Should I become a content entrepreneur with a blog or a newsletter?

content entrepreneur

On the TILT blog, Dylan Redekop put forth an opinion that if you’re starting out as a content entrepreneur, you should focus on a private newsletter instead of a public blog. I wholeheartedly and passionately disagree and will put forth my argument today.

It should be noted that I don’t know Dylan. I discovered him for the first time on the TILT blog, not a newsletter So, there’s that.

Let’s dissect the argument: Blog versus newsletter.

The newsletter argument

Dylan states his case:

“Blogs are great. They served a need in Web2 and provided many digital creators a path to online entrepreneurship. But they’re no longer the best way to start your content entrepreneur journey.

“Here’s the challenge with blogs: a visitor reads your post, clicks a few links, and vanishes. No sale, no engagement, no email captured.

“Your visitor did a little window shopping but didn’t ring the register.

“When you start your content business with a newsletter, you capture the most important piece of the audience interaction – their email address.”

Now for the rebuttal.

The six points.

Here are the six points Dylan uses to make his case, along with my views:

1. Collecting emails is the attribute of newsletters

This is his most important and relevant point. With a blog you don’t collect email addresses, and a mailing list is your most important marketing tool so you can communicate directly to your audience.

My view: How do my blog subscribers get their post each week? An email address. Sure, you only get that email if they subscribe, but you only get it if you subscribe to your newsletter too!

I have the email address of every person who subscribes to my blog. There is nothing keeping me from importing my blog subscribers into a newsletter format to offer special announcements, which I do two or three times a year.

If people subscribe to your blog — or newsletter — YOU HAVE THEIR EMAIL ADDRESS.

2. Starting a newsletter is free and frictionless

My view: So is a blog. If you have a website, a blog usually comes along for the ride. I don’t think the cost consideration of a blog versus a newsletter is a real selling point. I’m assuming you need to pay a subscription fee for your newsletter service, right?

3. Newsletters are active content

“You promote the newsletter, and people intentionally sign up to get it delivered to their inbox. (I’ve done this – it’s awesome). And if the newsletter is good enough, you might even be able to charge for it.”

My view: I don’t understand what is meant by “active content.” I mean, people can sign up for a blog, too, right? I don’t charge for my blog but there are better ways to monetize. More on that later.

4. Newsletter ads can bring bigger revenue more quickly

“Getting ad revenue from a blog is hard. It can take a long time to even get to the point where your Adsense revenue covers your hosting and domain costs. With newsletters, once you hit a few hundred subscribers, you can attract sponsors or advertisers on platforms like Swapstack, Paved, or Letterwell.”

My view: Getting meaningful ad revenue from anything is hard. Nobody is going to make a decent income off a blog or newsletter unless they have a huge audience who loves to click on ads. Just not realistic.

5. Affiliate links can work more quickly with a newsletter

“Affiliate links can bring in more revenue earlier for newsletter creators because they have built trust with their audience. The same can’t be said for a blog.”

My view: I think Dylan is reaching here. People trust a newsletter more than a blog? That’s not logical. Lots of people trust my blog. And does anybody really base a career as a content entrepreneur from affiliate links?

6. A newsletter can expand to become a blog

“Most email newsletter platforms offer a blog-style content feed. You can use that link to promote and share your content. You also can leverage the SEO benefits by migrating your newsletter content to a hosted domain at some point. But you don’t have to do that until you’ve made progress in building and owning your audience.”

My view: OK. I just can’t stand it any more. I need to set you straight Dylan …

Four reasons why you should start with a blog

Let’s get real. You should almost ALWAYS START WITH A BLOG.  Here’s why.

1. You need an audience.

The whole idea behind the creator economy is that you can monetize an audience. But first, you need an audience!

Exactly who is going to sign up for your private newsletter if you’re just starting out? Grandma? Cousin Lenny?

To gain the widest audience possible, you need to unleash your content everywhere. Hiding it behind a private newsletter firewall is literally the worst thing you can do to build a content-based audience.

Dylan did a smart thing by publishing on a well-known, public blog because nobody is going to discover him from a private newsletter. I found him on a blog. Others found him. I followed him on LinkedIn. Maybe we’ll become friends. But that can’t happen if your content is hidden behind a subscription firewall.

2. You need engagement

I have never left a comment on a newsletter. Because you can’t.

In the early days of my blog, the comment section was absolutely crucial in knowing what my growing audience wanted and needed. With a newsletter, you’re just guessing. There’s little feedback.

Build a community. People who comment on my blog become customers.

3. You’ll make more money

A major problem I have with Dylan’s argument is that you can make more money with a newsletter because you can directly sell stuff.

Here’s the truth. People do not want you selling stuff. Readers are sick of being sold to and there is no faster way to earn an “unsubscribe” than to use your content as a selling tool.

A better strategy is to avoid the temptation of that $1.50 in affiliate link income and patiently build authority. Here’s what happens when you build authority and an audience that trusts you:

  • They hire you to speak
  • They buy your books
  • They come to your events
  • They’ll attend your classes and workshops
  • They want you to consult for them

Trust me. This is a lot more profitable than depending on people to click on affiliate links in a newsletter.

Be generous. Give away your best ideas for free. Help people. Don’t sell.

4. You’ll become known

Here is the one and only strategy to monetize in the creator economy. You have to be known.

If you’re known, the doors of opportunity open wide. If you’re not known, you’re going to be pumping out content in vain.

To become known, you have to unleash your content on the world. Don’t make people work to find it. Put it EVERYWHERE. Make it public!

This is the fatal flaw of Dylan’s thesis. It only makes sense to try to monetize a newsletter after you’re already known. And to become known, you need a blog because it can be seen, shared, commented on, and discovered by Mr. Google.

And it’s not just blogs …

In my books and classes, I teach that there are only four content options to build an audience and become known, which is the essential step in the content entrepreneur journey:

  • A blog
  • A video series or streaming content
  • Audio content like a podcast
  • Visual content like Instagram or Pinterest.

You pick one to start (because you can’t be great in five places), master your craft, and build an audience.

So a blog is not necessarily the best and only place to start. Depending on your interests, talents, and audience you might choose one of the other content options. Just start, experiment, and do it consistently.

But the one thing I know is, don’t start with a newsletter. Set your content free and build that audience as you set your sights on becoming a successful content entrepreneur.

I want to end this post by thanking Dylan for writing his original post. It sparked a reaction and that is a sign of success. It made me think and I hope it made you think, too.

Keynote speaker Mark SchaeferMark Schaefer is the executive director of Schaefer Marketing Solutions. He is the author of some of the world’s bestselling digital marketing books and is an acclaimed keynote speaker, college educator, and business consultant.  The Marketing Companion podcast is among the top business podcasts in the world. Contact Mark to have him speak to your company event or conference soon.

Follow Mark on TwitterLinkedInYouTube, and Instagram. Discover his $RISE create community. 

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