- Daniella Pierson launched Newsette when she was a 19-year-old sophomore at Boston University, after realizing there was an unmet need for an aggregated culture newsletter for young professional women.
- Now, Newsette has more than 500,000 subscribers and made $1.1 million in September through product placement with brands like Amazon and Michael Kors.
- Pierson said she owes Newsette’s early growth to marketing strategies that are common now, like brand ambassadors and audience-borrowing, but which were less popular in the newsletter ecosystem.
- Pierson has resisted the influence to expand Newsette beyond a newsletter, saying she “does not believe in the website model,” and credits that focus for Newsette’s success.
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In 2015, when Daniella Pierson first hit “send” on the inaugural issue of Newsette, her newsletter catering to young professional women, she had a total readership of 11. The writing was riddled with typos, according to Pierson, the format was a touched-up Mailchimp template, and the landing page was a hastily built Wix site. Still, the then-19-year-old sophomore at Boston University felt that she had found something that she was passionate about.
“I knew that I wanted to be in the magazine media world, but I had zero connections to New York and knew nobody in the magazine industry,” Pierson told Business Insider. “So, I figured, ‘Maybe if I create my own thing, it’ll help me stand out.'”
Now, almost six years later, Newsette boasts an audience of over 500,000 subscribers, according to documents reviewed by Business Insider. The newsletter covers topics such as fashion, tech, beauty, and women’s rights, and each issue features an interview with an influential female figure. Past interviews have included women like Bumble’s Whitney Wolfe Herd and fashion’s Diane von Furstenberg, as well as rising female influencers like Heather Anderson, a pilates instructor in New York.
Since graduating college in 2017, Pierson has worked to turn Newsette from an underground must-read into a self-sustaining business venture. She has never taken venture capital investment, and she repaid a $15,000 business loan from her family in less than a month, according to Digiday. Pierson has built Newsette into a streamlined blend of branded marketing, aggregated links, and original content, with the line between product placement and sarcastic witticisms sometimes blurring in distinction.
Pierson, who compared her early days running the company to the meme of the cat typing furiously at the keyboard, has been able to grow her team with the newfound revenue her business development team has generated through product placements with brands like Amazon and Michael Kors. Newsette started as a business of one, but has now grown to a team of just under 10, with plans for bringing on additional staff in the near future.
The daily newsletter brings in a seven-digit revenue and netted $1.1 million in September, according to documents reviewed by Business Insider. Pierson says that she has been able to capitalize on the high-intent readership of newsletters to help her translate the Newsette audience into partnerships with brands like Amazon.
“Once advertisers began reading the newsletter and realizing how much engagement we had and how many eyeballs were actually on the newsletter, they realized, ‘Wait a minute, I could be spending a lot less money and getting a lot more results,'” said Pierson.
Here is the growth strategy that Pierson used to grow Newsette from a bootstrapped Mailchimp product into a million-dollar operation.
Early ambassador programs
Before ambassador programs became the preferred marketing strategy of direct-to-consumer brands, Pierson recognized the appeal of leveraging her network to reach new audiences.
In 2015, when Newsette was less than a year old, Pierson began reaching out to her friends and distant contacts on Facebook, offering them a resume line-item and some free merchandise in exchange for promotion. Back then, the direct style of ambassador recruitment felt very guerilla, says Pierson.
“I’m pretty sure that this was so sketchy, but I would go on the Facebook pages of my friends’ friends, and I would message them, saying, ‘Hey, I’m interning for this really cool company. Do you want to become an ambassador? You just have to get 10 people to subscribe,'” said Pierson.
It worked. Pierson credits her first 10,000 subscribers to grassroots efforts like this, which helps explain their popularity today.
Audience-borrowing from influencers with highly shareable visuals
One of the best ways to boost your audience is to borrow someone else’s, which is exactly what Pierson did through her interview program.
As Newsette expanded, Pierson reached out for interviews with female influencers with larger and larger followings. After the interview, the subject of the piece would share the newsletter with their following, introducing Newsette to an entirely new audience.
According to Pierson, the key is to make it easy and appealing for the interview subject to share, which means creating custom visuals that the interviewee will want to share with their following.
“We would feature a blogger with 50,000 followers, create a beautiful asset for her to share on her social media, and then her followers would subscribe,” said Pierson. “After that, I’d get a bigger blogger and do the same thing.”
Newsette is a newsletter, and only a newsletter. The brand has a website, but Pierson says her team is working to hide and eventually phase out the site, which features a smattering of old articles and interviews.
The team behind the Newsette newsletter also aggregates most of its content from other sites, linking to publishers like People and Vogue. Outside of the original interviews and occasional features, Newsette focuses mostly on acting as a resource for readers, rather than creating its own material.
There is also a Newsette Instagram and Twitter, but they mostly republish newsletter content or share posts from peers, and there are no podcasts, Patreons, or Discord channels.
By keeping the Newsette product lean, Pierson was able to stretch her efforts more effectively; a small team can try to do a half-dozen things somewhat well, or two things masterfully.
According to Pierson, this precision helps keep the Newsette value proposition clear and simple: a newsletter filled with links, news, and contacts for upwardly mobile young women.
“We are 100% focused and zeroed-in on being a daily email newsletter that is an intimate conversation between the woman reading it and her inbox,” said Pierson. “It feels very one-on-one, and we do not believe in the website model.”