How to grow your newsletter faster in 2022

23+ of the best channels, strategies and trends to get more newsletter subscribers and explode your email-list growth.

Based on what's working for thousands of the top media brands and newsletter operators we work with at SparkLoop.

CONTENTS

What's inside:

Trends

The 5 most important changes that'll impact your newsletter growth in 2022

TREND #1:

Paid social is too expensive

Several factors like the new privacy measures in iOS 14 increased the cost of traditional social ads in 2021.

A majority of newsletter operators we surveyed said that subscriber acquisition costs via Facebook & Instagram ads have become prohibitively expensive. And are now actively looking to diversify into channels with a better ROI.

We expect this trend to continue into 2022.

TREND #2:

More effective monetization

As the new wave of internet-first media brands matures, so do their business models.

In 2021, we saw the best newsletters make a clear shift away from subscription revenue, in favour of a blend of advertising and high-ticket products.

Great examples include Punchbowl News, who reached $10m revenue in their first year with only 10% coming from subscriptions. And Morning Brew's recent foray into high-ticket business education.

TREND #3:

Quality, not quantity

With newsletters exploding in popularity, newsletter fatigue became a real thing in 2021.

In 2022, producing "better than average" content won't be a viable option anymore. The new bar to meet is "top five things to hit my inbox this week".

Consistency and frequency remain important. But you'll need to focus on personality and quality to really move the needle.

TREND #4:

RIP paywalls?

As newsletters and media brands focussed on subscription revenue, the last five years saw a rise in paywalls.

But — with brands getting better at other methods of monetising — this trend seems set to reverse.

In 2022, your newsletter content wants to be free. Increasing your top-of-funnel acquisition and feeding into your (more effective) monetisation options.

Read more in this excellent article by Jacob Donnelly.

TREND #5:

Newsletter growth turns professional

In the early days of newsletters, audience growth was an afterthought. A part-time role carried out by someone copying what other amateur newsletter creators did before them.

That changed in 2021, as email-list growth became a top priority for newsletter operators and media brands alike.

In 2022, the best newsletter operators are taking a professional approach to audience growth — and seeing an explosion in results.

Paid growth tips

The top 7 paid strategies & channels to explode your newsletter growth in 2022

PAID TIP #2:

Partner with influencers

Jenny Rothenberg — who led audience growth at Morning Brew — predicted in our interview that influencers would be their top subscriber acquisition channel in 2021.

If you haven't already, you definitely want to try partnering with influencers and thought-leaders in 2022.

The easiest way to get started? Reach out to the top referrers in your newsletter's referral program!

PAID TIP #3:

Add a referral program

2021 was the year newsletter referral programs went mainstream. And why not, when they reliably boost growth by 20-100% on average?

In 2022, thousands of the world's best newsletters will grow faster and more affordably with a SparkLoop referral program.

From creators like Tim Ferriss and James Clear, to top media brands like Punchbowl News and Front Office Sports.

Try our free referral growth calculator to predict how much faster your email-list will grow with referrals.

paid tip #4:

Work with ambassadors

Everybody knows that Morning Brew has a killer referral program. But did you know that most of their early growth came not from referrals... but from ambassadors?

If your newsletter audience hasn't hit the 6-figure mark yet — or you run a local media brand — then you definitely need to try out an ambassador program in 2022.

Oh — and our new SparkLoop "partners" tool makes creating and running your ambassador program a breeze.

Paid Tip #5:

Try running adverts on TikTok

The days of using Facebook and Instagram ads for fast, affordable subscriber acquisition are behind us.

But every new social platform represents a new opportunity to get in early.

Our hot tip for social growth in 2022 comes courtesy of Emanuel Cinca, founder of the Stacked Marketer newsletter...

He started running Spark ads on TikTok in December — and has seen very promising results so far.

With TikTok only set to grow in 2022, this is one tip you'll want to try out sooner rather than later!

paid tip #6:

Use giveaways and sweepstakes

In 2021, we saw two giveaway strategies be highly effective for fast, affordable newsletter growth.

First up, "refer-to-win" giveaways. Used by operators like Tim Ferriss, 1440 and Front Office Sports to grow their audiences and drive sponsorship revenue.

Secondly, "parter sweepstakes". Where you partner with other brands and newsletters to run a shared giveaway and attract their audiences to your own email-list.

The engagement of new subscribers via sweepstakes can be low. But — if you want to grow quickly in 2022 — adding a monthly giveaway of some kind into the mix is a must!

Paid Tip #7:

Acquire another newsletter

Why pay to reach another newsletter's audience... when you could just buy the whole thing?

As Sara Fischer of Axios Media Trends reports, this year "you're going to see more consolidation [ in media and newsletters ] — more low hanging fruit continuing to get scooped up".

