Image for post
Image for post
Image via Pixabay

One of the best ways to scale a bootstrapped media company is to cover an underserved niche, and Emmanuel Saint-Martin found one in the French expat community. There are about 300,000 such expats in the U.S. alone, and many have specific information needs that aren’t well served by either mainstream U.S. or French outlets.

In 2007, Saint-Martin launched French Morning, which he initially maintained in his free time while working in TV news. Today, the site employs a full time staff of 10 and about 20 freelancers, and it operates city specific verticals all across the U.S. …


Image for post
Image for post
Image via Image via Wikimedia Commons

In a recent article, I noted that the year 2020 “saw the creation of a market for independent internet writing, one that allows journalists and essayists to make a full-time living without the aid of traditional media companies.” Though many factors played into this, including the Covid-19 recession, it’s probably not a coincidence that most of the successful indie writers monetize their work through Substack. The newsletter platform made charging for paywalled content incredibly easy, allowing its writers to focus most of their efforts on amassing their “1,000 true fans.”

But what if you were trying to launch a paid newsletter prior to the invention of Substack? That’s the dilemma Bernard Hickey faced in 2012. He’d built a large fan base while covering finance and business news for New Zealand’s largest newspapers, and that year he wanted to see if he could erect a scalable business that charged readers for premium content. …


Image for post
Image for post
Image via Pixabay

If you launch a new publication today, chances are it’ll be online only. Print has its advantages, but it can be extremely expensive to produce, and digital publications tend to have much lower overhead.

And so when Innovation Leader, a $695-a-year subscription publisher focused on corporate innovation, launched in 2013, it went the digital-only route. But then in 2015, it changed course, launching a twice-yearly print magazine that it sent out to its already-existing subscribers and a list of prospects.

I interviewed the publication’s co-founder Scott Kirsner about why he went the print route, the role the magazine plays in reducing subscriber churn, and how he adapted the magazine for a pandemic era when most of his subscribers no longer commute to their offices. …


Image for post
Image for post
Image via Wikipedia

For several decades Randy Gage had the kind of career that most writers only aspire to. He’d written multiple bestselling books on career success and traveled the world to give motivational speeches to sold-out audiences.

But several years ago, Gage made a major pivot. He decided he wanted to spend more of his time writing, and he also recognized that authors needed to create a large body of work online in order to remain relevant. So he began producing regular blog posts, YouTube videos, and podcasts. …


Image for post
Image for post
Image via Wikimedia Commons

Dozens of writers have shown by now that you can generate a sustainable living through Substack newsletters, but does this also apply to local news?

That’s a question Tony Mecia sought to answer. A former business reporter for the Charlotte Observer in North Carolina, Mecia thought he had both the sources and knowledge to deliver real value for the Charlotte community. So in 2018, he launched the Charlotte Ledger, a business-focused Substack newsletter.

The newsletter started out as fairly simple, focusing mostly on curation and commentary, but Mecia slowly built more and more original journalism into his workflow. …


Image for post
Image for post
Image via Pixabay

Tech companies collectively spend a lot of money each year producing content. They hire writers to craft blog posts, articles, white papers, and even ebooks. They enlist videographers to produce video for their YouTube channel. They employ designers who throw together infographics for their Instagram accounts. And of course there’s no shortage of webinars.

And in recent years, more and more tech firms have devoted at least a portion of their marketing budgets toward podcasts. To develop their shows, they turn to people like Tristan Pelligrino, the co-founder of a creative agency called Motion. …


Image for post
Image for post
Image via Wikimedia Commons

Patch was never the cash cow that former-AOL CEO Tim Armstrong predicted it would be. When he bought the company in 2009, he hoped its network of hyperlocal sites would, in aggregate, generate enough reach and revenue to transform it into an advertising behemoth. Those plans didn’t pan out, however, and in 2014 AOL sold Patch to an investment firm. Patch went on to become profitable, but only after significant downsizing and reduced coverage.

But even though Patch as a whole didn’t flourish, a lot of its individual sites found traction, and this opened a lot of entrepreneurial journalists’ eyes to the potential for lean local news sites in underserved communities. One of those journalists was Tom Sofield. After reporting for several years at a Patch site in Levittown, PA, he saw there was a real market for the type of news he was providing. …


Image for post
Image for post
Image via Pixabay

These days, nearly every mainstream media company has some kind of podcast operation, but the book publisher Macmillan invested in the medium before most media executives had even heard of podcasting.

In 2007, it partnered with Mignon Fogarty, who’d launched Quick and Dirty Tips, a network focused on producing evergreen self-help podcasts covering grammar, finance, parenting, and other niches. It adapted this content across podcasts, website articles, books, and online courses; this allowed for revenue diversification in an era when most podcasts were still struggling to sell host-read ads.

Later, Macmillan expanded into narrative podcasts, developing one of the first fiction properties to be simultaneously adapted into a teleplay, novel, audio book, and live event series. …


Image for post
Image for post
Image via Wikimedia Commons

Charlie Meyerson had the kind of background that was perfect for launching a Chicago-focused newsletter. While majoring in journalism at the University of Illinois, he worked at the student radio station, and his first job out of college was at a station in the Chicago suburbs. In 1998, he made the leap to the Chicago Tribune, and he ran the email newsletter program there for a decade.

It was about eight years later that he launched Chicago Public Square, a daily newsletter that now counts thousands of subscribers. It’s formatted as a simple news digest, something that can be scanned quickly before a reader goes about their day. …


Image for post
Image for post
Image via Pixabay

Joseph Clements did what a lot of people do when they start a new blog: he wrote a few posts, got bored, and largely abandoned it.

But then something happened that pulled him back in. He logged into his analytics dashboard and saw he had received a few thousand hits from Google searches. The blog, Smoked Barbecue Source, served as kind of a beginner’s guide to cooking barbecue, and apparently a lot of people were stumbling upon it while conducting research on Google. …

About

Simon Owens

Tech and media journalist. Email me: simonowens@gmail.com

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store