1-Read-A-Day: what I learned running a newsletter, September edition

Every month, I share stats and learnings on the 1-Read-A-Day newsletter. Here’s the launch post.

How well is it doing?

Subscribers: 220 (last month: 161)
Open rate: 22.9% (22.8%)
Click rate: 2.6% (2.2%)

Thanks to Kale’s feature, I got 27 signups in a single day. By far the largest jump since the July launch. I highly recommend subscribing to his Hacker Newsletter and also enjoy his Wayback Letter, a nice way to re-surface classic content that has disappeared from the interwebs.

What did I learn in September?

1. Per Tommy’s advice, I customized the Gmail preview snippet.

Open rates have increased, but it’s correlation, not causation. The change makes me feel better, though.

To customize the snippet and not harm the email’s readability, I explored several options but went with this one: the text snippet is placed it at the top of each email, then the font size is set to 1 and font color to white, so it’s invisible to readers.

2. Readers complained they couldn’t distinguish direct quotes from my color commentary. So I added a quote symbol inside each yellow box. This has received positive feedback, but there is a downside: before, each email was image free and did not require you to click “Display images below” (if you’re using Gmail) to load the quote-symbol-image. Another lesson: product “improvements” are often double-edged swords

3. Quizzes are the most complimented feature, so I added more questions to each quiz. I will also have a big, 10-question quiz after Lesson 50. I’m even thinking of launching startup quizzes as a separate project. “test your startup IQ” sort of thing

4. There’s a tension between esoteric and popular content. Well-read startup folks appreciate the esoteric content, but it’s often esoteric for a reason (niche appeal, out-of-date, too technical). However, I do agree that I’ve relied heavily on popular content, so going forward, I will feature more esoteric/lesser-known articles and bloggers (such as this thoughtful essay from Max)

What’s coming up – niche email courses and audio lessons

My goal was 50 lessons before I began to widely market the newsletter and release topic/problem-specific email courses (eg, 20 email lessons on hiring engineers, or 35 email lessons on raising a VC round). I’m on lesson 50 (congrats if you’ve read all of them), so these are coming soon.

I’m also planning to record 60-second podcasts for each lesson, for those who enjoy audio learning and have time to kill on the daily commute or while at the gym.

Thanks to all my subscribers for your participation and feedback. Keep it coming, it’s been a pleasure to do this. Here’s to showing up and getting to work. Cheers!

PS. If you run an email newsletter, I’d love to hear what you’ve learned, what works, and what doesn’t.

Click here to read about the daily habits that I track and why.