How Console grew their email newsletter massively in just 5 months

Console is a newsletter that is dedicated to featuring interesting open-source projects. It was founded in September 2020 by Jackson and has since grown into a profitable enterprise with over 4,000 subscribers.

We caught up with Jackson to learn about his journey and to understand what it takes to become a successful newsletter.

Tell us a bit about Console?

Console is a weekly newsletter about open-source software.  It features interesting open-source projects that I find throughout the week and an interview with the developer of one of the projects.

What is your background and what made you start Console?

I originally went to school for music, but taught myself how to program while on tour.  After leaving the music business, I went back to university for computer science and eventually ended up at Amazon as an engineer.  I’ve been at Amazon since graduation and am currently working in Alexa on data privacy.  

I started Console because while I was in university I worked at a research lab where I was primarily working with open-source projects.  After I joined Amazon I realized how rare it is to have that opportunity and I missed it.  Console is my way of keeping one foot in open-source and another in big tech.

What media does Console use to deliver content to its readership?

Console is an email newsletter that includes git metadata about the projects being featured, as well as images and/or gifs of the featured project logos.

How have you monetized Console?

Console is currently monetized via advertisement.

What benefit have advertisers derived from advertising with you?

New customers!  Just this weekend I had a Console reader reach out and let me know they signed up for the advertiser’s offering that week.

If it isn’t too much to ask, how much is Console making? Are you self-sufficient?

Console currently averages around $600 a month in revenue.  I know I could increase this if I instead made it a paid newsletter, but I’d prefer to keep it free for now.  Since I currently have a day job, I don’t need the cash.  In fact, the only reason I started looking for advertisers was to prove that I was providing value in order to continue spending my time on the project.

Wow! How long did it take you to get to that point?

The first Console email went out last September, and the first advertisement was in the January 10th email.

What was the biggest hurdle or surprise you faced when you first started?

When I started Console it was originally a tech news roundup and I was reviewing open-source projects on a YouTube channel.  After realizing that people could get tech news from a myriad of places and that no one wanted to watch me investigate open-source projects on YouTube I decided to pivot the YouTube channel to the newsletter and get rid of the news.

Was it expensive to start Console? What are the costs involved with running Console?

The only costs have been advertisements in other places.  Right now, the majority of the revenue is driven back into the business in an attempt to grow the subscriber count.

How did you grow and retain your readership? 

The growth has primarily been driven by word of mouth.  When I include projects I’ll tweet to the maintainers and they’ll occasionally retweet or like the tweet, and the same goes for the interviewee.  In fact, I originally started doing the interviews as a growth mechanism, but soon they became the focal point of the newsletter and my favorite part.

What tools do you use to help you run Console, and which is most underrated in your opinion? 

I need better tools… ha ha  I use draft Medium posts to keep track of projects that I’m considering including in Console and Google docs to conduct the interviews.

If anyone has any suggestions I’d love to hear them 🙂

Finally, any top tips for people starting a new newsletter?

It is highly likely that no one wants to read your writing, and no amount of volume is going to change that.  Instead, figure out how to provide value to your readers by finding information that’s useful to them, like Scott’s Cheap Flights, for example.

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