RESOURCE: 10 Case Studies Of 6-Figure Curators To Get Your First 100 Subscribers
Last week I talked about the Cold Start Problem of Thought Leadership. In a nutshell, the Cold Start Problem is that it’s extremely difficult to get started posting content online for two reasons:
You have few skills, time, and/or followers when you start
You’re competing for attention against the best of the best
To solve the Cold Start Problem, it’s critical to have a Foothold Strategy.
The idea of a foothold comes from rock climbing. Before a rock climber can pull themself up by their arms, they need to first find a foothold they can put their weight on.
Similarly, when getting started as a thought leader, we need to find a foothold with posting online that:
Is feasible with where we are right now
A step forward
Provides an immediate benefit (engagement, money, etc).
More specifically, we need to:
Create posts consistently
In a way that we enjoy
At a level of quality that gains traction
In places that reward quality
If we don’t get a good foothold, we can end up spending a huge amount of effort on thought leadership and still fail…
Put differently, when constructing our thought leader journey, we want to first stay alive by staying above the death line. The death line is the point at which we stop putting out effort because we’ve given up:
Ups for thought leaders happen when we:
Resonate with an audience
Get increasing momentum on a platform
Get more and more excited
Downs for thought leaders happen when:
Niche becomes crowed
Algorithm updates make old approaches obsolete
New platforms and features come on to the scene that change the game
There’s a loss of excitement
After staying above the death line, we want to construct our journey so that we’re not just treading water but gaining momentum. That’s the exponential line in the diagram above.
Stated differently, two people could spend the same amount of time on thought leadership mastering the same skills, but one person can be successful because they found a foothold, got results, and then increased those results over time while the other never got a foothold, never got results, and then gave up.
The Four Footholds I Recommend For Getting Started
Empirically, the way to do really big things seems to be to start with deceptively small things…. Want to make the universal web site? Start by building a site for Harvard undergrads to stalk one another.
—Paul Graham, Founder, Y Combinator
Your job is to find that front domino, that number one thing that if you could accomplish, [that] will knock over the other 98 and get more done than the other 98 combined.
Good strategy = Find an edge, win small victory or foothold, assimilate new resources, level up, repeat.
Bad Strategy = Attack everything at once. Don’t prioritize. Bleed strength
—David Sacks, Serial Entrepreneur
Deeper into last week’s post, I make the case that the four ways to get a foothold as a online thought leader are:
Choose a topic that makes you feel like a kid in a candy store
Publish short-form video clips
Publish and monetize via a paid newsletter platform such as Substack
Do curation before creation
Even if your ultimate goal is to write longform articles, I still believe that short-form video clips that you curate on topics you love published in a newsletter is the best way to get started in today’s world.
Today’s Game Plan
In this post, I provide two things:
10 case studies. The first case study is free. The next nine are for paid subscribers.
Two bonus interviews (paid subscribers). I performed two interviews with top-tier curators (creator of Four Minute Books and The Almanack of Naval Ravikant) and to understand their story and best practices.
10 Case Studies That Show The Power Of Curation
Over the years, I’ve collected hundreds of examples of content curation. I selected these 10 case studies because they all inspired me to think differently, better, and bigger about how to use curation to follow your passion, build your following, make money, and do research. For each case study I provide details on:
What it is
Where it is
How it monetizes
What I like about it
How to learn from it
Together, these case studies demonstrate various ways to make money:
They also demonstrate the various ways that curation can be published:
Website (with searchable database)
With that said, let’s jump in…
1. What To Cook When You Don’t Feel Like Cooking ($1M+/year) 2. The Browser ($1M+/year) 3. Evan Carmichael ($1M+/year) 4. Letters Of Note (14 books) 5. Recomendo (3 books) 6. Workspaces (acquired) 7. Nathan Baugh (courses / consulting) 8. Unsplash (advertising / subscription) 9. Fast Life Hacks (affiliate) 10.Startup Stash (acquired)
1. What To Cook When You Don’t Feel Like Cooking ($1M+/year)
Overview: “One ridiculously impressive complete-meal recipe delivered to your inbox every Sunday morning that dirties minimal dishes and requires under an hour of time.”
Creator: Caroline Chambers (professional recipe developer and cookbook author)
Paid Subscribers: Tens of thousands (via Substack)
Monthly Fee: $5
Posting Frequency: 2x/week
Start Date: December 7, 2020
Number Of Posts: 140 (estimate)
Each post has a free and paid portion. Below is a sample of a free portion:
The paid portion includes:
# of people the recipe serves
Link to printer-friendly version
I love how it solves a very specific need. The name of the newsletter promises a very specific benefit to a very specific situation / problem.
I also love how she created an index page that compiles the recipes. It divides the recipes into themes such as:
Prep time: 15-minute meals, 30-minute meals
For an audience: Kid-approved meals, Party food, Drop-off meals to bring to a friend
Other: Meals for the grill, Comfort food, *Especially* healthy meals, Freezer-friendly meals, Show off your cooking skills
I love how each post has a free and paid portion. I love how she creates a free portion of each post that stands on its own and then she charges for the recipe. One of the keys to the perfect newsletter post is having a free part that’s so good that people will share it and a paid part that’s worth paying for.
I love the simplicity of the newsletter. Posts are simple. It’s easy to understand. You know what you’re getting.
Leverages experience. If you’re a chef with years of experience, you probably already have a good number of recipes you’ve tested over there years. So, a newsletter like this might actually be fairly easy to do.
Copy This Newsletter
What type of recipes do you want to share? A cooking recipe is a set of tools, ingredients, and instructions to create food that solves a problem. What is the equivalent recipe that you want to curate for your niche?
What recipes have you tested and refined over the years? Look for areas where you’ve already invested hundreds or thousands of hours into developing recipes.
What important thing do you want to help others do that they resist? What To Cook When You Don’t Feel Like Cooking helps people do something they want to do, but don’t feel like doing. What is the equivalent that you could help people do? Here are some ideas:
What to do when you don’t feel like exercising
What to write when you don’t feel like writing
How to eat healthy when you want junk food
How to learn when you don’t have the time