don't normally have access to. And then the other thing is it's like, look, it's targeted at relatively high net worth or high income people. And so I think that helps like the positioning.

And then whenever you tell something, someone like, don't buy this. Do not buy my product. They just wanna buy it more. Oh yeah.

Louis Nicholls: I know that, that feeling. It's funny, you, you mentioned Pat 11 who I haven't heard of in the, the creator space for a while. I remember looking at that course. I don't think I ever bought it.

And I think he's someone who I definitely think of as like someone who inspired me as a creator before I, I made my first course, which was, I don't know, six, seven years ago at this point. How do you think sort of the, the definition of a creator has changed since then? I mean, you've been supporting creators with At ConvertKit since, you know, since ConvertKit began.

Basically, how do you think about them differently today? How's a creator different sort of today than they were maybe 5, 6, 7 years ago?

Nathan Barry: Well, first I think defining a creator, cuz it's a very broad term and if you [00:08:00] go to a dictionary definition, it's not. I don't know. It's, it's not that interesting. I think of a creator as someone who makes original work to inspire, teach, and educate and entertain other people.

And so yes, if you like go make something in your wood shop and I don't know, then put it in your living room. You are a creator. But in the sense that I'm talking about it, it's like you're a creator. Producing things for other people, not just like, you know, I, I write, you know, poems in my journal and like, that's just for me.

So that aspect of like inspiring teaching and entertaining other people at the general public I think is really important. But as far as how things have changed, the mediums have changed a lot. Like early on, like almost everyone was doing it through blogging. Right. Search traffic was very, very important.

And you might have [00:09:00] someone who is building a Twitter following, you know, honestly those people were, had created an audience somewhere else. The people who had the biggest Twitter following, right Jason Fried, or someone Right. Who had maybe a hundred thousand followers on Twitter, and that was a huge number, had created that somewhere else like, right.

That was through blogging and then writing books, and then maybe. You know, he had his column with Ink Magazine that he was writing, so very heavily written. And then, you know, you'd get into like more of the creator space over time as people went, like as a social, as distribution on the social networks got better, right?

You could build an audience purely on Twitter, like Sahil Bloom, building an audience to 800,000 on Twitter in three years. That's a recent phenomenon that was only possible when Twitter changed their algorithm in 2019 maybe when Threads started to become popular and they started saying, Hey, we're gonna show you more content from people who interact with people you follow than who you're actually following.

So these [00:10:00] audiences got way, way bigger. I think the other thing that's interesting is often, you know, you and I play a lot in the newsletter space, a lot on Twitter. Like I think Twitter is kind of our core like social network that we care about the most. Or that that we feel most native on.

Louis Nicholls: You could be surprised.

I could be huge on TikTok and you, you'd never know about it. It's,

Nathan Barry: that's true. But like now you have these creators who think of themselves as, as creators have built big business empires and they're like, I would never like email. When is that? Twitter? People use Twitter still. Like, oh, I have 200,000 on Instagram.

And that's thing that matters. Or YouTube is what matters. So the platform like audiences have gotten way bigger. I think the creator market has gotten much more fragmented, where each one of these platforms has become big enough that you could earn an amazing living as a creator and only beyond a single platform.

Another thing that's changed, you know, to, I had mentioned audiences getting bigger, [00:11:00] uh, you know, I think of like 20 12, 20 13 timeframe, like Leo BTA had the website, Zen Habits. And like Time Magazine named it, you know, one of the top 25 websites that makes the internet great. I think at the time you had 10,000 newsletter subscribers, right?

That 10,000 subscribers getting into five digits. That was a big email list. A big email list now is seven, seven digits. You know, you gotta get over a million to be considered big like that. I mean, I, I think of over a hundred thousand, that's a really good sized email list, but if you wanna be in the, in the top tier, it's, you know, a million, 2 million and beyond.

