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Jenny Rothenberg is the Director of Growth at Morning Brew ☕, a daily e-newsletter that gives a quick and conversational round up of all things business for free. With 2.5 million subscribers, recently they’ve hit a major milestone at Morning Brew: a single edition of the Morning Brew newsletter was opened by over 1 million people.

Jenny joined the team as Growth Marketer and two years later she became Director of Growth, leading the digital media company’s growth strategy across its brands. Prior to Morning Brew, Jenny worked as an Audience Development Coordinator for Industry Dive and as a Marketing Coordinator at Hinge Marketing. 

With 5+ years of experience in Growth and Marketing, you can ask her anything related to:

  • Growth Marketing 

  • Email Marketing 

  • Referral Program 

  • Newsletter Best Practices

  • Audience Development

  • Paid and Social Campaigns

  • SEO strategy 

  • Marketing Strategy

Follow her on Twitter.

 

  • GN

    Gustavo Nunes

    7 months ago #

    Hey, Jenny. Let me start by saying that I'm a big fan of MB's newsletter and tweets. And I have 3 questions:

    1) I read your article at Entrepreneurs Handbook where you mention at the beginning that rather than the number of subscribers, what matters to you is the number of people that open the email. Is it right to say that this is your NSM? If not, what is it? And why? haha

    2) How did you come with the decision of creating different newsletters for different profiles (marketing, retail, tech, etc). It was based on feedback, on data, or something that you felt should be done? And what were some of the strategies that you used to increase the number of subscribers for those newsletters?

    3) Can you share with us some do's and don'ts when launching a referral program?

    Thank you again for accepting my invite ;)

    • JR

      Jenny Rothenberg

      6 months ago #

      Hi Gustavo! Thanks for the great questions!

      1. Unique opens is our #1 metric, but since open rates can vary on the season and day of the week, we’re also closely monitoring list growth. We focus more on opens than list size since it’s more representative of how many quality, engaged users we are bringing into our ecosystem than sheer list size.

      2. Good question! We thought a lot internally about what our next move would be outside of the main newsletter, considering everything from selling socks to launching a paid subscription. We landed on industry-focused newsletters for a few reasons: 1) It fit into our existing skill set - breaking down the business world in an engaging, digestible newsletter. 2) We believe in the promise of niche B2B media, and building a more focused audience opens up a ton of opportunities more so than perhaps launching a sports newsletter or something more general. 3) Feedback from readers. We received countless emails from readers saying something to the effect of “I love the Brew, but I work in marketing and would love to have this newsletter be more specific to my job.”

      3. Every program is going to be different, but the general advice I’d have is to focus on how you can use the program to deepen that user’s relationship with the product/brand as opposed to just how they can bring me more users. For example, incentivizing a user to refer a friend with a give $10, get $10 off kind of model is fine, but it doesn’t actually deepen the referrer’s relationship with your brand. It’s very transactional. If a user’s willing to stick their neck out for your brand and recommend it, you should use that as an opportunity to deepen your relationship with them - whether that’s through exclusive content, joining a VIP community, etc. as opposed to a one-time discount code.

      4 Share
  • BP

    Brooke Phillips

    7 months ago #

    Can you tell me a little about the advertising structure within the newsletter and how that element within the email was launched? We have a robust email program but struggle getting coordination for advertiser integration.

    • JR

      Jenny Rothenberg

      6 months ago #

      Hi Brooke, great question!

      Our ad units were developed relatively early on (2017) and our goal was to make them native to the newsletter experience - both in terms of format and voice/tone. We have a creative team dedicated to working with our ad partners to build out campaigns that achieve their marketing goals and produce creative that's in the same Brew tone our readers know and love. This approach has proven to be very effective for us.

      If it makes sense for your newsletter, I'd definitely recommend using a native ad format as opposed to a display ad- while they're a bit more challenging logistically, they are much more valuable to both your reader and your advertiser!

  • PL

    pallav learn

    7 months ago #

    Good morning.

    I just love the content you guys publish at Morning Brew. The tone, the feel, the vibe, the EVERYTHING feels great when I open your email. We would love to hear what is the process of writing such great content? How do you guys come up with story ideas? How do you structure content? How do you make users stick to reading it?

