If you’ve ever thought about a newsletter—and especially if you haven’t—this one’s a must-read.
This week, we’ve got something extra special for you: an interview with beehiiv co-founder and CEO and Arcbound board member Tyler Denk. One of the fastest-growing newsletter platforms out there, beehiiv is on a mission to pave the way for the next million creators, publishers, and companies to scale and monetize their audiences.
An early employee of Morning Brew, Tyler witnessed firsthand the power and influence of having a large and engaged audience. But getting there was far from simple—gate-keepers and algorithms preserve power for the few, not the many. Meanwhile, he and his team believe there are too many talented and creative people in the world to make sharing ideas so difficult. So, he started beehiiv to change that.
And with an unparalleled grip on the ins and outs of developing the world’s top newsletters, he’s here to give you a crash course on why this tool is absolutely vital for your brand.
Why are newsletters such a valuable tool when it comes to building your brand?
I use all the usual suspects when it comes to social platforms, and all have their advantages and disadvantages. However, I’ve found that most of the social platforms are crowded, optimize for short attention spans, and don’t really allow for people to clearly articulate themselves or who they are.
Of the people I follow and feel most closely connected to, those bonds have typically been formed through long-form text and audio. There are some podcasts I’ve listened to for years, and I have a tremendous understanding of who the hosts are, how they think, what their values and interests are, etc. The same can be said for newsletters that I’ve been reading for a while. There’s something about long-form text and having someone’s full attention—that drives much higher engagement and affinity for one’s brand.
What benefits do newsletters provide that other platforms don’t?
In addition to what I just mentioned, there’s something to be said about the direct access to your audience via emails and owning that relationship. To use Facebook as the punching bag here, let’s say you have 10,000 fans on Facebook. You post something and maybe 1,000 of them actually see it due to the nature of the platform, the algorithms, and user behavior. To go even further, let’s say Facebook changes their algorithms to promote other types of content and now that same post is only reaching 500 people. That’s totally outside of your control. You don’t own the relationship with your audience; Facebook does.
In comparison, newsletters allow you to reach your audience directly. The readers gave you permission to contact them via their personal email, and that’s your relationship to own. If you have 10,000 emails, when you hit send, you reach 10,000 people’s inboxes directly.
Data portability is also incredibly important. If you have 10,000 emails and use Mailchimp to contact them, that’s great. But if Mailchimp ends up getting too expensive or not serving your needs, you can move those 10,000 emails to beehiiv or any other platform. You can literally pick and choose the platform and tools to use, and take your audience with you.
What have you seen people achieve with their newsletters?
Loaded question, but a lot. I joined Morning Brew as the second employee of a tiny newsletter startup. We scaled that to nearly $20M million in revenue and 40 employees in just 3.5 years prior to being acquired by Business Insider for $75 million.
On a smaller scale, we’ve had users on beehiiv start from scratch and get acquired for millions in less than a year (e.g. Milk Road).
And on an even smaller scale, we’ve seen dozens of acquisitions made in the $25,000–$250,000 range for newsletters that were just side projects. These were people who launched a newsletter on beehiiv as a hobby or to cover some topic of interest and made a huge lump sum due to their success.
But beyond the sexy “acquisitions” … plenty of everyday people are supplementing their income by launching a newsletter and making significant revenue. Or they’re leveraging their newsletter to promote their products, courses, communities, etc.
Why did you decide to start beehiiv? What seemed to be missing from the landscape?
I owe most of it to my experience at Morning Brew. We were truly one of the earlier newsletter-first media companies who built the newsletter as the product, rather than an ancillary offering. And because we were early, there weren’t really platforms or software suited to help us create email-first content, grow rapidly, and monetize at scale.
So we built our own software and dashboards. Developed our own processes and metrics. And really innovated to reach an absurd amount of scale and impact in a relatively short period of time.
Being the architect behind a lot of those decisions and builds was the true impetus. I just needed the push from witnessing the larger newsletter movement to truly see the vision for what this opportunity could become.
What offerings do you have that others don’t?
Traditionally, most creators or publishers would publish content onto a website (think WordPress), then copy and paste that content into an email provider (think Mailchimp), two platforms for two purposes.
If you wanted to offer premium subscriptions to your newsletter, you could add a payment processor and user authentication to the mix (think Stripe and Memberful). If you wanted a referral program, you could add yet another platform. Ditto for adding advertisements, building audience development tools, etc.
Before you know it, you are a one-person content team with a limited technical background responsible for building and integrating (and paying for) eight different platforms.
beehiiv fixes that. It’s everything we needed (and more) to build Morning Brew from an upstart to a behemoth. It’s all in a single platform, and it’s super sleek, easy to use, and affordable.
What mistakes do people typically make when starting and attempting to scale their own newsletters?
Content is king. Without nailing a true content strategy and identifying your target readers, you’re just wasting your time optimizing for growth, revenue, design, etc.
Start with content, then lean into design, growth, monetization, scale.
How do you see newsletters evolving? What can people expect in the future?
I think we’re still so early in the newsletter space. I’ll always bet on people continuing to be creative and come up with interesting ways to tell stories, engage their audience, and advance their own agendas via brand, commerce, influence, etc.
I think as the space develops we’ll continue to provide better user experiences for people to build and scale beautiful newsletters (and websites) with ease.
I’d also bet on the monetization and growth tools getting considerably better and becoming more accessible. There’s a beautiful flywheel between growth and monetization where more growth begets more monetization, which can be reinvested to drive more growth.
What can thought leaders do to get and stay ahead of the curve with their own newsletters?
Follow me and the company accounts on Twitter @denk_tweets and @beehiiv, or on LinkedIn. We have invested heavily in creating valuable and educational content to help inform newsletter operators about best practices, new opportunities, trends, and more. We’ll continue to double down here.
Any tips to get started for those who don’t have a newsletter yet?
Creating an account on beehiiv is free and easy. We built beehiiv Academy to help you get started, and have invested in our YouTube channel too (both are free). We also have a more advanced course called NewsletterXP.
With everyone wanting to start a newsletter now, what else do they need to be thinking about beyond the newsletter? How does beehiiv plan to service them in this capacity?
I think a newsletter is just one of many channels to engage your audience. We’ve seen some tremendous success stories from those who can leverage and build symbiotic relationships with their social channels, podcast, community, and newsletter. I’m biased and think that newsletters are one of the most performant channels, but they all work better when used together.
Why did you decide to join Arcbound as an advisor on the speaking x company marketplace product?
The people behind Arcbound are remarkable and I’ve been fortunate enough to know them for quite some time now. I’ve always tried to meet incredibly gifted people, and find ways to work with them. Arcbound is no different.
I also think they have a disruptive vision to dismantle traditional PR and the current speaking bureau model by leveraging tech and I thought my skill-set could help.