How to Build a Media Company Around Your Niche with Jacob Donnelly

Why media doesn't scale and the near-endless supply of niche opportunities

Jacob Donnelly, the founder of A Media Operator, joins Stew Fortier to discuss niche media, diversifying revenue streams within your newsletter, and using your career to inspire your writing.

This summary was prepared for Compound Writing, a paid invite-only community of online writers. Apply here

🌍 “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.”

💸 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. “You can do more than one, right? 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? You know, there's no reason you have to rely on a single stream of revenue to do everything. It's just it's not necessary”

💼 Keep your day job.

Despite the success of The 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.”

👤“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.”

👔 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. “These are tiny companies from a revenue perspective and the audience sizes are huge out there. It is hard to fathom just how large the internet is. But that's also why 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. I've got an industry subscription. I don't read it every day, right? I have it through my corporate card, and it just renews and I just expense it. If I 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.”

🤔 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.

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