With everyone else on a spending spree in 2022, can you afford not to have a merger/acquisitions plan this year?

Free growth tips

The 11 most effective ways to grow your email-list for free in 2022

Free tip #1:

Cross-promotions

If your newsletter (and budget) is on the smaller side, a great way to kick-start your audience growth is with cross-promotions.

Ask your subscribers what other newsletters they read. Then reach out to those newsletter operators and offer to mention their newsletter in your newsletter, if they'll do the same for you.

The result? Free audience growth.

Or maybe even try a newsletter takeover — where you write a guest edition for their newsletter, and they write one for you. Like in this example from Josh Spector and Trevor McKendrick.

free Tip #2:

Run a sponsored referral giveaway

We've already talked about how effective newsletter referral programs can be at boosting growth. But did you know they can be cash-flow-positive too?

In 2021, hundreds of newsletter operators partnered up with sponsors to run sponsored referral giveaways.

The sponsor provides the giveaway prize at no cost (often even paying to do so). And your audience makes referrals to enter the prize draw.

The result? You grow fast, for free.

free tip #3:

Publish to the web

There's one thing that won't change in 2022... newsletters still have a huge discovery problem.

And hiding your best content inside of the inbox won't help that.

Help more people discover and share your content by publishing it on the web. Like Brennan Dunn from the Create & Sell newsletter does.

free Tip #4:

Repurpose your content

Most newsletter operators will tell you they spend 80% of their time creating content and 20% promoting it.

But the most successful, fastest-growing newsletters? They spend 50% creating and 50% promoting. And they manage to reach 10-100x more people with the same amount of effort.

In 2022, what can you do to repurpose your content and promote it across different channels and formats?

free tip #5:

Improve your opt-in incentives

At SparkLoop, we talked to a lot of newsletter readers in 2021. And one thing is clear... your audience loves receiving newsletters — but they hate signing up for them.

So — in 2022 — you need to improve your opt-in game. And that means no more "subscribe to the newsletter" forms.

Instead, you need to be providing instant value in return for the email address. Coupon codes, free courses, exclusive content and quizzes are all examples we've seen work well in 2021.

Free Tip #6:

Make the newsletter more shareable

James Clear's 3-2-1 Thursday newsletter is one of the fastest-growing newsletters on the internet. Reaching one million subscribers in 2021.

Here's the key: His entire newsletter is formatted to be easily shareable. With bite-size quotes alongside prompts to share on Twitter.

Combined with James' SparkLoop referral program, it's no wonder thousands of people are sharing his newsletter every month.

How can you make your newsletter more shareable in 2022?

free tip #7:

Invest in community

A major challenge for newsletter operators is that newsletters are one-to-many communication. Your subscribers interact with you, but not each other.

To unlock significant word-of-mouth and revenue growth, that needs to change. Your audience needs to interact with each other.

And that means investing in community (yes, it's 2022's marketing buzzword. But it's legit).

There's a common theme of fast-growing newsletters investing in community. Like the #SEOFOMO newsletter's regular live Twitter Spaces events. Or The Hustle's paid Trends community.

free Tip #8:

Experiment with exclusivity

When everyone else zigs, sometimes it's best to zag.

in 2021, most newsletter operators opened up their content and removed gating. But some did the complete opposite — and saw amazing results.

Greg Isenberg and Sahil Bloom launched a completely exclusive newsletter, for example. To get access, you had to make three referrals. And they grew from zero to a five-figure audience in weeks.

Others, like the Marketing Examined newsletter, have an exclusive section inside the newsletter. To unlock access, you have to refer a friend.

free tip #9:

Play with send frequency

At SparkLoop, we've yet to meet a newsletter operator who increased the frequency of email sends and regretted it.

Instead of one long weekly email, why not send two short ones instead? Or maybe even three?

Not only does an increased frequency boost reader engagement with your content, you'll also have more opportunities for sponsorships and sharing. Win-win!

free Tip #10:

Improve retention

Newsletter growth isn't only about acquiring new subscribers. You need to retain existing ones too.

And a small investment here can yield big results.

When The Duckbill Group added a preferences center across their newsletters — giving subscribers control over what kind of email they receive and how often — their unsubscribe rate dropped by more than 50%.

Discover more examples of effective preference centers at SmartSubscriber.

free tip #11:

Permissionless co-marketing

This is a big trend to lean into in 2022. Especially if you're struggling to grow via traditional channels.

The easy version: Make a systematic effort to highlight relevant brands and creators with similar audiences to yours in your newsletter wherever possible. By doing so, you'll increase the likelihood of them sharing your content with their own audiences.

Make sure you're only doing this in an authentic way that adds value for your subscribers though.

Find out what SparkLoop would do for your email-list

Schedule an intro call