This is True, or TRUE — as founder Randy Casingham calls his newsletter — is an email newsletter that uses “weird news” as a vehicle to explore the human condition in an entertaining way.
TRUE’s mission is to provoke more thinking in the world. Each issue contains stories of people who didn’t think, sometimes with hilarious results, capped by a brief comment on each story. It’s biting social commentary that’s “about” the human condition, but designed to be entertaining so it’s fun to read.
People are starving for an intelligent look at what’s going on, rather than the doom or denial that seems to dominate the major news outlets,” Cassingham says.
But creating good content alone is not enough — you also need to figure out how to get paid for it. Cassingham actually turned down two syndication contracts to put TRUE into newspapers because he thought the future was online, and newspapers would suffer in the long run.
He decided to go the self-publishing route and identified a publishing platform with all the tools he needed for both publishing and promotion: email.
Content creators require options beyond a blog platform. “It is very hard to monetize a blog. Creators need tools that can provide a gateway to reach paying customers. I am very grateful that AWeber provides a platform to actually help creators make money without depending on Google, or advertising in general,” Cassingham says.
Taking great content and converting subscribers from free content to paid premium subscriptions is an art that TRUE has perfected. Last week was the 26th anniversary of the first newsletter he ever sent — in fact, he’s gone 1,359 weeks without ever missing an issue.
Treat customers the way you want to be treated
Maintaining a strong relationship with readers has been the backbone of TRUE’s business. With average open rates above 70%, it’s clear subscribers can’t get enough of TRUE’s unique content.
From the very first communication, Cassingham clearly lays out what subscribers will receive using his unique style of humor. And every correspondence includes a link to upgrade to the premium subscription to enable conversion.
TRUE’s welcome email:
He also sends a follow-up email to help identify if the reader is a brand new reader or a long term subscriber. Because Cassingham wants every email to provide value, he includes a link for extra content as a ‘thank you’ for opening his email.
TRUE’S follow up email:
AWeber’s Blog Broadcast feature allows Cassingham to send customized notifications to readers when he posts a blog entry.
Cassingham has a creative use for AWeber’s Blog Broadcast (automatic RSS to an email list). “It is more powerful than most people realize,” Cassingham says. “It’s not just to notify readers of new blog posts. I use it for a special paid list. My server drops a ‘Best Of’ archive story to a specific feed URL, and AWeber picks it up and sends it out early each morning. The subscribers love it, and it’s totally automated for me.”
AWeber’s Blog Broadcast pulls content from a blog and reformats it into an email newsletter template to share with subscribers. But it doesn’t have to just be a blog excerpt: anything that can be formatted into an RSS feed can be dropped into an email template and sent to a list or a segment. “It’s a great example of the flexibility that AWeber provides,” Cassingham says, “which provides another income pillar that’s completely hands off so I can use that time to create more content.”
Step-by-step on setting up your Blog Broadcast
1. Under the Messages tab, select Blog Broadcasts.
2. Then, click the “Create A Blog Broadcast” button.
3. Enter your RSS feed URL for your blog in that first field.
4. Select the template you’d like to use, click on the Load Template button.
5. Next, you’ll need to schedule when your broadcasts will be sent out.
6. Then click “Save Blog Broadcast” at the bottom of the page.
Create income by having subscribers upgrade to paid content
TRUE’s primary source of income is subscription upgrades from the free content. Premium upgrades are Cassingham’s “bread and butter,” so every free newsletter has a pitch to upgrade to the paid version, which has more than twice the stories, no external ads, and several other enhancements. “It’s a model that has kept TRUE profitable for more than two decades,” says Cassingham.
TRUE is the oldest entertainment feature on the internet, running weekly for more than 26 years. TRUE started June 26, 1994 — and has never missed sending out a weekly issue. It is older than Google, Amazon, and eBay.
“While I haven’t gotten ‘rich’ from it,” Cassingham says, “I have something that many rich people don’t have: the freedom to live exactly where I want, work and ‘play’ pretty much every day, and have the time to give back to my community as a volunteer medic. I carry a pager and can dash off to help others get through the worst day of their lives. That’s extremely fulfilling. One of the big reasons I can do it all is AWeber’s automated tools do so much of the tedious work for me.”
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