Below are the key insights from the conversation.
1. If you try to be everything to everyone, you’ll do nothing great for anyone.
The entire premise of Jacob’s success is the strength and viability of niche media.
“I'm very clear about who my audience is. I'm talking about people who are either running their own media companies, or who are responsible for specific functions within that media company. It's a very clearly defined audience. The way I like to think about it is if you try to be everything to everyone, you'll do nothing great for anyone.”
2. Diversify your revenue streams.
Donnelly acknowledges that the subscription revenue model is incredibly popular right now, but urges other media operators to think beyond subscriptions to truly maximize revenue generation potential.
"There's no reason you have to rely on a single stream of revenue to do everything. It's just it's not necessary”
"I have a paid subscription. I will sell advertising in my newsletter. Why wouldn't I write perhaps one day I'll do consulting. Why wouldn't I?"
3. Keep your day job.
Despite the success of A Media Operator, Jacob feels strongly about keeping his day job, as it can often inspire his writing and vice versa.
“I think having a day job actually makes you better at this. Especially if what you're writing about is related to what you do during your day job.
So by day, I work at a media company, right? I'm in charge of digital revenue at a media company. So I think about on a daily basis how to grow that business.
That gives me things to think about and therefore write about when I write my newsletter at night.”
4. “The individual today will be the new niche media company tomorrow”
In terms of the future of niche media, Jacob believes that it is unlikely that the industry will be dominated by solo creators.
“What I think will likely happen is, a lot of these individuals will start solo and then they'll want to grow and then they'll start to hire people. And the next thing, you know, three, four years down the line, suddenly they've got a media company of 10-15 people. The individual today will be the new niche media company tomorrow.”
5. Beat subscription fatigue with B2B publications.
Jacob originally thought subscription fatigue was going to be an issue for his newsletter, but quickly realized that targeting B2B media solved this problem.
If your writing helps somebody make money, and they can expense it, they're much less likely to churn.
I'm a big fan of B2B media. When you throw something on a corporate card, which you can do with B2B media, fatigue is less of an issue.
He explained the psychology of a B2B reader:
If they get one good piece of information for $400 that then helps the business earn hundreds of thousands of dollars, they aren’t concerned. That's a rounding error.”
And there's more good news: there are many, many of these niches online.
“It is hard to fathom just how large the internet is."
6. Looking for topic inspiration? Pay attention to what you react to.
If you’re having trouble figuring out what to write about, Donnelly suggests making note of topics that stir up a strong reaction in your personal and professional life.
“Reacting to things is a good way to get you started. So if you are reading something and it gives you a reaction, pause and think about what that reaction is about, and if it's because you disagree with their approach. If you do, what was the approach that you would do instead? There’s your topic.”
You can learn about Jacob Donnelly and his published works by subscribing to his newsletter, A Media Operator. Follow him on Twitter here.