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How We Automated 99% of Our Newsletter Business (thetechonomics.com)
107 points by chidog12 30 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 42 comments

I've attempted to build automated news systems in the past and have done so successfully a couple of times. However this is completely misleading as the work is not in publishing but instead is in the actual discovery, curation, and writing of content.

I don't know where the joke is from but if there is one about how engineers set up a blog it would go like this.

Normal person:

Goes to Medium, Wordpress, or somewhere else, starts writing and clicks publish.


1. Set up ReactJS for the front end

2. Set up a build system for automated deployments

3. Sets up MongoDB to store the articles they'll be writing

4. Sets up the backend to serve up the various articles

5. Builds an integration for Wordpress that enables Wordpress to pull and push (make sure both ways) to the MongoDB system that's storing the newsletters

6. Sets up all the integrations required for SEO

7. Sets up the integration testing framework

8. Write an article

9. Clicks publish

This is because an engineer's interest is not in the actual writing, but the creation of such a blog. To such engineers, I'd say that this is fine, but don't delude yourself into thinking that these are necessary steps to writing when there are much simpler ways, such as Medium or Wordpress as you say.

Agree. I think I've made nearly as many personal blog sites as I have actual blog posts.

To be more precise, it's a typical law of the instrument - for man with a hammer every problem looks like a sticking nail. Applicable to pretty much every area of human knowledge resulting things to be more complicated than they have to.

Grey beard: 1. Opens emacs 2. Writes the post in org-mode 3. Exports to html 4. rsyncs with a remote server

This or asciidoc, and I literally just git to my server with post-receive hooks that push to the public webserver dir. No sftp or rsync required.

> with post-receive hooks that push to the public webserver dir

Setting that up is just a different version of doing points 2 through 7 in the grandparent post's list...

(Though your direct parent post also left out the 30 years of "getting emacs set up just the way I like it"...)

You modern hipster

This kind of indirectly brings up a point I think more devs should think about:

Look at how much work it took you to get to 8 & 9.

Is it worth throwing away hours of work and getting 1/10 the engagement you could've gotten, in a rush to cross off 9? Of course not.

Thinking about your blog topics - what's going to engage your audience, what's going to bring it in front of more viewers - should be something you think deeply about.

Just consider elevating it beyond "what do I find interesting in this moment, at this second." Think - hard - with some Google research to back it up, and yes, maybe some tedious cross-checking of similar articles - What would people like to read, and what would get you a good return on the time you've sunk into this?

It's sad to spend 5 hours on something 4 people read, when 6 hours could've easily made it 200.

I think it depends on the writer. The more time I spend working on a piece of writing, the fewer people see it.

All of this is fun. Sometimes I feel like writing, and sometimes I feel like messing with the website or the server it runs on. These tasks scratch different itches.

In either case, I have all the time in the world. I'm not maximizing for engagement. I'm just having fun, and I'm learning something along the way.

People make chairs with expensive tools in expensive workshops. They could just drive out and buy one, but they're not trying to disrupt the sitting industry. They just enjoy the process of making chairs.

Lazy developer:

1. Write article in notepad

2. Create blog repo in github

3. Create issue and paste article

Article Title: How I Setup My Personal Website


Thanks for linking to that - the whole site is accurate, yet very funny.

In defense of the devblogger, build-a-blog is like "hello world" for every web framework.

Well, but static articles shouldn't need a web framework in the first place.

This is how I tried to start all the time and failed.

01.2017 I simply signed up for dev.to and started writing.

Best decision ever.

You nailed it, and even included all the security steps they go through.

Sometimes 8 & 9 are optional.

That’s half the fun. :)

This is something I did with my latest project Newsy (https://newsy.co) for those who are interested.

We built a tool to aggregate contents from various sources (e.g. news, videos, reddit posts etc) and then put them on a simple website (something similar to HN or Reddit).

The website then has a newsletter subscription feature and then latest / popular contents will be delivered.

Just checked out Newsy and created a site. Great concept and product! Excited to see if I get any traction from it.

Was going to try this out but the site looks very broken on my phone. (Green buttons overlapping)

Will work on that one! Sorry about that.

I just worked out I've edited and published 3607 newsletter issues over the past 10 years so I know a little bit about this and.. automating bits and pieces around the production of a newsletter is certainly time worth spent. But automating the actual inclusion of content? Maybe for certain types of content, but you don't build up a tone, a sense of audience, or a long term narrative this way.. it just becomes a link/data dump. It's not necessarily bad or unsuitable in every case, but automating curation is in most cases not a route to a long term, loyal audience IMHO.

Did he also somehow automate the writing of that blog post? It reads like a selection of cut-ups from other posts.

Automated newsletters is better known as spam.

Not all newsletters are spam, far from it. Additionally, most newsletters that I subscribe to are likely automated.

Curious, why subscribe to news letters?

My inbox is a queue.. but I read news as a stack, only the latest, discard stuff I don't make it to.

There are a few products I want to keep up on without actually having to go follow up on them. There are a few newsletters I enjoy that are things like "thoughts of the day" type things. A few that are technology based and either point to updates in, say, AWS or similar. It is not too unlike an RSS feed.

I'm in the throes of building a finance newsletter - https://topstonks.com

Building all the tech to aggregate the data is fun. Putting the newsletter together every day, less so. Newsletter fatigue is a real thing. This was super inspiring though, thanks for sharing!

You might enjoy Naked Capitalism: https://www.nakedcapitalism.com/

This is "keeping myself informed, whilst possibly having other people pay me"

it's a sensible idea.

I think i have a lot of side projects that with some effort might become something people would pay for (obvious thing is a auto delete flag like outlook rules in gmail)

> "If anyone is looking for a space to compete in… Referral Marketing!"

is this not already heavily competitive? have you tried getrewardful.com?

Perhaps this is frivolous, but why are so many random words capitalized in this article?

I'd be curious what their MRR is for this business.

Lost me at "I like WordPress for the ease of SEO"

Yeah, that one confused me too. There’s a checkbox when you setup wordpress the first time that says something about search engines, maybe that’s what he’s referring to? Could be a number of plugins that help with some aspects of SEO that google will soon penalize for.

My experience with high traffic sites is that most of the things that helped our SEO were things I’d consider basic hygiene along with generally better than average content. There’s not much wordpress can do for that, in fact it will actively hurt you with it’s slow page generation if you don’t have a good caching layer.

WordPress is insanely widely used so Google crawls it thoroughly, is the theory.

WordPress won't remove the need to write high quality content, but the markup is very easy for Google to parse and with the Yoast plugin all of the structured data is automatically handled. WP also automatically adds alt tags to images and all the other bits of metadata Google likes.

Yoast has an incredibly feature-rich free version and is very easy to use for content creators. Focus-keywords, schema markup, meta title and description lengths and so much more. They've also recently extended the plugin so you can access a post's metadata really easy when querying the WP REST API (or GraphQL API), this comes in handy when using WP as a headless CMS. I don't know of a comparable solution for React or Vue but I would be glad to hear about it.

React and Vue will never score well for page speed. Basically a non-starter for SEO in the current environment.

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