And so the audience sizes have gotten way bigger. And then, uh, income has gone up proportionally. You know, if you're making a hundred grand a year as a creator in 2012, you were killing it. Now those same, that same level of fame people are making two, three, 4 million a year.

Louis Nicholls: It's interesting because you at, you get to see so many different creators, especially [00:12:00] when we're talking about creators.

I mean, focusing on, on the newsletter side of things, just given where, where our audiences who listen to this, what would you say sort of the, the most successful creators, or maybe not the most successful ones, because presumably a lot of what worked for them. Isn't really applicable anymore, but sort of the, the more up and coming ones.

Now, the ones who you would be predicting to be very successful over the next 12 months, 24 months, what do they have in common? I think

Nathan Barry: there a couple things. First, they know how to produce consistently. There's a lot of people who. You know, they're like, I'm gonna be a creator and I write an article, or I am consistent with the newsletter for three months, but then it only gets 112 subscribers.

And so then they peter out. Right? The people that are successful first have a, uh, what is it Tyler Cowan talks about, like, what's your production function? You know, like, what is the core thing that drives this? Right? And they're like, oh, I write every single day for 30 minutes and this makes this happen.

Right? Or, you know, you just know you can count on me. [00:13:00] To write an essay every single week. It comes out on Tuesdays and I do a guest post for somewhere else on Thursdays. So they have that core production function down and they show up really, really consistently over a long period of time. Cuz everything else you do as a creator is dependent on that.

It doesn't matter how good you are with newsletter swaps or selling ads or whatever else like, Your core thing that you produce has to be good and you have to do it consistently. You know, I think of James Clear. He was like, I publish every Tuesday and Thursday light clockwork. He's weeks ahead, you know?

He's like, I am a professional. This is what I do. And so I think they take it seriously to that level. The next thing is they're very serious about like networking and building relationships in the creator space. So they're going to conferences, not because. You know, like, here's what I will learn at the conference.

But it, it's all about who you know, even sounds too transactional. Like [00:14:00] who you're friends with, who, what that mastermind group is, and it plays out in big ways because they might be giving you advice, they might be promoting your newsletter or something like that. It also plays out in really small ways, like every cuz of the Twitter algorithm right now, right?

Those early replies make a huge difference. And so who are the people who have thousands of followers who are replying to your tweet when you put it out and who are just like subtly boosting you and, and all of that. So that like, that's the next thing, like consistently building relationships. I think taking that further is having those relationships in a way, I don't know how to put it.

Like you make something happen from them. Like it's one thing to be like, oh, I'm friends with all of these people. But are you deliberately going on their podcast? Are you partnering with them? Are you guest posting? Are you setting up Upscribe? Right? And like sending subscribers to each other. You know, when you see someone do this really well, like Brennan Dunn [00:15:00] years ago with his Double Your Freelancing business, he did this workshop series and he just said like he went around and deliberately taught workshops to anyone who would have him.

And his audience grew like crazy. His revenue grew like crazy. And instead of sitting back and being like, yeah, you know, I guess I'll see if anyone wants to partner with me, he was like, no, I'm gonna make content that's really valuable. And then I'm gonna pitch you like, here's why I should teach this workshop to your audience and I'll, you know, promote my product and I'll pay you an affiliate commission on it, and the free content will be really good.

And on from there. So that's a big part of it. And then I think the last thing is you have to have an economic engine within it. There's a lot of people who are like, oh, I, I don't wanna sell out. I'm not doing it for the money. And it's like, great, if you want, and you don't have to be doing it for the money to build in like an economic engine to your creator business that's gonna let you sustain it.

Because I can guarantee a year from now if it's not quite as much fun and you're only making 500 bucks a month and you've spent thousands of hours on this, like you're [00:16:00] probably gonna shut it down and move on. But if you have this engine to your business that either through a digital product or through paid recommendations on the partner network or whatever else, that you're consistently making money, you're gonna be in the times that it's hard, you're gonna be like, oh, this is hard.