    Thanks,
    Pallav

    P.S. - I know it's not morning over there but I took that reference from, well you guessed it right, morning brew email newsletter.

    • JR

      Jenny Rothenberg

      6 months ago #

      Hi Pallav! So great to hear you’re enjoying the Brew :)

      We have an incredibly talented team of writers who produce the newsletter every day. To answer your question, taking a blurb out of an interview with our Managing Editor, Neal Freyman:

      “There’s a couple of different components when it comes to the process. There’s the news section, which contains a bunch of stories that happen the previous day, and then there’s a component that basically consists of cool things we see on the internet, things we recommend, or fun questions or puzzles. I do those first in small blurbs at the top and bottom of the newsletter. As the afternoon gets going, myself and the other writers start reading everything in the news from every major outlet. We are all big on Twitter, so we use it to pick up on the most important news stories of the day. Then, we talk amongst ourselves about who will handle which story and plan out our angles. Finally, we put our headphones in and write.”

      You can read the full interview here: https://thriveglobal.com/stories/a-day-in-the-life-of-a-newsletter-writer-with-morning-brews-neal-freyman/

      And definitely recommend following Neal (https://twitter.com/Neal_Freyman) and the rest of the team (https://twitter.com/i/lists/1333801616894435342) on Twitter! They do an amazing job sharing the process on social.

  • SA

    Shaker A

    6 months ago #

    Hi Jenny!

    Thanks for taking the time to do the ama. Appreciate it!

    1)What are the most important news letter best practices that you've learned at morning brew?

    2) What are the most effective channels for you to acquire users for morning brew at scale (outside of referrals)?

    3) How did the team at MB think about acquiring users when it was just starting out (aside from the initial push of college students)?

    4)When it comes to advertisers how does MB determine the rates to charge them?

    • JR

      Jenny Rothenberg

      6 months ago #

      Hi Shaker, thanks for the great questions!

      1. I think the most important thing we do at Morning Brew is our intense focus on delivering the best-quality newsletter every day. With so many content options out there, keeping a reader engaged and willing to take 5 minutes out of their morning to read our stuff is not easy! Our content team is constantly coming up with new ideas to keep the newsletter fresh for people and be sure we’re delivering the day’s most important news in an engaging, digestible way.

      2. Outside of referrals, our second most effective channels for scale have been Facebook/Instagram ads and Google Ads.

      3. In the early days, sponsoring/partnering with other newsletters was very effective at bringing in new readers. This isn’t the most scalable tactic, but it’s been consistently the best at bringing in highly engaged subscribers.

      4. Our rates take into account the reach and nature of the ad placement.

  • RB

    Ry B

    6 months ago #

    Hey Jenny,

    Big fan of morning brew. Congrats on the investment!

    A couple of questions for you:

    1 - How do you think of SEO at MB?

    2 - What have you learned about growing and nurturing an audience?

    3 - How does morning brew interact with and get feedback form it's audience at such a large scale?

    4 - How do you think about growing the MB audience through paid and social channels? What have you learned?

  • PM

    Patrick Mackie

    7 months ago #

    Hey Jenny,

    I'd like to "upvote," Gustavo's third question and ask for a little more on it. Did you start MB's referral program using third-party software? Built something in-house? Google Sheets and grit? Thinking about hacking one pretty much 100% without engineering resources, so would love your thoughts on how to most effectively do so.

  • EH

    Eivind Håverstad

    7 months ago #

    What do you think is the best incentive to make an effektive referral program?

  • OO

    obtie Obties

    6 months ago #

    Hi Jenny, big fan of what you guys are doing at Morning Brew!

    - What metrics do you value when it comes to measuring the LTV of a Morning Brew subscriber, and how does this play into your paid acquisition strategies?

    • JR

      Jenny Rothenberg

      6 months ago #

      Hi Obtie, great to hear you're a fan of the Brew!

      As of now, we focus mostly on opens but the other two main ways a user can bring more LTV to us is through 1) referring other users and 2) engaging with our ads. Since opens is the most important and the cleanest metric, we use that to inform quality and shape our acquisition strategy.

