Madison Minutes is the newsletter that wants to be your email friend. It has gained a following of 8,500-plus subscribers in less than a year through a number of organic and paid marketing strategies.
A product of the pandemic, Madison Minutes launched in April 2021 on a shoestring. The organization does not operate a website, instead opting to go “all in” on email.
So, how’d the newsletter that delivers local news, original and aggregated, gain such an audience so fast? Madison Minutes founder Sam Hoisington shared the startup’s story at the Social Media Breakfast Madison February event online (if you missed it, catch it on replay on our Facebook page).
It’s a tale of seeing a need and filling it by creating a useful, friendly and reader-focused news digest that they wanted to read paired with some digital marketing moxy. Here are the highlights:
Yes, really! Email is intimate and facilities a direct dialogue between creator and audience. Also, email delivers content without pop-up ads and is better at sustained relationships than social media.
“It’s just you and me and everyone else on the list,” Hoisington explained.
Madison Minutes is reader-focused using a news-you-can-use model and growing its base of subscribers through surveys and interviews. It pledges to be truthful and transparent, responsive to readers and to reflect Madison’s diversity in decisions.
Content is still King
Madison Minutes delivers a daily news update every weekday morning. It aims to be a quick but thorough aggregate digest of local journalism that delivers the best and most important stories from the Cap Times, Isthmus, Madison 365 and more.
On Sundays, there’s a supplemental weekly events email for weekly planning aid. It serves up a variety of 40 to 80 events, emphasizing happenings that are local and free.
These emails are not meant to replace local newspapers. It does fill gaps and try new methods for delivering news in a quick and useful format.
“We created these products just acknowledging that life is really hard,” emphasized Hoisington. “We make it so that you can set aside a small chunk of your day every day, get caught up on the news and move on to things that are more important to your personal life.”
Steal these ideas
Madison Minutes grew its subscriber list using a number of organic and paid marketing tactics that Hoisington says he wanted to try.
Through referral software Sparkloop, the organization did two giveaways. The first offered a photography print and the second $2,500 in local restaurant gift certificates through Madison Originals. Each referral became a chance to win. The big campaign included placing digital ads in Madison Magazine, Madison.com and Madison Mom.
Result: The smaller giveaway resulted in 235 subscribers for a $115 spend, or 48 cents per high-quality lead. The mega giveaway resulted in 882 subscribers for a cost of $3,100, or $3.59 a piece.
Facebook lead generation ads have proven successful and allows for message testing to boot.
Result: These ads yielded 4,085 subscribers at a cost of $8,869, or $2.17 per subscriber.
This method builds an audience by borrowing one. Offering cash per sign-up and ad credits, the newsletter worked with the Dane County Humane Society, Forward Theater and Tone Madison to send email blasts to their email list. These partnerships found subscribers through favorite nonprofits, leveling up shared interests and causes.
Result: Madison Minutes gained 825 subscribers for $2,772, or $3.36 per subscriber.
Fans sharing the sign-up link and directly referring friends has been a big driver of growth and shows that the newsletter is well-received. “We made a newsletter that people liked and focused on getting reader feedback and implementing it,” Hoisington said.
Result: 2,418 subscribers at a no-cash cost.
For more on what’s up next with Madison Minutes, check out the replay of the event. Or, get in touch with Sam or his co-founder Hayley Sperling at email@example.com.
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