The Business of Content: This indie newsletter generated over 10,000 paying subscribers

Full podcast here

  • Robert Cottrell [founder of The Browser]: The browser is an email newsletter and website which recommends 5 things to read each day. Those 5 things are things that I’ve personally chosen because I think the writing is of lasting value [1:46] 

  • I add a brief explanation of why I think this is worth reading. Exactly the kind of thing you would say to a friend if you were recommending something face to face. We say this is great and this is the point it makes. [2:16]

  • How did you initially find readers? By word of mouth. There was never any systematic or paid marketing. We were helped by the fact that when we recommended a piece then that writer or publication would be pleased and give us a hat tip or a link. It grew organically. [6:19]

  • We don’t bother our subscribed unnecessarily. We are not constantly pitching them with requests for information or updates or preferences or tastes. [7:46]

  • I don’t want to know which pieces on the browser each day is the most popular. I’m always worried if I find out what people what to read then I will just end up giving them more of the same. People want the browser to surprise and delight them. [8:19]

  • We are not trying to pepper people with things throughout the day. I spend all of my day reading and then at the end of that time I choose the 5 things that really stand out from my sensibility [9:39]

  • I’ve been a journalist all my life so I respond only to deadlines. So I give myself a deadline. [13:52]

  • Paid subscriptions doubled in the first two years and then doubled again in the next two years. We are still growing but not so rapidly. [23:30]

  • There is almost always a problem of quantity. When you start recommending things that are good to read - then every curator I can think of - always seems to conclude if 5 is good then 10 is better. If 10 is good then 20 is better. . . Almost invariably the signal to noise ratio is falling over time. [30:44]

  • I think of the browser as more of a book review than it is like the posting of links you get on social media. [32:09]