But. I'm making 10 grand a month and I can work from anywhere. Like I should probably keep going. And then when that next, like, you know, maybe a week later you're gonna be like, this is awesome. I'd do it even if I, if I didn't get paid. It's like, well, it's nice to have some money to, to bring you through those, those down times.

So I think those, those things like consistent production and output and really building a network, having a way to. To leverage that network into actual marketing and promotion, like systematizing that and then making sure you're making money from it. Those are the things that that work really well. And then, I mean, I can go off in tangent.

It's putting that together into a flywheel where one feeds into the next. I mentioned Sahil Bloom. He does this so well. And he actually had like the ConvertKit, [00:17:00] uh, SparkLoop partnership on this, right? He's got social driving into, you know, his email list and so that's growing quickly. Anyone on his email list, he's got automations like welcoming them into his content, all of that.

He's got a SparkLoop referral program, right? So every new subscriber is referring more, so he is growing faster. ConvertKit is selling sponsorships on his entire newsletter, so he is making a good amount of money from that. But then the crazy thing is he's taking every penny that he makes from sponsorships and he's spending it.

I mean, you know this very well cuz you see it, but he is spending it on the partner network to grow faster. And so the other creators will recommend him, which makes his list bigger. And so he's put this into not a bunch of separate steps, but it's in a flywheel. And the defining characteristics of, of a flywheel.

There's three things. One is that every step needs to flow into the next one rather than being a separate. The second thing is [00:18:00] every rotation of the flywheel should be a tiny bit easier than the previous rotation. And the third is every rotation should generate more output than the previous rotation.

And so Sahil has this nailed because every rotation he's getting more and more subscribers, which means that he can charge sponsors more, which means that he's making more money, which means that he can spend more money to get more subscribers. And it's just a, it's an absolute machine and that's a long answer to what's working or what creators are doing now.

But, but

Louis Nicholls: there you go. Well, it's amazing cause it means I don't have to ask for, for examples of people who are, who are doing it well, which is, is awesome. You've preempted my questions there. O one thing I I, I want to jump into there is, It's something that's always fascinating to me, which is that in the podcast space, and I think in YouTube and in other spaces, like if you go to Twitch, for example, one of the places that I always go to to look at what newsletter creators should be doing is Twitch and to see what Twitch streamers are doing because they just seem to be a lot better at sort of.

[00:19:00] Understanding and exciting their audience than pretty much anybody else that I've seen. To be honest, I, I really love what they do to engage their audience, and one of the things that they all do really well, especially podcasters, is they're really big on this idea of sort of, Audience sharing or audience swapping, inviting others onto their podcast to who have a similar audience and then doing a, a reciprocal deal there.

And it's something that newsletter creators really haven't done that much at all until quite recently. And I know it's ConvertKit. In the near future, you're going to be, well, you've already launched the Creator network, but you'll be sort of making it publicly available to everybody. How is that different when you're thinking about creators rather than, well, well cause of generic newsletter operators, because the thing for me that always, Sets apart someone who's using ConvertKit.

In general, a creator is that it is attached to a person. It's an email that's very [00:20:00] obviously coming from a personality. Most likely I, I know what they look like, most likely. I know their voice. Um, I may have even seen them, or, or, or spoken to them or interacted with them somewhere, but I think that's quite unique for ConvertKit in that when you're talking about sort of in effect sort of recommendations and endorsements with the ConvertKit creating network, these are presumably coming very much from a specific person and.

They have, I guess, additional weight, additional responsibility, but potentially also could be a lot more effective because Right. There's something behind that. Yeah. I'll, I'll let you talk on

Nathan Barry: it. Yeah. Well, so first, the Creator Network is basically the umbrella for everything that we're doing. Uh, how to put it, making, ConvertKit better, like a better experience for you as an individual creator, because there's so many more creators on it.

