I Acquired a Small Newsletter, Here’s What Happened

What happened, how we did it, and what I would do differently today

Deep Dive

I Acquired a Newsletter, Here’s What Happened

6 weeks ago I acquired a small newsletter called Newsletter Nerd.

Then I imported the subscribers and rolled it into my newsletter

Here’s what happened, how we did it, and what I would do differently today:

The Sale

Jay Yang reached out to me about selling Newsletter Nerd in October.

He was moving on to other projects and the newsletter was going to become inactive soon.

Jay had grown the newsletter to ~1,600 subscribers and did some monetization with beehiiv boosts.

We did a call to discuss the sale.

During the call, we covered 4 main topics:

1) I wanted to roll Newsletter Nerd into my newsletter. Not operate it independently.

Because it’s a small newsletter with little to no monetization, there’s no point in running it as an independent brand.

The value for me is audience growth.

2) How to value the newsletter

Because this is an audience acquisition play it makes sense to value the newsletter by subscriber amount.

We agreed on a cost-per-subscriber number on the call.

3) I did not want to pay for duplicate subscribers

We both have a newsletter about newsletters so there was going to be audience overlap.

Jay agreed to allow me to find duplicate subscribers by importing both of our email lists into a Google sheet before the sale.

We identified the email addresses I already had on my list. Then I only paid for unique new subscribers.

About 400-500 were already on my list. I ended up acquiring ~1200 new subscribers.

4) How to do the sale

Because the acquisition was small and there was mutual trust we did a handshake deal.

Jay added me as an admin to his beehiiv account and sent me an invoice for the newsletter sale.

I paid the invoice and then exported the list.

(I don’t recommend this if you’re buying a newsletter for more than $5k-$10k).

The Transition

Here’s how we rolled Newsletter Nerd into my newsletter.

Step 1 - We both made a simultaneous announcement on Twitter.

Step 2 - Jay sent an email to Newsletter Nerd subscribers announcing the news.

Step 3 - I imported Newsletter Nerd’s email list into my beehiiv account and they were automatically sent my welcome email.

Step 4 - 4 hours later I sent an email to that segment about the acquisition

Step 5 - 1 day later I sent an email (from Newsletter Nerd’s beehiiv account) to remind subscribers about the acquisition and transition.

That’s it.

It was a simple transition but those 5 steps were key to informing Newsletter Nerd subscribers about what was happening.

If I were to do it again, I would have had Jay send 1-2 more reminder emails about the transition after step 5.

The Engagement of Subscribers I Acquired

I added ~1200 new subscribers from the acquisition.

6 weeks later here’s the engagement of those subscribers:

  • 7 newsletter sent

  • 39.3% open rate

  • 8.2% CTR

  • 10.8 Unsub rate

  • 71% of opens from US

Unfortunately, engagement was lower than I expected.

I hoped engagement would match my overall list engagement (60% open rate, 12% CTR) but it did not.

Why was it lower?

I’m 100% sure but here are some possible reasons:

  1. The obvious reason - they didn’t voluntarily subscribe to my list. I bought them. These subscribers didn't join with the same intent as other subscribers.

  2. We didn’t publish enough reminders about the acquisition and transition. Maybe some of the audience was confused about why they were getting emails from me and they unsubscribed.

  3. Deliverability - When I imported and started sending to the list many of my newsletters may have landed in spam or promotions, so the new subscribers didn’t see them. (It’s hard to measure this).

  4. My newsletter content wasn’t relevant or interesting to them and they unsubscribed or stopped opening.

If I Were Buying a Newsletter Again, Here’s What I’d Do Differently

If I were buying a small newsletter that wasn't monetized like this again, here’s what I would do:

1) Pay less per subscriber

Because this newsletter had such a great audience match with mine, I slightly overpaid.

If I were acquiring a newsletter again I’d aim for a $0.30 to $1 cost per subscriber.

How much you pay per subscriber depends on audience quality, value, niche, and other factors.

But regardless of those I wouldn't pay more than $1 per subscriber.

2) Send more reminders about the transition

We sent 3 email announcements about the sale and transition to Newsletter Nerd subscribers.

Next time, I’d do 5-6 and have 3 of those reminders come from the previous newsletter owner.

It’s better to overcommunicate.

3) Heavily analyze the audience before buying

This is extremely important.

Jay added me to his beehiiv account to look at this before the sale. But I’m seeing many sales go down without this happening.

I wouldn't buy a newsletter without being added to their ESP where I can analyze the following:

  • Poll and survey responses

  • How the subscribers were acquired

  • Open rate, CTR, unsub rate, spam reports

  • What countries opens and clicks come from

  • How and how often the list was cleaned (if at all)

  • Engagement by segment + how it changes over time

  • What % of the list are Apple Mail Privacy Protection Users

  • And more…

The value of a newsletter subscriber varies wildly.

And there are so many ways people can juice their newsletter growth or engagement.

Don’t buy anything without getting insight into this.


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