I asked Sam Parr, the founder of The Hustle, an email newsletter with curated firm and tech information, how he has grown his record over 1 million subscribers.
“It’s fricking hard,” he told me. “For the first 100,000, I spent my time on Reddit. I then shifted focus to advice only. I then made an ambassador program, which helped us get to about 500,000. We now have complex systems that track each user. We have got gold, silver, and bronze users.”
Subscriptions are free for Your Hustle. But related services, such as Trends.co, a community for entrepreneurs, are not. He and I recently discussed his company’s strategy, his inspirations, and, yes, fake news.
What follows is our entire audio conversion and its transcript, edited for length and clarity.
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Eric Bandholz: Tell us about yourself.
Sam Parr: While in college I owned a chain of hot dog stands in Nashville, Tennessee. The business was called Southern Sam’s: Wieners as Big as a Baby’s Arm.
I moved to San Francisco in 2012 to start Internet businesses. I began Hustle Con a few decades later. It’s like a Ted Chat seminar for entrepreneurs. I didn’t expect it to make money. But it did — $60,000 in the first six months — via an email list.
But I did not need to be just a conference guy. It wasn’t interesting to me. I read a book about Ted Turner, the founder of CNN. His story of constructing a media company was inspirational. In 2016 I found The Hustle. It’s an email newsletter that goes out to over a million subscribers daily. We have got a group of journalists. We cover the best and most engaging business news every morning.
It’s just email, but it’s quite a big business — seven figures in earnings monthly. My vision from day one was to make this monumental email list of like-minded women and men. Then we create related services and promote them to readers. We have Trends.co, It’s a private community for entrepreneurs
We’re going to keep launching similar products. I’ve stolen the idea from SoftBank, the Japan-based conglomerate and holding company. The founder, Masayoshi Son, is a celebrity.
Bandholz: What type of products?
Parr: I’m interested with this whole fake news item. People’s confidence in the media is at an all-time low. I’m interested in solving this problem in unorthodox ways. We’re tinkering with products to help solve this. In Japan, and in China, people have news in a vastly different way. So I’m studying how they have advice and if they trust the media.
How do you give people honest info? Every morning I go to Huffington Post and then to Breitbart — extreme left and extreme right. Then I go to CNN, then to Fox. It’s fairly challenging to discover the facts. And so I’m fairly obsessed with how to provide people truthful advice. There will be a change in the subsequent three or four decades. Folks will cover information far more than now.
Bandholz: How are you getting subscribers?
Parr: Let’s just say, hypothetically, we have 1 million subscribers to The Hustle. I spent three years building up this email list, so I could get up of 2 percent to enroll for Trends, as an example. That’s the way I consider that those initial subscribers.
I get you to join The Hustle. You fall in love with me within a couple of weeks by reading all this free news. And I supply you Trends. Two percentage of subscribers will combine. So that works quite well.
In relation to acquiring subscribers to The Hustle, we advertise extensively on Facebook, podcasts, and, especially, YouTube.
Facebook is working superbly. The coronavirus was a blessing for us and a number of other subscription companies.
Bandholz: I’ve never managed to work out how to create an email list to a million or even more readers.
Parr: It’s fricking hard. For the first 100,000, I spent my time on Reddit. I’d discover interesting subreddits and opinions that I thought I could exploit. By means of example, I found a Soylent subreddit and then wrote a blog post about living on Soylent for 30 days. I posted it on the marketplace, which generated traffic. And I would do that repeatedly.
After I got to 100,000 readers, I shifted the focus of the email to advice only. We would send information Monday, Wednesday, Friday. Then we shifted to five times each week. Open rates went up, and churn went down.
I then made an ambassador program. That helped us reach about 500,000. And I started doing paid advertising around this time. Once an email address is worth $15, by means of example, I will devote a good deal of money to get them at $2.
We now have complex systems that track each user. We have got gold, silver, and bronze users. I know where to find the golds, but I still need the bronze since they constitute the quantity. We have got a very sophisticated way of going out and getting them all. We’re going to include 300,000 new subscribers web this month [June 2020].
Roughly 50 percent of them will be through paid stations. But we have a fantastic deal of organic, too. Approximately 2,000 people daily trip TheHustle.co from organic search and subscribe. And we’re giving away a $35,000 Tesla this month. It is a terrific way to get new subscribers. Those giveaways work.