Mario Gabriele, former Venture Investor at Charge Ventures and founder of The Generalist newsletter, joinsto discuss the growth of the consumer media market and the benefit of building your business in public.
The summary below was prepared for Compound Writing, a paid invite-only community of online writers. Apply here
1. Media consumption is at an all-time high and more people are willing to pay for it.
In response to concerns around market saturation and demand writers, Mario believes there’s never been a better time to launch a paid newsletter. According to a report from the World Economic Forum, “in an age of fake news and misinformation, good quality content is more valuable than ever.” The 9,100 individuals surveyed consumed an average of 23.6 hours of content on a weekly basis, with 53% of respondents willing to pay for news in the future and 73% of respondents willing to pay for entertainment in the future. Mario believes this data, along with the proliferation of online tools and services, provides a promising outlook for the individual creator economy. “You can see that now with the amount of chatter there is on Twitter, for example, around the creator economy from VCs. So many VCs are trying to find places to put capital into this space right now.”
2. Interesting content is a must.
Mario understands that the quality of his writing is the most critical aspect of his business. “Above all, I have to write interesting stuff that people want to read. Otherwise it's not going to work.” He acknowledges that ensuring content is interesting is easier said than done, however. Gabriele frequently relies on curated communities to inspire his writing. “I think that's one of the things that I've found really interesting, how much of the content is now being driven by the community rather than folks just reading something and commenting on it. They're now starting to ask for what they want and thoughtful analysis.”
3. Think outside the subscription model with courses and eBooks.
Gabriele plans to monetize *The Generalis*t, via the subscription model, but sees the value of exploring other revenue streams. “The tech ecosystem is very centered around the subscription model for these newsletters, probably because investors realize subscriptions get valued much more highly than ad hoc revenue, but it may not be the best way to maximize your earnings. James Clear is a really good example. His newsletter is free, and it's read incredibly widely. In it, he certainly drives you to purchase his book, or to join his courses. Anytime he drops a course, he's minting a million plus dollars overnight. I don't know if he would be able to do that with subscriptions. It's also a way to reach some scale. Theoretically, if you create a course, much of it is “build once and maintain” rather than “build, build, build, build,” and which is really the subscription model. You just have to keep justifying that expense.”
4. Publish. Then republish.
Since quality writing requires a significant time and effort investment, repackaging and republishing your pieces on different platforms can exponentially increase reach. “LinkedIn algorithms are hungry for native content, for one thing.” Mario continues, “I try to maximize the reach for different articles by mixing them slightly each time and bringing something new to the equation. I recognize that there are different readers or consumers at each point.”
5. Focus on collaboration instead of competition
Mario has worked with many collaborators in The Generalist. When asked whether he worried about partnering with other writers specializing in overlapping industries, he said he didn’t. “I think we're all so tiny, that if we are fighting with each other for this really small enclave of attention, none of us are going to succeed. Realistically this is a movement away from massive media companies, you know? Maybe people read a little bit less on the New York Times or Wall Street Journal or TechCrunch. I think there's much more to be gained by us collaborating and working together. Keeping those people too far apart. Ultimately great stuff comes out of collaboration that always helps me, especially in leveling up my learning.”
6. Vulnerability is an asset.
Mario believes that transparency in the creative process can actually drive growth. “I think people respond to vulnerability. If you're willing to say, ‘I think this is going well, but I think I'm really messing this up,’ I think people like to see that. At least in my own life, if I see a creator sharing that. I feel a kinship that I think can make a difference.”
7. Share your problems. You might just find a solution.
In the same vein, Mario emphasizes that expressing your business challenges openly with your audience doesn’t make you look weak; it can actually help you crowdsource solid advice. “I think by surfacing problems publicly, you get solutions.” When he was considering his options for incorporating The Generalist, Mario posed the question to his readers and received diverse responses that ultimately influenced his final decision. “I would have figured that stuff out on my own for sure, but it was really nice and awesome to hear it from other people, and that they were willing to chime in.”
8. Most people quit after three months. Don’t be most people.
Mario encourages fellow writers to find consistency in their practice for the best results. “I've had so many friends that start something like this and they run it for three months, and it does well, but they just get tired of doing it. Or, you know, they miss one week because something comes up, and then they miss the second and the third, and then eventually they realize, ‘I can live without this.’ I think just consistency of publishing and sticking with it makes a huge difference. It separates you from the folks that are still going to write and share stuff online, but maybe don't want to take it to the level that someone who wants to make it their full time job would.”
9. Go public with your writing sooner, even if it’s uncomfortable.
When asked what kind of advice he would give himself a year ago as he was launching The Generalist, Mario stated that he wished he had publicized his early writing a lot sooner. “It's harder to share publicly. People feel embarrassed to say ‘I have 10 subscribers and I went up to 12’, instead of ‘I have 1000 and went to 2000. But I think it would have been really beneficial to me. I wish I'd had the courage to do that.”