How The Hustle created a 100,000 subscriber email newsletter for millennials
Sam Parr came up with the idea for Hustle, a daily newsletter aimed at millennials, while emailing friends to promote HustleCon, a conference he was hosting around startup founders. The avalanche of responses he received made him realize that there was an opportunity to connect with millennials via email, and the Hustle was born. Today, email has 100,000 email subscribers.
“In the same way that Vice filled a voice somewhere between CNN and Fox News, we do it with business news, geared towards young, affluent audiences, somewhere between CNBC and the Wall Street Journal,” said Parr, a 26-year-old who co-founded the Hustle with John Havel.
Parr is an unlikely media mogul; the Nashville native was running a chain of hot dog stands when he sold them and moved to San Francisco where he met Havel, who was his Airbnb host.
After the pair worked on, and then sold, a phone app that matched roommates, Parr decided to hold what would be the first HustleCon. “I knew some tech people and wanted to do a youth conference that was like a TED talk but less dumb,” he said. “I created it from home and thought it would lose money, but I made $50,000 in the first six weeks.”
Twelve companies that spoke at the conference, including General Assembly, Amazon and Nerd Wallet, invested half a million dollars for Parr to grow the business. From the start, his irreverent tone was clear, as this manifesto shows. It’s called, “Watch our startup recklessly blow up $500,000.” Boyfriend!
Today, the San Francisco-based company has six employees and derives most of its revenue from HustleCon, which hosted 2,000 attendees this year. But the email newsletter is key to its growth. Native digital email advertising is set to soon overtake event revenue, with ads coming from companies such as online mattress seller Casper and investment firm Wealthfront. Parr said the company plans to add 10 to 15 positions over the next three months.
The daily newsletter has a unique open rate between 35 and 40%, well above the raw open rate (which is generally higher because it counts duplicate opens) for business and financial publications of 21.2 %, according to Mail Chimp email marketing company. By comparison, last year The New York Times had raw open rates between 50 and 70 percent for its email newsletters, but it wouldn’t provide unique subscriber numbers or open rates.
The email is used to direct people to the site, which Parr says gets between 500,000 and one million views a month (comScore couldn’t independently confirm this because traffic doesn’t meet its standards reporting minimums).
“Email allows us to scale quickly,” he said. “It’s cheap, it allows us to build an audience, and it’s intimate.”
In a twist, the Hustle relies on its fans to grow its user base. Readers are invited to become “ambassadors” who share their contacts to help the Hustle market its newsletter and conference. Ambassadors receive either a hoodie or a conference ticket (valued at $250-$400), depending on how many people they’re onboarding. The Hustle has 430 ambassadors and brought in 5,000 people to register for this year’s HustleCon through ambassadors in the first month, Parr said.
The Hustle has plenty of competition for readers from larger, more established publishers like Forbes and Business Insider, whose more than 45% of their unique visitors are between the ages of 18 and 34.
Hustle’s voice makes business news fun, and the email model will appeal to millennials who want to absorb content at their own pace, said Melanie Shreffler, chief information officer at Cassandra, the company has the right tone.
And while Hustle doesn’t see itself as a male-only publication, Shreffler said it was smart to skew men, with men (80%) more likely than women (73%) to say it’s important. for them to keep abreast of current events. and current events, according to Cassandra. “We call the trend ‘boys left behind’ because there are so many publications focused on young professional women,” she said.