      Here’s a blurb from an article (https://entrepreneurshandbook.co/engagement-beats-scale-inside-morning-brews-approach-to-subscriber-growth-60444bfaa9a3) I wrote about our growth strategy that might be helpful!

      “For our hundreds of active sources, we are monitoring not just the cost to acquire a new user (CAC) but the high-quality percentage of each.
      We define a high-quality subscriber as one that opens six or more of their first 12 newsletters. Two weeks is obviously short in the broader picture of a user’s lifetime with us, but our data has shown that a subscriber’s actions in this timeframe are generally indicative of their longer-term behavior.

      If the source is paid, we evaluate everything based on its high-quality acquisition cost (HQ CAC). So for example, if a source has an acquisition cost of $5 per subscriber and 50% of those subscribers are high-quality, the HQ CAC is $10.”

  • CF

    Claudia Ferenczi

    6 months ago #

    How do you balance the growth of your audience, while still "sunsetting" and not sending emails to users who haven't engaged recently? Any specific best practices as to how to manage unengaged users?

  • CF

    Claudia Ferenczi

    6 months ago #

    At what point in your subscriber list (ex: x# of users) did you

    1. Think it was valuable to implement a referral program?
    2. Start to bring in sponsorships and partners? How has the sponsorship model changed throughout the years?

    • JR

      Jenny Rothenberg

      6 months ago #

      1. We brought in a referral program at ~100k subscribers. We started to see readers were already starting to refer their friends without any incentive, which was a great signal to us that if we added some fuel to the fire we’d be able to accelerate our growth.
      2. Our first sponsorship ran when we were at ~75k subscribers. The sponsorship model has evolved a ton since then. Early on, we were running ads on more of a transactional basis. Now have a fully built-out brand partnerships team that works closely with brands to help them build full-funnel marketing campaigns to engage our readership.

      2 Share
  • HH

    Hannah Holmgren

    6 months ago #

    Hey Jenny! Morning Brew does such a great job at balancing design and content in the newsletter (bravo btw) so I'm just wondering - what's your secret for packing the newsletter with good content without it being overwhelming to daily readers? Does it ever get difficult to choose which pieces of content get added?

  • AF

    Ann Feeney

    7 months ago #

    What plans do you have (that you can share) for leveraging the brand and content expertise into other media types or other growth areas? Or if you're not planning that expansion, how did you make that decision?

    1 Share
    • JR

      Jenny Rothenberg

      6 months ago #

      Hi Ann! Absolutely, we have one podcast now in Business Casual (https://www.businesscasual.fm/). We plan to launch at least two more podcasts in 2021, as well as invest more heavily in social-first content, particularly in video. Lots more to come from the Brew next year!

      1 Share
  • AR

    Adrian Rocks

    6 months ago #

    Hey Jenny! Amazing to have you here answering some questions!

    Here we go!

    1. How does your day to day look like? Wonder if you have a percentage on Execution vs Steering.

    2. How is the experimentation process at The Brew?

    3. How does your channel mix look like? It seems to me that you guys don't need to put much money on paid acquisition (based on what I see in semrush and Facebook ads library).

    4. Has the email system been developed by The Brew? I wonder if you measure engagement by more than just open rates and click rates.

    5. In what area of the growth of The Brew are you putting the most attention and why? E.g. Finding new ways of improving our referral loops / funnels

    Hope you can cover these and everyone finds them interesting.

    Love The Brew, thanks a lot for taking the time!

    Adrian

    • JR

      Jenny Rothenberg

      6 months ago #

      Hey Adrian - thanks for the questions!

      1. We’re still a relatively small team, so I’d say I’m still 40% execution, 60% steering.

      2. We love to experiment at the Brew! We have a ton of creativity across the company so we encourage everyone - not just in growth- but in content, sales, product, etc. to try out their new ideas and see what happens.

      3. Our paid acquisition strategy has changed over the past year. We used to spend heavily on paid social, FB/IG particularly, but have been shifting more toward direct relationships with publishers + newsletters, our affiliate program, and influencers as we’ve found these are more effective from both a CAC and user quality perspective.

