Paid Acquisition Crash Course

How to grow your newsletter profitably with ads with Facebook (Meta) ads

Welcome to Newsletter Operator!

In today’s issue:

  • How to grow your newsletter profitably with ads (The most in-depth guide on paid marketing for newsletters)

  • Psychology of Marketing acquired by StackedMarketer

  • The Hustle’s email marketing formula

  • And more…

Deep Dive

Warning: What you’re about to read is dense. There may be some terms you don’t know (google them) or some things that are hard to understand without a visual/video aid.

I recommend opening a Meta business account, and setting up a draft campaign as you read this article so you understand it fully.

There’s also things you need to have in place before you explore paid acquisition. I explain those and link to resources below.

First off, why use paid ads to grow a newsletter?

1/ The most successful newsletters use paid as their primary growth source:

  • Milk Road - Grew to 250k subscribers and was acquired for 7 figures in 10 months. 85%+ of all subs from paid marketing. Over 150k subscribers from FB ads alone.

  • The Hustle - Grew to 2M+ subscribers and was acquired for ~$27M in 4 years. Most growth from paid marketing. Over 1M subscribers from FB ads alone.

  • 1440 Media - 2.3M subscribers. Majority of growth from social ads.

  • TLDR Tech - 1M+ subscribers. Most growth from social ads.

  • MorningBrew, IndustryDive, WorkWeek, and many more top newsletters also get the majority of their subscribers from paid acquisition.

2/ If your subscriber LTV is over $10-$20, why not pay $2-$3 (or less) per subscriber from ads and grow your business faster?

With paid ads done well, you can invest 1 dollar and get 2, 3, or more dollars back over time. This is how most businesses grow. However, media companies often don’t think about paid marketing this way.

3/ It’s very hard to scale to hundreds of thousands or millions of subscribers without paid marketing.

Organic growth channels get saturated. People get burnt out on content creation. The growth methods that got you to 10k or 100k subscribers may not take you to the next level.

4/ It’s not as hard or as time-consuming as you think

There are marketing consultants and agencies that want advertising to seem extremely complicated (so you hire them and don’t do it yourself).

But often the best businesses at paid marketing to it themselves (internally) and don’t outsource.

(That said, I have a marketing agency and agencies and consultants help a lot of businesses.)

However, Facebook, Google, and other ad platforms have made running profitable ads easier than ever.

If you…

  • Use the best practices to set up your ads (I’ll outline them below)

  • Set up tracking and analysis correctly (which takes <1 hour)

  • Make great ad creative (images, videos, and copy)

  • Have a great newsletter and product

…Then you can grow your business with ads.

In fact, in a 9-minute read, I’ll show you how to set up your ads in under 2 hours and manage them in less than 30 minutes per week.

And most importantly, grow your newsletter and business profitably with ads.

When should you start paid marketing?

  • You have content-market fit and thousands of subscribers

  • You successfully and consistently monetize your subscribers

  • You have a product or service to sell to newsletter subscribers

If you’re just starting out, this isn’t for you yet. Focus on growing your audience on social media and converting those views and followers to subscribers.

Check out my guide on how to get your first 1,000 subscribers here.

What ad platform should you use?

  • 95% of newsletters should start with Facebook (aka Meta) ads

  • Google ads don’t work well for newsletters. There are not enough people searching for newsletters and CPA from search ads, Youtube, and other Google ad placements are high.

  • LinkedIn is good for B2B newsletters but costs are much higher.

  • Twitter is improving its ad platform but it’s not great yet.

  • TikTok is a good option but for most advertisers, FB works better (and TikTok could be banned soon).

TLDR: Start with FB ads. Then you can take your learnings to other platforms after you have success on FB.

Plus, most other ad platforms modeled their advertising UX from Facebook ad manager. So if you learn FB ads, that experience will carry to other ad platforms.

What results should you expect?

If done well:

  • CPA (cost per subscriber acquisition) can be $1.00-$3.00

  • Ad subscriber open rates are ~5% less than overall open rates

  • Payback period can be 1 to 4 months

These numbers are based on my experience running ads for over 20 newsletters.

Do this before you set up FB ads

1/ Make a great landing page and thank you page.

After a user subscribes to your newsletter they must be redirected to a new URL (your thank you page). This ensures FB can accurately track subscribers.

Here are my guides on how to make a high-converting landing page and a thank you page.

2/ Install the FB pixel on your website.

If you use Beehiiv or Converkit, you just need to copy your pixel ID and paste it into your website analytics settings.

3/ Set up segmentation

You need to see how FB ad subscribers engage with your newsletter and buy your product(s).

Beehiiv makes this easy with the Segmentation and Subscribers Report features.

  • If you send ad traffic to your beehiiv landing page with a UTM tracking link (more on this later), you can track the open rate, CTR, and more metrics from those subscribers.

