State of the Newsletter #3
A moment of self-reflection on Something Interesting itself
In this issue:
As a periodic exercise in accountability I have been pausing every six months or so to reflect on the state and trajectory of the newsletter (#1, #2) with you. All of you reading, sharing and replying to Something Interesting is what makes it what it is. In a very real and meaningful sense we are building Something Interesting together. Thank you. 🙏
Creating content in a bear market
At time of writing 1362 people are subscribed to Something Interesting, ~30% growth over the last six months. Around 45-55% of subscribers open any given article and they open it an average ~2-3 times. Most readers don’t read every article, so I estimate that there are ~700-800 actual humans that consume Something Interesting as part of their content diet. ~8-12% of readers click a link in any given post, down a little bit but still above average for Substack.
Slightly more than ~8% of subscribers are paid subscribers, about the same ratio as six months ago and also above Substack averages. That works out to a projected revenue of ~$7k/year (before taxes). Normally I like to track time-to-minimum-wage as a vanity metric but unfortunately paid subscriber growth has been slowing down recently:
I don’t have a lot of direct data on this, but I do think the crypto bear market is a major factor here. Engagement overall is down and lots of the comments in my recent reader survey allude to stepping back from crypto or crypto investing.
Actually, one of the most interesting qualitative patterns that I extracted from the survey is that a significant subset of my reader base is actually made up of cryptoskeptics. In the next survey I’ll definitely be curious to explore people’s feelings about Bitcoin/NFTs/web3 concepts directly. I was surprised (but flattered!) to learn that many of the folks who responded were more interested in my writing/perspective than they were about crypto specifically. Lots of readers were interested in more coverage outside the envelope of crypto:
That’s cool! I feel at my most confident and informed when talking about crypto specifically but I welcome the challenge to write about other things.
This is the first State of the Newsletter where the majority of my subscribers (~54%) don’t know me personally and instead found the newsletter through social media (~17%) or because someone shared it with you (~22%). A handful of readers (~5%) found Something Interesting through searching, almost all searching about HEX and arriving at this article about how HEX is a ponzi scheme.
I also reached a few bursts of new readers after appearing on the Technonomics podcast, syndicating articles with CoinTelegraph and doing a few presentations at fintech companies and VC firms. Hit me up if you’d like me to come talk to your company or team, I find those conversations very rewarding!
The most important way that I reach new readers is when you share Something Interesting with your network. I was gratified to learn that ~80% of readers have shared Something Interesting with someone in their lives — usually in an email to a skeptical friend or family member. I think this is why I have so many curious skeptics among my readership: trusted individual recommendations. It is a great pleasure to know that Something Interesting has been useful to people in that way. Trustworthy writing in cryptocurrency is extremely scarce and difficult to find.
One particularly amusing thing I learned from the reader survey is that after variations on the theme of Tech (mostly PMs/engineers) the next most commonly reported career type was none at all: 'retired', 'semi-retired', 'between jobs', 'funemployed', 'housewife', 'stay-at-home parent' and my personal favorite: 'No thing.' I think crypto is probably especially interesting to people who are outside traditional employment and have both more freedom and possibly more incentive to experiment.
I was also surprised at the distribution of what people look for in Something Interesting content — specifically I find it funny that my opinions are more popular (~89%) than my sense of humor (~64%). I personally think my jokes are better than my opinions, but that’s obviously just my opinion. It turns out ~1 in 4 readers surveyed prefer my opinions to my jokes, except presumably for my opinions about jokes. Reading Something Interesting must be a strange experience for them! Anyway ~64% is still a solid majority so I consider that a mandate to continue embedding my inscrutable sense of humor into the captions and footnotes.
I will probably dial back emphasis on price action and market structure, since it seems like that is occupying space that could be dedicated to more interesting explanatory or op/ed driven content. ~60% of readers still reported being interested in market analysis, though, so I don’t expect it to disappear entirely. I might also experiment with isolating market analysis content to separate posts.
Regardless of who you are or why you read Something Interesting I am profoundly grateful for your time and attention. Thank you to everyone who replied to the survey, everyone who sends in questions or feedback and especially to everyone who shares Something Interesting with their friends and coworkers and loved ones. It is a privilege to be navigating this chaos with you. 🙏