How Morning Brew’s Email Newsletter Hit 1 Million Subscribers

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This is a repost of an extremely insightful Twitter thread from Austin Rief, the Founder of Morning Brew.

I previously posted about how to start and scale a newsletter. Paid and ad-driven newsletters are becoming an increasingly popular and viable business strategy.

Without anything further, let’s jump into the thread! 

1/ Last week @morningbrew hit 1 million unique daily opens. We did it through: – Incredible content – Intense Focus – A few marketing insights – A little help from Jeff Bezos Here is how we did it (thread)

2/ To start, our writers are absolutely incredible. @Neal_Freyman is our content anchor, leading an incredibly talented team. None of this growth would have happened if we didn’t have the best content.

3/ Our content insight was simple Create an email that was meant to be read *in email* In 2015, almost every publisher @BUSlNESSBARISTA and I studied used email to drive traffic to their site. We thought this is somewhere we could create a differentiated product – and we did

4/ Second, we had intense focus. So many big named media execs told us to expand beyond newsletter in the early days. But as first time founders, @BUSlNESSBARISTA and I knew becoming the best in the world at 1 thing (email) was a winning strategy.

5/ But we dug deeper than just newsletters, only focusing on the metrics that actually mattered. This was so important. Many of our competitors focused on subscribers, while we remained hyper-focused on opens. Subscriber numbers get headlines, but opens make you money.

6/ Our focus was intense. For the first 3.5 years, we would stop what we were doing at 11AM and check where our daily open rate was. We’d then write it on our “great wall of opens”. This was a great daily reminder of what actually matters.

7/ From a marketing perspective, @jrothenberg_ and @denk_tweets were willing to test everything and their creativity paid off in a big way. Through testing, we had a few “marketing home runs”. There is no better feeling in the world than hitting a marketing “home run”.

8/ The first marketing insight was the power of a referral program. It is by far our largest source of growth. We broke it down into 2 parts. – Make it as easy as possible to share the newsletter – Give rewards that the top 10% of Morning Brew fans would love.

9/ Once we had optimized the referral program, we felt more confident in trying other growth tactics that were more expensive. We knew that even if they didn’t hit our CAC target, we had the referral program to bring in additional subscribers.

10/ The next insight we had was buying ads in other newsletters. We realized that there were many under-monetized newsletters and we began to buy ads in those newsletters. To this day, those subscribers were the best quality subscribers we’ve acquired.

11/ We thought that if you were subscribed to a newsletter, read an ad to subscribe to another newsletter (@morningbrew), and then converted on our landing page, you were most likely going to be a high opener. That turned out to be true.

12/ Next, we found IG stories early. We heard from someone who went to F8 that many FB execs were talking about increasing opportunity (read: ad load) in IG stories. We just had this awesome IG post blow up, so we turned it into an IG story ad.

13/ This ad absolutely crushed it. For weeks, we saw $.25 CACs, and we poured every penny we had into this ad. That was a huge boom for us, and we grew 25% in a few months.

14/ Lastly, a little luck and an enticing subject line can’t hurt. The day we hit 1 million open, the subject line was: “Jeff leaves amazing”…. which ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ It’s not a lie but I do think all 1 million people who opened thought we were referring to… the other Jeff.

If you resonate with any of this and want to come work at @MorningBrew, DMs are open.

I've been building digital businesses, wandering the world, and writing about optimizing life for freedom since early 2017. My mission is to lower the barrier for people who want to live with more freedom: whether that be as an entrepreneur, a digital nomad, an early retiree, or just as someone who wants to live a happiness-driven life.