      4. We are still pretty focused on opens as our main metric for engagement. Since our newsletter is designed to be consumed within the email (as opposed to launching you to our website to read the content there), we focus mostly on opens.

      5. I’m most interested in collaborating with our content team to help continue to produce content that helps serve our existing readers, and bring new ones in. Since we have the flywheel of 2.5million readers at our fingertips now, exposing them to more site-first or social-first content of our own that’s shareable and discoverable, will allow us to unlock a ton of organic growth potential.

      1 Share
  • LM

    Larissa Moore

    6 months ago #

    Hi Jenny, big fans of what you guys are doing at Morning Brew!

    A few questions below:

    - What metrics do you value when it comes to measuring the LTV of a Morning Brew subscriber, and how does this play into your paid acquisition strategies?

    - Any tips for data analysis tools for data visualisations for actionable insights? We're looking to up the ante on understanding our subscriber base and bring together demo data that sits in our CRM with email user behaviour

    - Would love to hear more of the pros/cons behind email-gating the website, and if you're tracking much of the website behaviour of existing subscribers

    - If there was one thing you could have implemented sooner when it comes to growth marketing, what would it be?

    Looking forward to the AMA!

    • JR

      Jenny Rothenberg

      6 months ago #

      Hey Larissa, thanks for the great questions!

      1. As of now, we focus mostly on opens but the other two main ways a user can bring more LTV to us is through 1) referring other users and 2) engaging with our ads. Since opens is the most important and the cleanest metric, we use that to inform quality and shape our acquisition strategy.

      Here’s a blurb from an article (https://entrepreneurshandbook.co/engagement-beats-scale-inside-morning-brews-approach-to-subscriber-growth-60444bfaa9a3) I wrote about our growth strategy that might be helpful!

      “For our hundreds of active sources, we are monitoring not just the cost to acquire a new user (CAC) but the high-quality percentage of each.
      We define a high-quality subscriber as one that opens six or more of their first 12 newsletters. Two weeks is obviously short in the broader picture of a user’s lifetime with us, but our data has shown that a subscriber’s actions in this timeframe are generally indicative of their longer-term behavior.

      If the source is paid, we evaluate everything based on its high-quality acquisition cost (HQ CAC). So for example, if a source has an acquisition cost of $5 per subscriber and 50% of those subscribers are high-quality, the HQ CAC is $10.”

      2. We’re in the process of getting onboarded onto Looker and it’s been great so far!
      3. Email-gating the website made sense for us when we were a single-product company, since being a subscriber was truly the only way to actually engage with us. But now that we’re a multi-product, multi-platform media company, we know we need a homepage that reflects that - we’re working on it!

      As far as tracking website behavior, we keep tabs on it but frankly aren’t super focused on it just yet. As we evolve our content+website strategy, it will definitely become a larger piece of the puzzle.

      4. Good question! I think we would’ve moved to a true BI tool (like Looker) earlier in the process. We got away with it because we were focused on very few metrics, but we would’ve better set ourselves up for the transition from single-product to multi-product company had we made that move sooner!

      1 Share
  • RF

    Rebeca Flores

    6 months ago #

    Hey Jenny 👋🏻, i would like to know how did you identify your influencers across all social media and video?

    I’m asking this because I’ve discovered MB from a GRE teacher in youtube who suddenly suggest all viewers to suscribe in order to train the lecture habit. Thanks a lot 🙃

    • JR

      Jenny Rothenberg

      6 months ago #

      Hey Rebecca! Our team is always on the lookout for influencers across social platforms - they do a great job of discovering creators that align with our audience! We also work with an agency to help us build relationships with influencers.

      2 Share
  • CT

    ColourMoon Technologies

    6 months ago #

    Hai Jenny........

    What are the best ways to build an audience with content?

  • JR

    JORDANA RAUBER

    6 months ago #

    Hi Jenny! Thank you so much for coming for an AMA! My Questions are:
    1. How many people are involved in producing your newsletters?
    2. What are the steps you guys take from start to finish?
    3. How do you guys segment content to different profiles?
    4. What tools do you guys use?
    5. Are there any tips for cleaning up your lists and improving deliverability?
    Thanks!