Convertkit takes a few more steps:

  • Create a duplicate landing page and form (you’ll now only use this for FB ads)

  • Create a tag and segment for all subscribers who join from this form

  • If you have an email sequence(s), create a duplicate sequence to send FB ad subscribers into

  • If you sell a product(s) with that sequence, change the tracking links in your emails so they identify those clicks as FB ad subscribers

If you use another ESP, switch to Beehiiv or Converkit

If you’re trying to build a newsletter-focused business these are the only platforms worth using. Yes, there are expectations but most are at the enterprise level.

With Upscribe, you can recommend other newsletters when a user signs up for yours and get paid for those referrals. Most newsletters pay $2-$3 per successful recommendation.

My clients are seeing $1-$3 earnings per subscriber (EPS) from Upscribe. This means if you acquire a subscriber from FB ads for $2 and make $2 from Upscribe your ads break even on day 1.

This is a must-use tool if you want to grow with ads.

Join with my referral link below or read by deep dive on SparkLoop here.

How to set up your FB ads

1/ Campaign type.

Pick “Leads”. Then pick Website Leads at the ad set level.

Don’t make the mistake of running a “Traffic” campaign. This will get you lots of cheap clicks but few conversions.

Also, don’t use advantage campaign budget or A/B tests.

2/ Conversion Event & Custom Conversion

Select your FB pixel, then click, “Define a custom conversion”

Make a custom conversion the fires on your thank you page (see image). All you need to do is input a name (“sign up” or “subscribe”) and input your thank you page URL.

Now FB will track when a users reaches your thank you page URL from an ad and label them as a “sign up”.

3/ Daily Budget

Your daily budget in each ad set should be $25-$50.

Why? Because you need 50+ conversions per week for ad optimization.

If your CPA is under $4.20 you’ll get 50+ conversions per week with a $30 daily budget. (And your CPA should be well below that).

4/ Audience

Location - If using Sparkloop Upscribe, select USA only. Most newsletters on Sparkloop only accepts subscribers from the US.

Age - 18-65+. Don’t narrow your age unless you have to. Rely on FB’s algorithm to show your ad to the right audience.

If you’re a B2B newsletter, you might select a minimum age like 24.

Genders - All genders unless your newsletter content is for one gender only. And even if it is, I would also try all-gender targeting. FB punishes you for narrowing your targeting.

Languages - If you targeting English speakers outside the US, CA, UK, and AUS, then select English only.

Custom audiences - If you have more than 5k subscribers, upload your email list and exclude them from your targeting.

Look-a-like audiences - These don’t work as well as they did in the past. Don’t use LALs unless you’re B2B or very nice. Then use 3%+ LALs

Detailed targeting

Detailed targeting = Interests, behaviors, job titles, and demographics

Use the search tool and suggestions to find: Topics you cover, other media companies, influencers in your niche, tools your readers use, events, and more.

I find these types of interests that work best for newsletters:

  1. Influencers (Gary Vee, Marie Forleo, Elon Musk)

  2. Other Publishers (MarketBeat, Vogue, CNN)

  3. Board Topics (Personal Finance, Fitness, Sports)

Select 10-20 interests that are most relevant to your audience. Then copy and paste those into a doc to save for later.

Audience Definition

Your audience size should be ~3M-30M (when you’re new to ads)

Pick the 1-5 most relevant interests to your audience for your initial targeting.

Later, when you hit 1k conversions, test broad audiences (18+ age, 200M+ size)


This is where your ads will show up on Facebook and Instagram. Select Feeds, Stories, Reels, and IG explore only.

5/ Ad creative

There are 6 elements to your ad creative:

  1. Identity (Facebook and Instagram page)

  2. Media (image or video)

  3. Primary text

  4. Headline

  5. Description

  6. CTA button

Your ad creative is the most important part of your ad campaign. I could write multiple newsletters about this, and I have…

Read these and make sure your ads look great on all placements.

Use UTM links to track subscriber engagement in Beehiiv and website traffic with Google Analytics.

  • UTM Source: facebookads

  • UTM Medium: [ Dynamic term for ad set name ]

  • UTM Campaign: [ Dynamic term for ad name ]

For example, my UTM tracking link looks like this:

[ LANDING PAGE URL ]/?utm_source=facebookads&utm_medium=[ Dynamic term for ad set name ]&utm_campaign=[ Dynamic term for ad name]

Dynamic terms that pull the name of your ad set and ad from FB ad manager into your URL.

To ensure the names are pulled into the URL, Beehiiv, and Google Analytics correctly, use snake case when you name ad sets and ads. Snake case separates each word with an underscore character.

7/ Test multiple ads

Use 3-6 ads per ad set. No more or less at the same time.

