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How much is your newsletter worth?

Hello newsletter friends, Mark from Revue here, filling you in on an exciting week in newsletters. We
The week in
A weekly update for newsletter editors and audience managers, sent every Tuesday morning in the US, afternoon in Europe, and evening in Asia.
Hello newsletter friends,
Mark from Revue here, filling you in on an exciting week in newsletters.
We seem to have entered the next level, where successful newsletters get acquired for large amounts, and marketplaces spring up for creators to buy and sell them.
Hope you enjoy this issue about who and for how much and look forward to hearing your thoughts as always at mark@getrevue.co.
Newsletter sales and valuations
This week we found out that newsletters are not only very popular, but also valuable to investors and acquirers. WSJ media reporter Ben Mullin had the scoop that Insider Inc. wants to spend $75 million on Morning Brew:
Ben Mullin
Scoop: Business Insider parent Insider Inc. is in talks to acquire a controlling stake in newsletter startup @MorningBrew that values the company at over $75 million, sources say. Story coming to wsj dot com.
A lot of newsletter creators got excited and started wondering. If Insider is willing to pay $75 million for Morning Brew, how much is my newsletter worth and who might want to acquire it?
Delia Cai, who writes media newsletter Deez Links, wondered why The Skimm isn’t getting snitched up, too?
Maybe big orgs HAVE tried to buy TS behind the scenes (but if it didn’t happen during pandemic instability, then when?), maybe that’s not the kind of exit*** TS founders want for themselves. Still. I’m just saying. If I had a newsletter empire that was bigger and around longer than MB, I would be like WHERE IS MY EIGHTY MILLION DOLLARS?????
Then concluded in the next issue that The Skimm and Morning Brew have a very different investor situation:
The Skimm pretty much needs a way bigger payoff: they’ve taken in almost $30 million in funding and has 21 investors and a whole board (which Shonda Rhimes is on, fun fact); meanwhile, Morning Brew founders apparently only ever raised $750K from family and friends. So while potentially getting bought for $50M-75M would be freaking great for MB, it’d definitely be peanuts for TS and their crew.
The first company that came to my mind was Quartz who were sold to Uzabase in 2018, in large parts due to their successful newsletters. Jon Russel put the deal at a range of $75 - $110 million for TechCrunch:
Quartz said in a statement that the deal ranges from $75 and $110 million “depending on achievement of future financial and operating performance in 2018.”
That deal does not seem to have been a big success as Uzabase is apparently trying to sell Quartz at a loss:
Quartz’s Japanese parent company Uzabase is seeking a buyer for the business news site – a mere two years after acquiring it for $86 million from Atlantic Media, The Wall Street Journal reported. The newspaper’s sources say Uzabase, a financial-data company based in Tokyo, is likely to lose money on the sale.
Success or not, apparently there is a market for newsletter companies, with buyers willing to pay premium. So what are they actually paying for?
Morning Brew has been pretty open with their metrics and Jarrod Dicker, VP Commercial at The Washington Post, did a nice job summing them up:
JD
everyone talking about subscriber potential, but what BI is buying is a blue print for the next era of advertising—

- 2,500,000 emails/first party data
- 1,000,000 opens/active registered users
- direct relationship with advertisers (non-programmatic)
- emails are new cookies https://t.co/pAhABQmVvI
What I find interesting about this summary is that Morning Brew, like many other newsletter companies, covers all aspects of a successful media business.
First of all, there’s a large audience. 2.5 million people is not much compared to billions of registered users on social media, but easily surpasses the print circulation of newspapers.
Then there’s engagement. Open rates have been in the 40-50% range for Morning Brew historically, meaning they have many loyal readers who also interact with the publication on social channels, through quizzes or replies to the newsletter.
And finally, Morning Brew is able to monetize successfully, in their case through native ads and sponsoring.
The combination is what makes Morning Brew and other newsletters appealing to investors. A media business that has demonstrated that it can attract a large audience, turn it into loyal long-term readers, and monetize it, is valuable.
A weakness in any of the three aspects makes a media business much less valuable. That could be an audience that is too small, low engagement and high churn, or questions around monetization as is the case for Quartz.
While these larger newsletter acquisitions have made the news, there are also many examples of smaller newsletters being sold. And the dynamics don’t look all that different, even though at a much smaller scale.
An interesting example is the Startup Watching newsletter here on Revue, created and sold by Bram Kanstein, and acquired and now run by Andrew Askins. That newsletter also had an audience, engagement and monetization. Here are the stats as listed on Transferslot at the time of the sale:
11.500+ subscribers, open rate is 15-25%, CTR 12-20%
Without really chasing sales I’ve made about $6500 with sponsored placements (top link in a newsletter edition), in the past 6 months. Much more potential when you actively reach out and collaborate with other companies.
The exact deal terms weren’t disclosed but were probably somewhere around $15.000 according to this account of the new owner, Andrew.
And there are many more examples including Chris Osborne who has already created and sold four newsletters: FoundersGrid, DailyNames, NewKeys and CryptoWeekly (and is now offering a course on how to do it).
We’re even at the point where marketplaces for buying and selling newsletters are springing up. Both Duuce and LetterXchange were created recently and have a few newsletters on offer.
I am certainly happy for Morning Brew and Chris Osborne, who started working on newsletters way before others, and created great products that many people love to read. But I must admit that this trend also has me feel a little uneasy. I just hope that newsletter editors don’t get caught up flipping newsletters too quickly and end up straying too far from “The Blissfully Slow World of Internet Newsletters” portrayed so beautifully by Clive Thompson in WIRED back in 2016.
The week in newsletters
Improving your newsletter is always a good idea, if you want to sell it or keep publishing it yourself. Here are this week’s ideas on what to work on.
Five tips from The Economist
Twitter thread on starting a newsletter
Newsletters for the new folks in town
Twitter threads with lots of great newsletters
Emails, perfected for publishers* by Revue.
Did you enjoy this issue?
Mark from Revue

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