  • LB

    Lauren Brose

    6 months ago #

    Hi Jenny! Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions. Like many others here, I'm a huge fan of the Morning Brew. I'm also currently growing an educational newsletter and would love to hear your thoughts on the following questions:

    1. Was there anything specific that played a significant role in breaking through the initial growth (first 1,000 subscribers)?
    Anything you did differently that got you to 5,000?

    2. What is the biggest challenge you've faced with growing a newsletter from 0 subscribers

    3. What were the main acquisition channels that you found to be really effective? Did you discover any “non-traditional” channels that performed better than expected?

    4. How do you determine what content to include? What tests did you run to figure out what your readers are looking for?

    • JR

      Jenny Rothenberg

      6 months ago #

      Hi Lauren, thanks for the great questions!

      1.This was before my time, but Alex our co-founder and CEO started this just as a hobby in college, and found that his peers were talking about it naturally. There wasn’t a landing page yet so in order to sign up, people had to email Alex and ask to be added to the list. Sharing this to say that especially early on, if there’s clear product-market fit and readers are enjoying the content, being able to grow via word of mouth is going to be very important!

      2. What works a year ago or even 6 months ago doesn’t always work today. Marketing changes so quickly, so constantly trying to find new ways to grow is definitely challenging!

      3. Early on, our strongest acquisition channel was advertising in or partnering with other newsletters. We found this to be very cost-effective and the users we brought in were also highly engaged. If you’re someone who’s already reading one newsletter and then clicking on a link that recommends another newsletter, it’s likely you're; going to be a good subscriber.

      4. This is all our brilliant content team! They are very plugged in on both on what’s going on in the business world as well as the pulse of what our readers care about.

      2 Share
  • PC

    Pedro Clivati

    6 months ago #

    Hey, Jenny - thanks for doing this, and congrats on the achievements so far.

    1) There are two main ways to monetize a newsletter (pls correct me if I'm wrong): sponsorships or paywall - how/why did you guys decide to go with the first one (I see a lot of substacks coming up in the different direction).

    2) How did you guys settle in the email format, as opposed to blogging (Medium for instance) and, are there any plans to expand into different formats?

    3) What's M.B.'s main source of acquisition? I'm guessing referral plays a significant role in this (love the swags btw);

    4) Is growth a separated team from marketing or are y'all under the same umbrella? And if you are all the same, how do you differentiate the daily operations from the experimentation/testing tasks?

    I'm such a big fan that I could go on and on here but I'll contain myself, lol - thanks again and keep it up, Jenny.

    • JR

      Jenny Rothenberg

      6 months ago #

      Hi Pedro, thanks for the great questions!

      1. I’d also add you can use your newsletter (or any other media property for that matter) to sell your audience a product directly. For example, Food52 is an incredible media brand that produces a ton of free content in the cooking space and directly sells their audience Food52 merchandise (like cookware, cookbooks, etc.).

      Any of the 3 monetization methods can make sense depending on the nature of the content and the audience! For us, as a curation product with a broader audience set, we thought an ad-supported model worked best. The newsletter medium allows for highly effective ads when done right, and this meant we could focus on building the brand and keeping it open and accessible to as many people as possible.

      2. There are a ton of benefits to email in that it’s push, not pull. Once you sign up, we’ll be able to access your inbox any time we hit send. Unlike a blog without a subscription or a social media platform, the guaranteed delivery of email makes it a great distribution channel.

      As for our future plans, we’ll be expanding into more platforms - particularly audio and social. We aim to use the other platforms not just to deliver you the day’s must-read business news like we already do in the daily newsletter - but to expand on what content areas we cover as a brand.

      3. Referrals and paid acquisition are the largest acquisition drivers for us

      4. Growth and marketing sit under the same umbrella. Within our small team, we have some expertise in more brand/marketing and others more so in growth marketing.

      Thanks so much, Pedro!

      2 Share
  • BN

    Brooklin Nash

    6 months ago #

    Thanks for all this insight, Jenny! Working on growing the newsletter for Sales Hacker, so this is super helpful. My question:

    How do you consider SEO (if at all) when turning newsletter content into on-site content?

  • CT

    ColourMoon Technologies

    6 months ago #

    Give me brief explanation for SEO strategy

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