So ConvertKit's always been in like a single player mode, right? It works a certain way for you as a creator. It doesn't matter if one other creator uses it, or in this case, 45,000 other creators are using it. [00:21:00] And so now we're looking for what are the ways that we can go, wow, 45,000 creators use this. How can they benefit each other?

And so the very first thing you know is this post subscription recommendation, which you obviously know super well from, from Upscribe and saying like, okay, how can you recommend each other? And, and then like on from that is how can we introduce you to creators? Cuz something that's really interesting is looking at across the subscriber base.

Like our team was like, Hey Nathan, would you recommend these creators? And there was a list of 20 and I was like, yeah, I know. 19 of them. And the other one, like I've heard of, but you know, I, I don't know personally where'd you get the list and like, oh, it's the overlap of your audience, like who they're subscribed to and then other people's audiences who are subscribed to you.

And I was like, wait, you just pulled that from the database and like, you know, and so you can make these recommendations. And it's fascinating because, you know, we're in this [00:22:00] position where it's not just about. You know who you recommend or how can we get a transactional, like, Hey, I'll promote your stuff if you promote mine, and like, let's automate that.

But also just like, who do, who do I get to know? Right? And we can start to do things like, Hey, you two talk about similar things and you have some overlap in your audience. Like, do you know each other? I don't know if we'll actually ever build this, but you could build like a Tinder style, like recommendations.

Do you wanna meet this creator? Not to date, to like learn from what's going on in their business, you know? And to learn what's working in the industry and, and to say like, Hey, you're both creators on Convert it. Like, let's take advantage of that. Or we wanna start to do other things, right? If we're doing a partnership, let's say you have a new video course coming out and I wanna promote it.

Is there a way that you could like. Privately and securely loan me a segment of everyone who's purchased that [00:23:00] product. And then when I promote your product, I can just nicely exclude everyone who's already bought it. But like I never got the subscribers from you. We didn't have to do like a whole weird thing with CSVs or any of that.

So that's like ultimately what the Creator Network is, is some combination of, I, I mean our marketing team. I was gonna say like, you know, an app store plus Tinder plus partnerships for creators. I think our marketing team would have a problem if I continued to use Tinder in the positioning for it. So, Yeah, just the things that are possible though when you make things work in this way.

Cuz even something as simpler as as newsletter swaps, right? Like guest posts, all of that's been around forever. YouTube, if you go through like the, I don't know if what it's called like, but YouTube's Creator Education, but they're saying here's how to grow your channel. The first and primary thing they recommend is do collaborations with other creators.

And for whatever reason, as you brought up, like. Everyone else is doing this, and [00:24:00] newsletter creators are like, no, that's okay. I'll keep like working away on my own list of 500 people. That took me years to build

Louis Nicholls: and it's amazing. It's like Twitch has, I, I love Twitch's. Um, I don't really, unfortunately never really got into like, online gaming or anything, so it's, yeah, I, I just go in there literally to see what people are doing.

It's, it's amazing. And Twitch has this raid. Functionality. I dunno if you've ever seen that before, where if you're streaming and people are still watching, you can just send them to someone else to go and watch their stream once you're finished and there's, oh, wow. So, so much interesting stuff around that idea of, well, wait, so

Nathan Barry: how would you, is there an equivalent to newsletters, right?

Because that's fascinating, right? Like I've got 500 people watching me live and I'm like, Hey, I'm done. But like, I'm actually gonna now just sit on the couch and I'm gonna watch. My buddy, you know, like, why don't you all come watch with me? And someone else is like, oh, I got 50 people watching live. This is so cool.

This is the biggest stream I've ever done. And then like, what the hell? Like I just got 500 people showing up because another [00:25:00] creator, like I. Took a chance on me, gave me an endorsement. Like That's amazing.

Louis Nicholls: Yeah. It, it is almost like syndication where you could almost say, look, I'm gonna be off next week with my newsletter.

Right. But here's someone else's newsletter that I think is really good that you'll like and it's gonna guide at the same time next week that mine normally would. And. You'll get that content and maybe you wanna subscribe to that one too. Something like that. This, yeah, so much that, yeah, that'd be

Nathan Barry: big.

