6 mins

Friday Feature: Growth In Reverse

How Growth In Reverse has hit 30k subscribers with a focus on content.

Sameer Ansari

How Chenell Basilio grew Growth In Reverse to 30k subs with "better" content.

If you write a newsletter, you probably know Chenell Basilio and her newsletter Growth In Reverse.

And if you don’t—you should.

Chenell spends 20+ hours each week reverse engineering how the biggest newsletter operators grew from 0 to 50K+ subscribers and beyond.

And then she sends it to your inbox. For free.

Chenell sent her first edition to 4 subscribers. She’s since grown it to 30K+ subscribers organically in the past year.

How exactly?

In this week’s Friday Feature, you’ll learn how Chenell…

  1. Leans into in-depth research to stand out
  2. Engages with community
  3. Keeps her content 100% free (while still monetizing)

Ready? Let’s dive in!

#1 - In-depth research to standout from competition

Despite users spending billions of minutes watching short-form content like TikTok and Reels, long-form content is *not* dead.

Not in the least.

Create something worth consuming, and people will consume it.

And this is 100% the case with Growth In Reverse.

Each deep dive often exceeds 2000 words. That’s no quick read.

And her readers love it:

Why? Her depth of research. More specifically—that she does more than anyone else for this niche.

Even the creators Chenell writes about are impressed by her depth of research.

🧐 Why it’s awesome

Differentiation: Most newsletters don’t make the time investment to really go deep. Doing so is a differentiator. 

Authority building: Consistently doing quality, in-depth research on a topic will help position you as the go-to person on the topic. Which can open you up to a lot of opportunities.

🙋 How Growth In Reverse Does It

Chenell’s content is definitely better. Her thorough research provides valuable insights and unearths lesser-known growth tactics. 

Here’s her process.

#1 - Google search

After deciding which creator she wants to write the next deep-dive on, Chenell conducts a Google search for information about them and their newsletter.

At the top of this document is her Email Ideas Storage Bin section, where she stores ideas to write about. These ideas could be random or reader suggestions.

It helps her avoid writer's block and start writing immediately, instead of staring at a blank page.

# 2 - Consumes content

She reads and watches everything the person has shared about their newsletter and its success.

# 3 - Finds past interviews

Chenell listens to past podcast interviews of the creator to find what helped them at the beginning of their growth and plot a growth timeline…

Like this:

# 4 - Social Media

She uses Tweethunter to browse the person’s Twitter/X to find their top posts and any mention of their growth strategies.

#5 - Collating the data

After researching the content, she dumps all the links in one Google doc. The next step is to create the content outline and start writing.

✏️Steal this for your newsletter​

Chenell’s success is proof of the power in providing better deep dive content than anyone else. 

Follow her lead and do a topic “better” than anyone else. Or, do it differently. 

Jimmy Daly shares two ways you can stand out in content marketing:

Do it better.

Which means “creating content similar to what’s out there, just bigger, better, longer, etc.”


If other newsletters are covering the same topic as you but aren’t doing a great job at it, create content that’s 10X better. Like Chenell does. Share unique insights, go more in-depth than anyone else, sweat the details, and use infographics and videos.

Do it differently.

When competition is strong, create a new formula. “Think of Buffer sharing their salaries, Mattermark’s daily curation, or Ben Thompson's analysis. It's much easier to grow a site when you have a formula that breaks the mold.”—Jimmy Daly, Animalz.co

#2 - Engaging with community for growth

Currently, Chenell repurposes her newsletter on LinkedIn and Twitter to grow her subscribers.


But, initially, community engagement was the biggest contributing factor to her growth.

🧐 Why it’s awesome

Long-term benefits: When you spend time nurturing relationships, it can lead to successful partnerships, podcast interviews, cross-promotions, and more. 

Community building: Interacting with your subscribers, replying to their comments, and addressing their concerns makes them feel they’re part of a community. They’ll be more inclined to reciprocate with regular feedback and word-of-mouth growth.

Increased visibility: Active engagement with your readers can increase your newsletter’s visibility…

  • Within the platform. Email replies help your sender reputation and get you into inboxes and out of email hell (aka the spam folder).
  • Across social media channels. People are more likely to discover your newsletter through comments, discussions, and shared content.

🙋How Growth In Reverse does it

Here are a few community engagement hacks from Chenell:

#1 - She appreciates people who share or comment on her content on social platforms

#2 - She also features folks in the From the Community section in her newsletter. But, she incentivizes these highlights: only newsletters that have referred 10+ subscribers earn a spot in the section.

It’s a win-win for her and her highlighted readers!

#3 -  She sends personal “Thanks for subscribing!” notes to any new subscribers that she recognizes

#4 - Chenell uses Google Analytics to know who referred her subscribers. She emails the person, thanking them for recommending her newsletter to their audience.

✏️ Steal this for your newsletter

Follow what Chenell does.


Create a challenge or host giveaways: Anthony Castrio shared with us how he created the Speedrun 1000 challenge to involve his community—which helped him grow for free via word-of-mouth. Aleyda Solis uses giveaways to grow hit newsletter milestones like 10k, 20k, and 30k subscribers.

Incentivize sharing: Reward readers to share your newsletter. You can set up a Referral Campaign on SparkLoop with a few clicks to do this.

#3 - Monetizing with FREE content

If you were putting in 20+ hours into each edition like Chenell, the paid newsletter route would be *very* appealing. Charging a newsletter subscription is a popular monetization strategy that’s worked for a lot of newsletter operators.

And it would certainly “work” for Growth In Reverse.

But Chenell told us she doesn’t want to put her existing content behind a subscription paywall. She wants to keep it free—as long as she can monetize in other ways.

🧐 Why it’s awesome

Wider audience reach: Keeping your content free attracts a larger audience.

More advertising revenue: More subscribers can command higher ad rates and more revenue.

Upselling opportunities: A free newsletter can act like a Trojan Horse into your business (like Michael Houck explained to us). Getting subscribers into our ecosystem offers the opportunity to monetize through sponsored content, selling digital products or services, hosting workshops, and more.

🙋How Growth In Reverse does it

Here’s how Chenell monetizes to keep her high-quality newsletter free for her subscribers:

#1 - Ads:

They contribute the most to her newsletter revenue.

Here’s how she started with sponsorships:

#2 - Coaching:

Chenell has become an authority in the newsletter growth space. She now coaches other operators on how to grow their newsletters.

#3 - Affiliates:

She earns affiliate commissions by promoting products/courses.

Apart from these revenue streams, Chenell told us she’s considering a paywall for her content—but that would be for *extra* content beyond the regular weekly deep-dives.

✏️ Steal this for your newsletter

You can gate your newsletter with a paywall—but you don’t have to. 

Keep content free with Chenell’s monetization strategy mixing ads, services, and affiliates.

Bonus tip: You can use SparkLoop to get paid to share & recommend the world’s best newsletters to your subscribers. Start for free today →

Adding it up…

Chenell has risen in the newsletter industry within months—thanks in a large part to her in-depth research guides. 

Use her growth playbook as an inspiration to grow your own newsletter.  

And be sure to subscribe to her newsletter to learn from other newsletter operators. 

Here are 3 things to do next:

Give us your take: what newsletter is doing something different and innovative we should feature next? Maybe it's yours... EMAIL US and let me know!

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