I recommend 2 copy variations and 2 media (image/video) variations to start (4 total ads).

It’s ok to start with just image ads, but you should make and test video ads too. (Video ads are always the best performers for my clients).

8/ Test multiple ad sets (audiences)

Test a minimum of 2 ad sets to start, and up to 6 if you have the budget.

Keep in mind that your budget is set at the ad set level and you’ll need to spend at least $25 per day on each ad set.

The ads in each ad set should be the same initially. Just duplicate and edit your original ad set to make more ad sets.

What audiences should you test?

More interests. Keep each ad set at an audience size of 3M-30M.

If you’re a niche or B2B newsletter, test a look-a-like audience in one of the ad sets.

9/ How to manage your ads

Wait for each ad set to get 50 conversions (sign-ups) and exit the learning phase before you make any changes. (This should take no more than 3-7 days).

Start by gardening your ads.

Go into the ads of an ad set, you’ll likely see that 1-2 ads got most of the impressions and conversions. That’s normal.

  • If there are ads at or below your target CPA, that’s great. Leave those on.

  • If you have ads at or below your target CPA and ads above your target CPA, pause the ads above your target CPA.

  • If you have ads that have 0 conversions and very few impressions after 7-14 days of running, pause those ads.

  • If you have ads with 1000-2000+ impressions and 0 conversions, pause those ads.

  • If all your ads are above your target CPA, pause 1 or 2 of the worst-performing ads. Not all of your ads. Test more new and improved ads.

Do this for the ads in each ad set.

You should almost always be testing 3-6 ads at once. So if you have had 4 ads and paused 2 due to low performance, create 2 more new ads to test.

The primary way you’ll lower your CPA is by creating new and better ad creatives.

10/ How to manage your ad sets

After your ad set exits the learning phase (gets 50 conversion in a week) OR after 7-14 days of having ads live. Do this:

  • If an ad set is WELL above your target CPA, you can pause it

  • If an ad set has 10k+ impressions and 0 conversions, you can pause it

Ideally you want to test 3-6 ad sets at a time. These ad sets should have a minimum budget of $25-$50 per day. But if your budget is low your can just test 1-2 ad sets.

Just like with ads, when you pause ad sets, test new one’s so you’re always testing 3-6 at a time (ideally).

When you look at your ad sets you likely see CPAs more similar than at the ad level. There won’t be as many changes to make here, as often.

11/ How to improve ad results

There are 5 main factors that affect your CPA (your ad results)

These are:

  • CPC (Cost Per Click) - The average cost for each click

  • CPM (Cost Per Mille) - Your cost per 1,000 impressions

  • Frequency - The average number of times a user saw your ad

  • CTR (Click Through Rate) - The percentage of times people saw your ad and clicked

  • CVR - (Conversion Rate) - What percent of users that click your ad subscribed (aka your landing page conversion rate)

You can see these metrics by creating customized columns in your FB ad manager.

Here are what benchmarks you should be shooting for:

  • CVR - >35%

  • CPC - <$1.20

  • CTR - >1.50%

  • CPM - <$20.00

  • Frequency - <1.30

If your ads are not at or better than these target benchmarks, here’s the problem and how to fix it.

12/ How to improve your Open Rate and CTR from ads

  • Don’t use double opt-in (20-50% won’t confirm)

  • Make sure your ads are focused on the benefits of your newsletter and newsletter content - Not on lead magnets, email gates, or curiosity

  • Make your first impression amazing (Your thank you page and welcome email).

  • Look at your open rate by source (platform), medium (audience), and campaign (ad creative). (By using UTM terms and segments)

  • If you have enough data, pause ads or ad sets (audiences) with low open rates / CTRs (enough data means: 200-1000+ subs and 30+ days on list)

The Best Links

📈 Growth

How Lenny Rachitsky grew his email list to over 377k (link)

Twitter open-sourced its algorithm. Here's everything you need to know. (link)

💰 Monetization

The Hustle’s email marketing formula (link)

Stop “selling” your newsletter ads. Do this instead. (link)

📬 Deliverability

StackMarketer’s email deliverability guide (link)


The 2 ways media companies scale to 8 and 9 figures (link)

📰 Newsletter News

Substack launches a Twitter competitor. Twitter blocks likes, comments, and RTs of substack links on Twitter, and Twitter embeds on Substack. (link)

StackedMarket acquired the Psychology of Marketing newsletter (link)

Substack: the $19M/year content LVMH (link)

A database of 500+ Beehiiv newsletters (link)


Get my free guide on how to grow your newsletter to 1,000+ subscribers in 30 days

Sign up to get instant access to the guide. Plus, more growth tactics, case studies, and industry news delivered to your inbox.

Join 16,000+ readers for free.


or to participate.