Exponent Podcast #34: The Story of Stratechery

  • Scale is how you go from serving one person to serving 10,000 or 100,000 etc people? The one-man blog scales very very well. The marginal cost is infinitesimal. (7:45) 

  • I can do the same work whether I have 1 subscriber or 1,000 subscribers and it is about the same amount of work and expense for me. That’s the very definition of a beautifully scaling business. (8:14) 

  • I absolutely believe this. I believe it so much that I bet my career on it. There is another way. The internet doesn’t just mean that the big guys are going to crush everyone. The internet enables these brand new ways of doing things. These brand new approaches to business. (12:57) 

  • Almost all of the information online about how you should think about your startup is written from the VC backed company perspective (growth companies) - all that advice is almost completely opposite to the way to should approach a “lifestyle” (private) business. (15:23) 

  • James: You kind of are though- you are an artisan around ideas. You craft up and package ideas and ask people to subscribe to you on that basis. Ben: I hate thinking about myself as an artisan. (17:08)

  • You have to start with the market. Who would need this product? What problem is being solved? How many people have this problem? How painful is this problem? (20:39) 

  • Before starting your business think about the market you are going after: When I was thinking about doing Stratechery I felt strongly that despite there being a million blogs about tech there weren’t very many that talked about the business of tech. Most blogs would spend a ton of time about a new product but they wouldn’t think about the cost structure of that product or how the product goes to market. What does differentiation (of your product) mean? (21:12) 

  • I go read the blog of someone trying to build an audience and the one word I see again and again is “I” - people don’t care. You won’t build an audience like that. (23:48)

  • At the end of the day everyone is selfish (not in a derogatory way). People will read stuff and pay for stuff that helps them. If you can’t put yourself in their shoes and see how you are meeting a need then you will have a hard time getting off the ground. (24:14) 

  • It is much easier to communicate your value to potential customers by being different than trying to convince them you are better. (26:02) 

  • If you can save people time and money because they trust you that is an opportunity to charge. (28:14) 

  • I assumed I was going to make money from different sources: subscriptions, podcast w/ ads, speaking and consulting. (39:51) 

  • If you are building an internet business your goal should be zero costs. But pay for what matters. Ben made the mistake at the beginning of not investing more in his membership site- it cost him sales early on. (42:35) 

  • When you are doing something you don’t like you try making up for it by indulging in lifestyle things. It traps you in that job because now you need the money. (47:01) 

  • The number one lesson is you have to think about making more money from your best customers as opposed to getting more customers. (51:42) 

  • The hardest part (of any business) is getting a ton of users - so then why do you want to choose a business model that depends on getting a ton of users? (54:22) 

  • There’s something so powerful about paying money. You are heavily incentivized to give value. My open rate is 75% open rate - the industry average is 22% - why is mine so high? Because people are paying for it. (1:25:01) 

  • I really do believe there are opportunities that were not there before. That the internet has enabled new opportunities - it’s not just the domain of big companies. (1:27:00)

  • Full podcast here.