This is the first question we get from most new SubStack writers. As the world’s first SubStack Agency, we understand that is one of the main reason’s writers are starting a newsletter on SubStack.
The worst answer we can give based on our experience, is “It depends”. We have tried it hundreds of times and got “Ghosted” after that first 15-minute introductory call.
If we cannot answer their #1 pain point and question, why bother?
So, we started to put a methodology to answer that question, with the best way we can – data and facts.
There are 4 primary and 5 secondary variables to help you answer that question with data. Our Assessment service helps you leverage our data from 1000’s of SubStack newsletters and surveys to give you a tighter range. You can do this calculation yourself, but we do this for free, after a 15-minute discussion with you, so it helps to use our experience.
What are the variables to help you determine the # of subscribers (paying) for your SubStack newsletter?
First, the category and subcategory of newsletter. We track over 8000 newsletters (free and paid) as of Aug 2020.
The top 5 categories are: Politics, Sports, Technology, Food and Self Help. Subcategories within Politics (for paying subscribers) are conservative, opinion, economics, and foreign policy. For sports, American Football, Basketball and then Baseball are top.
Within American Football for e.g. Fantasy Sports does better than most team newsletter. To give you an estimate, we have political newsletters with over 700 paying subscribers, and the top Self-Help newsletter has fewer than 200 paid subscribers.
Second, How big of a brand the author is. Authors with a large following on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and an engaging social media presence have a larger subscriber count.
Third, is the location or country of subscribers. SubStack subscribers are very much focused on North America (US, Canada).
For the same category and subcategory (e.g. Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence within the Technology category) we track 2 different newsletters – one written by a writer in SF and another based in UK. Both have similar social media profiles and similar tenure (7+ months on SubStack). The one from SF has over 50 paid and 400 free subscribers, while the European one has 3 paid and 100 free subscribers. The free subscribers are also in the United States. For the European newsletter, of the 100+ free subscribers, over 70 are in the US, to 12 in all of Europe and 2 paid subscribers in the rest of the world.
Fourth, the tenure and consistency of your publication. Paid subscribers expect frequent, dependable, and regular news.
We know of 2-3 SubStack writers who received emails within 3-4 hours of a “delay” in their newsletter being published. Longer tenured newsletters get more subscribers.
There are a few secondary variables as well.
Length of each update in your newsletter. Writers who writer longer (> 1000 words) on average have more subscribers.
Use of images and visuals. Writers who write only text (old school) tend to have fewer subscribers.
Multiple offerings enhance subscriber count. Writers who supplement their newsletter with podcast content do an order of magnitude better than those that write only text-based newsletters.
Uniqueness of content (controversial, different, distinctive, quirky). This is highly subjective, so we use AWS Comprehend and our own humans to score each newsletter on 1-5 for “uniqueness”. The bottom line is the more “controversial” the news article is, the more subscribers.
There are other unknown variables which we are trying to score and map including
a) Newsletter name and Logo,
b) Age demographic for your content – Email is still a largely older, 35-year-old audience,
c) Author’s background – those from “known publications” such as New York Times, are doing better than those who are just getting started,
d) Time of your posting – Saturday and Sunday work better for politics and sports, and Wednesday works better for technology categories.
If you want a personalized assessment of your potential audience, feel free to reach out to us via email at admin @ yirla.com and we will respond to create a market assessment plan – absolutely free with no further commitments!