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What I’ve learned from a weekly newsletter

I run a weekly newsletter focused on customer identity and access management (CIAM), and it just hit 53 issues, which means I’ve been writing it for about a year.

Thought I’d share things I’ve learned.

Weekly is a big commitment

Make sure you want to do this.

Writing a post every week is a bit of a grind. However, just like with blog posts, you can batch up newsletter posts. There are some weeks when I write three or four posts and schedule them out. This means that I can regularly take a week or two off.

Scheduling will vary based on your topic, of course. If I were writing a newsletter about news or current events, scheduling wouldn’t work.

But for many topics it’s a great way to keep the content flowing while not being tied to the keyboard every week.

Great way to keep on top of an industry

There’s a reason there are many newsletters with this approach. It’s a way to keep in front of interested readers, but it also forces you to keep on top of the particular industry you are writing about.

Due to the deadlines mentioned above, you’ll be forced to regularly think about new trends, find articles and books, and read people writing about the industry or topic you are writing about.

The corollary to this is to make sure you love the area you are committing to. If I wasn’t interested in CIAM, it would be a lot harder to write it. (Of course, nothing is forever, and when it makes sense, I might wind this newsletter down the same way I’ve stopped other projects.)

Have some way to keep track of good ideas

You never know when inspiration might strike.

I like to mail myself content and ideas that I think might apply. I write ‘for ciam weekly’ somewhere in the message.

Then, when I have time to sit down and write, I can search my email for ‘for ciam weekly’ and see all my proposed topics.

You could do something more organized like having a spreadsheet or a folder, but I feel like this works for my level of commitment.

You have to promote it

You have to promote the newsletter. You can’t expect people to find it. Places I’ve promoted it:

  • Hacker News (here’s a podcast I was on where I talk about how to interact with that site)
  • Various slacks I’m a member of
  • In other substacks (referrals)
  • My LinkedIn and Twitter (often scheduled)

Your list might look different but don’t forget you have to do this.

But. Don’t be a drive by promoter. I don’t post in places I don’t frequent.

You can vary between original articles and commentary

I have written some long form posts, in particular a series about the multiple ways user data gets into a CIAM system.

I have also written commentary, where I look at a blog post about password honeypots or other articles that discuss CIAM topics, and reflect on that content.

Both work fine; varying up the content is a great way to keep things interesting for me and my readers.

It’s a long game

I have 80 subscribers with an open rate that is around 50%. Some might look at that and say “after a year, you only have 80 subscribers” and shake their head.

I look at it and say “there are 80 people who want to read what I have to say about CIAM!? And at least half of them read it!”

Newsletters are powerful because they deliver your thoughts to your readers’ inboxes, but they are a long game, especially when niche.