Somebody should build a tool to help connect. I'm

Louis Nicholls: just drawing should be something that someone should do. Some of these things have to be done by the, the newsletter platforms themselves. Unfortunately that is true. I'm conscious of time, but something that I think would be really interesting to, to look at.

When we started at SparkLoop, which is about almost three years ago now, things weren't really changing very much. In the newsletter space. There was this big shakeup with all of a sudden people were cool with paying for subscriptions to newsletters, and that was basically it. And then referral programs, which we sort of rode the wave on.

And there was really a year or two where it didn't really seem like [00:26:00] anything else was happening. Like it was the same growth playbook, with the exception of, of the paid subscriptions the same way that people were monetizing. And then all of a sudden, I would say really in the last like six to 12 months, it feels like there's been a huge shift in terms of if you're a newsletter creator, what's working on the growth side and what's working on the monetization side.

And it feels like that's still changing and we're not really sure where that's gonna end up. So I, I guess what I'd love to get from you is sort of your predictions, your thoughts, your sort of warm and colds of where you think or how you think that's gonna develop over the next year or so. What are you most sort of bullish on in terms of how the newsletter creators will monetize more effectively and also how they'll grow their audiences more effectively?

Nathan Barry: Yeah, I think there's a couple things. One wave that hasn't caught on that I'm trying to make catch on because it's just so damn profitable, is automations, right? Like a lot of more traditional creators [00:27:00] who use email a lot, they're very good at automations. And they're like, come on, I've got, you know, in my case, I've got a business to run.

I've got a side hustle as a creator, I've got three kids. Like, what do you mean? You write every single, you know, like single week and then your archives get buried and your products don't automatically get promoted. And it's like, come on. Automation's already incredible for that. So I think at some point that'll catch on.

I'm gonna keep preaching it until it does. Um, I I

Louis Nicholls: wouldn't be too, too confident that they'll ever catch on, but they are. I love automations. It's my, my, my first course that I ran a self-serve video course teaching found is how to do sales. I. I had an automation in my welcome sequence where when somebody we, we, I would explain the pricing finally to 'em of the course and give them the option to purchase it in an or.

It was, it was in an email sequence, in an automation, and if they clicked on the link to purchase the more expensive version, which was about, I think it was about $2,000, if they clicked on that 2,900, even, it's almost $3,000. If they clicked on that [00:28:00] link and they didn't purchase in 15 minutes, I would just send them a follow up email and an automation basically saying, Hey, it looks like you're interested in this.

Obviously you're not quite ready to pull the trigger. Do you want to grab a quick virtual coffee and we can talk about, you know, why you do or don't wanna do this? And of those people, half of them would convert to the call and. Almost all of the people who wanted to, who actually jumped on the call, would end up buying.

So in effect, per email, in that automation I was making over a thousand dollars, right? Easily over a thousand dollars per 15 minute phone call. I was making something like per minute. I was making over a hundred dollars. It was amazing and so easy and it's, it just takes a little bit of work to set up.

It's five minutes, 10 minutes to do.

Nathan Barry: When you end up with these creators who are like, I put in so much work to write all this content, and I just feel like I'm on this treadmill and like, it's working, but it's not working that well. And I'm like, like, there's tried-and-true playbooks, like implement them. And I think that will happen so much [00:29:00] more because y you know, these spaces mature, this latest wave of excitement in, in the newsletter space, right.

That, uh, Substack's been a part of and, and ConvertKit. Its written and, and all of that. Like as it matures, people will establish these playbooks. They'll like case studies, they'll come out and people be like, oh, this is what's working. So that's one side. I think another one that's going to happen. And SparkLoop is perfectly positioned for, and this plays into automations as well.

