#010 - How Luke Timmerman created the top paid newsletter in biotech


Luke Timmerman is a veteran biotechnology journalist that decided to launch his own subscription-based publication (The Timmerman Report) because he wanted to create a better incentive structure for himself than advertising allows:

“The advertising based model does influence the kind of content you create. I think people are wising up to this now. [...] The ad model just doesn’t reward quality.”

Before starting The Timmerman Report, Luke covered biotech for The Seattle Times and Xconomy. Over the years, his reporting became increasingly focused on emerging technologies and new startups. He noticed that these stories didn’t reach as wide an audience as articles on the biggest late-stage companies, but for the people who did read them, were immensely valuable.

“That’s how I found my place - I followed my nose for stories, and often it led me to stories that weren’t necessarily the most popular, but were super valuable to segments of the readership. And you know, I can actually make a decent business being really valuable to a small group of people.”

In this episode of The Substack Podcast, we start out by talking about the big picture of the biotech industry — what is it? why is Luke interested in it? — and then move onto his story of making the subscription model work.

“I had something like 14,000 followers on Twitter at the time, and maybe 5 of 6 thousand connections on LinkedIn, I had a lot of email addresses, and I took the plunge. [...] It was very encouraging early on — I got something like 300 subscribers in the first month. It told me I wasn’t crazy and there was a good chance I could make this into a sustainable platform.”

It was a fun conversation, and I hope you enjoy listening to it! —Nathan