Right now, I think on the partner network, there's a lot of people saying, Hey, I want to grow my audience maybe's doing Facebook ads and other things like, let me pay $2 a subscriber to grow on the partner network. And they're like, oh, I'll make it back with paid newsletter subscribers or something else.

What I think is really gonna happen is people are going to build very good funnels from to take those recommendations and particularly sell courses. Like I think at some point some creator on Teachable is going to discover the partner network and they're going to build a funnel that goes from a $2 [00:30:00] recommendation through to selling a $400 course, and they're gonna realize that they can get a payback.

You know, probably like two to three x ad spend and a payback in, you know, 20 days through this automation. And they're growing their list and they're gonna absolutely print money. And it like, they'll gradually talk about it and it will spread and it will just turn into this huge volume of things. And then on the other side, the newsletter operators, the publishers, right?

Whether individual creators or bigger brands will be like, wait, I can recommend creators who are putting out good content and. I can make $2 a subscriber, and then because the course creator is like, I'm making a great return, I can actually pay $4 a subscriber. Like that's gonna keep going up, but it's just gonna take probably a bunch.

Of course creators are gonna do it, but the first one who writes about it and says like, here's the funnel, here's the breakdown, here's how it all works. And it's not actually that complicated. And here's how I'm growing my email list by 5,000 subscribers a month, and. [00:31:00] You know, making 50 grand a month off, it'll be some headline that I predict how I'm getting paid $50,000 a month to grow my newsletter by x.

Right, and then it'll catch fire and the the market will just explode. That's my, that's my prediction. Do you think I'm right, think I'm wrong? What do you think? I

Louis Nicholls: love it. Yeah. I mean, I, I hope so. I think all the, all the, all the signs point that way for sure. It's such an interesting time to be in newsletters, I think at the moment, to be a creator.

Yeah. There's so much happening.

Nathan Barry: Absolutely wild. We're talking about things that are shifting, right? Of audiences are bigger. And so like, that's a lot of the driver of why people are making more money. Like I, I would say the same level of fame in the industry is making five to 10 times the earning power of 10 years ago.

And a lot of that is because the audiences are five to 10 times as big. But I think the, the [00:32:00] shift that's gonna happen now is that the revenue per subscriber is going to go up like crazy. And so you're gonna get, it'll be another multiplying effect on it because all of these ways, like I can sell a course and sponsorships and they don't take away from each other.

I can make money through recommendations in Upscribe, and then down the road I can promote my own course. Like the, none of this is mutually exclusive. And if you do it well, like this can go off the wrong side. If we're just like, oh, this. This brand will pay me $8 A subscriber, who cares that they're garbage?

You know, like if, if you go that route, you'll burn out your audience and you won't be around. But like so much of this is not mutually exclusive, that you're going to see creators continue to grow much bigger lists and then just earn way more per subscriber than than ever before. But I'm preaching to the choir cuz you've built a whole business around

Louis Nicholls: this.

I'm just so excited that it feels to me like one of the [00:33:00] real big reasons for this shift is that, Newsletter creators are finally becoming aware of the value of a subscriber. Mm-hmm. Yeah. In a way that they, they sort of knew that you could sell to people and that potentially they were valuable. But people really weren't thinking in terms of, oh, a new subscriber is worth 2, 3, 4, 5, 10, even more dollars.

To me, there were very, very few people, like I could count really on like one or two hands. People who I knew who were thinking in that way, like Brenda Dunn would be someone who was always like, I could ask him any day of the week, what's your lifetime value per subscriber? And he would go, oh, it's. 35.3, 60.1, something like you would know it exactly, but very few people like that who, who were

Nathan Barry: thinking in this one, who would be like, well, it depends what traffic source do you want

Louis Nicholls: that for, you know?

Yeah. He'd, he, he'd come back to me three days later with a blog post that, that I didn't understand. But I mean, I think my favorite example of sort of the, the new ways of monetizing, and I, I don't have any insider information on this, but I, I just loved it, was James Clear's pen. That he sold? I don't know.

Did you see that? Oh, [00:34:00] I didn't see this. No. James clear, he obviously, his, his business model is, I, I don't fully understand all of his revenue streams and he, he obviously has the, the Atomic Habits book,

Nathan Barry: but yeah, he made just a, just a little bit off of that book, I think

Louis Nicholls: probably a tiny bit. Yeah. Um, he million copies

Nathan Barry: sold me year.

Louis Nicholls: Yeah. But he also has, he, he, I think it was just before Christmas, he, he announced his email audience, which is, is not insignificant mm-hmm. That he. Was doing sort of a, a one-off special engraved James Clear Atomic Habits pen, which I think was like $70.

Nathan Barry: Yeah, no, I actually, I don't have it on my desk. I have that pen.

I don't know that he, you have the pen. I didn't know that he sold it, but I've known James for a long time and we were getting dinner in, in Columbus like two years ago because he'd done this deal with Baron Fig, which I happened to have on my desk at the moment for his Clear Habit Journal, and he'd done the pen and I think had either never sold any or.

Maybe had done a limited run or something. So I have that pen. Yes. I didn't [00:35:00] realize that he'd done like a big promotion for it.

Louis Nicholls: Yeah, just a couple in, in, in his, in his newsletter, in his, in his weekly newsletter. And I just, I, I loved it. The idea of like, Just a fun item that nobody necessarily needs, but to, you know, to, to what's millions of people.

It's just people always ask me all the time, you know, what, what number would I want to see? Is it like what morning brew paying per subscriber? Or is there some like business number? Honestly, and I, I just know I, I want to know how much James Clear made from, from selling that pen because,

Nathan Barry: That says a lot.

That's amazing. I can text him and ask, but I think it points to something that's really interesting is these ecosystems that creators build. Probably my favorite example is Ryan Holiday with the Daily Stoic, where, you know, they have, they have an advertising business in the sense that, so they have a daily email, which it's a lot of work to write a daily email, but they do it.

They then read that daily email on a podcast. [00:36:00] Which, that's like the byproduct. They didn't ever plan to start a podcast, but that podcast sells a huge amount of advertising. Many, many six figures a year in advertising just for that podcast cuz it's gotten so popular. Which is just them reading you a daily email then as they've sold like physical products, right?

Their equivalent of the pen is their, their like coins, you know, that say, you know, memento mori or like whatever other stoic phrase on it. They've then done a book, right? Where, you know, here's a leather bound addition of, you know, Marcus Aurelia's book. And then they've got the traditional digital products, the, the content and memberships and video courses and all of that.

And that business just absolutely prints money cuz they've made this ecosystem. And I think what's fascinating, I have a front seat to that, you know, because of being friends with them and, and they've built it on Convert It, but also Ryan Holliday and Brent Underwood, the, the two guys behind it, I'm business partners with [00:37:00] on a Ghost Town and we're running that same playbook.

On a ghost town. And so you think if you have this piece of property up in the, you know, up in the mountains of California up at 8,000 feet, it's in the middle of nowhere. Like what could that be worth? Like you could rebuild this old hotel, maybe you could run an Airbnb business. And actually what's happening is, We're recreating daily stoic empire on a bigger scale for this ghost town where I don't think people realize that that business, you know, has a million and a half subscribers on YouTube.

It has an email list of a hundred thousand people. There's a podcast coming out soon. It does $30,000 a month in merchandise sales. I'm not wearing my sarata hoodie today, but you know, I often am to promote the business and you just end up with this ecosystem around it and people might think like, oh, you know, like, I don't have a a ghost town.

I can't do that version of it. But if you look at, if newsletter creators would look more at the Twitch streamers, like you're saying, and [00:38:00] YouTube creators and what's booking like? There's no reason you can't have a journal, a pen, you know, other types of merch, like make something that's interesting, like a slogan that your audience would get.

Put that on a t-shirt. You can do $10,000 a month in sales to that, especially if you build it into your automations. Like the amount of money that you can make from an audience and do it in a really cool and interesting way is just, it's better than it's ever been. And so, Yeah, I like the pen example and there's so much more from that and I can't wait to see more like traditional newsletter creators adopt a lot of these

Louis Nicholls: techniques.

Yeah, for sure. One question I like to end on though is obviously I'm always put in such pressure with this kind of conversation because we have a limited amount of time available and I'm also conscious that, you know, you've spoken, all of our guests have spoken on other podcasts as well, so I try and make sure we're not covering too much of the same, the same ground as people can hear in other places.

Bearing in mind sort of our audience of of newsletter creators, is there a [00:39:00] question that you think I should have asked you that I haven't?

Nathan Barry: Well, the thing that I'd encourage everyone to think a lot about is flywheel. A lot of creators think in terms of individual activities. What can I do this week to grow my email list?

Like what can I do this week to come up with better ideas for content? And you can do quite well with that one-off approach. Really quick, if anyone doesn't know what a flywheel is, go read. Jim Collins, who wrote Good To Great has a little book called The Flywheel Manifesto, and it's about much bigger businesses.

I should write a flywheel for newsletters book or something because I talked about this nonstop, but really putting all these activities in sequence where they all feed into each other. If you can do that with flywheel. It just, it absolutely changes the game. So, you know, I shared Sahil's example, that's, that's a simple way that he's doing it at a very large scale.

But there's plenty of other things. Like ConvertKit has our whole stor storytelling arm, you know, of interviewing [00:40:00] creators and making films and, you know, all this. It feels like we do all of these very separate things. People are like, even today they were like, why do you release photos on Unsplash? You know, and it's like that is a step in our storytelling flywheel that happens automatically.

And we actually use that little fun fact. We use that to build back links because there's a whole other flywheel that happens on the SEO side from there. But the more you can take the activities that you're doing to create content, to promote that content, to network with other people and turn it into repeatable steps that flow one into the other.

Which is how we're defining a flywheel, the more you're gonna have a huge impact on your business. And so I would just really encourage you to spend a week and write down everything that you do to write and grow your newsletter. And then think about which ones of these, of these are repeatable and which ones can of these can be set.

You know, from linear or totally separate [00:41:00] actions to be putting into something that loops through and, you know, flows nicely into the next action, gets easier with each rotation and creates more output with each rotation or

Louis Nicholls: more results. Awesome. Nathan, thanks so much. Where can people go and find out more about you?

And I don't know if you have a, uh, a creator marketing tool recommendation or a, a newsletter tool recommendation that you'd wanna Yeah,

Nathan Barry: so AWeber is the,

Oh man. Did you get so mad at me on Twitter? Let's see. Yeah, definitely. Go sign up for ConvertKit. You know, if you're building a newsletter, it's what pretty much all the biggest newsletters, all the biggest creator newsletters, uh, are using, whether it's James Clear or Tim Ferris or Ryan Holladay or, you know, we just picked up wait, but why and Mark Manson a couple weeks ago and just growing like crazy.

And then, For myself is nathan My newsletter's there. You can get on my paid newsletter if you want. Yeah. And then I got a podcast called The Art of Newsletters, where I like to talk about all these things. And Louis, [00:42:00] you've got an episode on there, so people should go

Louis Nicholls: check it out. They should, they should.

It was, um, I'm sure one of the most popular episodes by far.

Nathan Barry: We, we both have, have a dry sense of humor with good times. Thanks for having me on. Yeah, thanks

Louis Nicholls: Nathan. Thanks for listening to this episode of the Send and grow podcast. If you liked what you heard, here are three quick ways that you can show your support.

Number one, leave us a five star rating or review in the podcast app of your choice.

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And finally, number three, share your favorite quote from the episode on social media and tag both me and our guest, all of the links for that are available in the show notes and whatever option you choose. I am really grateful to your support.

Thanks and see you next week.