42 Comments

Great interview! Stocks are about as far from my interests as possible, but Michael's insights are invaluable for anyone on substack. Really useful tips.

Expand full comment

I agree. Those four points - problem solving, making people smarter, community, and enjoyable writing - apply to most of us, especially non-fiction writers. Good take away points.

Expand full comment

Michael, can you share your most successful organic growth strategy? Is it posting through social media, search engine optimization, forums, writing guest posts for other publications, etc. Your niche is small enough, so how did you initially get the word out?

Expand full comment

I think the key to organic growth is to find the specific individuals who are a perfect fit for your content. It's all about "hanging out" where your target audience happens to be.

I've had the best success through Twitter, cross-promotions and podcasts - in that order.

• I initially got the word out via Twitter. Back in April last year, I think had about 4,000 Twitter followers. I had been a Twitter user for 7-8 years or so, but mostly as a tool to collect information. Twitter is where financial analysts and portfolio managers go to talk individual stocks. So I would chip in with thoughtful replies to tweets from large finance related accounts. I would tweet anything interesting I came across. And gradually my follower count increased to 13,300. That said, the initial 4,000 followers were probably mostly inactive, because the week I launched my paid service, I don't think I got more than 5-10 paid subscribers. It's been a long-term quest to increase my profile on Finance Twitter. Here's the link to my profile: https://twitter.com/Fritz844

• In terms of cross-promotions, I did an interview with another finance related Substack in the UK back in May 2021. I probably got 10 or so paid subscribers from that interview. Later on, I also interviewed a number of people in the industry, for example including this banking analyst in Thailand https://www.asiancenturystocks.com/p/12-questions-with-daniel-tabbush. I was too shy to ask them to distribute the interview to their clients, but that's something I can recommend. If each person you interview has 500 follower on their LinkedIn or Twitter account, then you can get the word out very quickly.

• I've participated in about 5 podcasts. Some podcasts have immense reach across the globe. Others, not so much. So be selective. And ask to put your Substack link in the description of the podcast episode. You can find the top 100 podcasts in your niche through the following website: https://chartable.com/charts

Hope this helps ~

Expand full comment

This was wonderful feedback! Thank you for taking the time to write it 👍

Expand full comment

I can’t figure out how to do a top level comment so I’m replying here. There is an interesting flaws in your subscription system. When I subscribe as a free reader, there doesn’t seem to be a ways to look at the paywall and subscription amounts so I could consider a paid subscription. It just lets me subscribe for free, with no access to paid articles. When I try reading a paid article, it says I need to pay but there is no button or instructions as to how. I’m pretty sure this must have stopped a few folks from joining, so I thought I’d let you know.

Expand full comment

Hi David - this is very helpful.

I'm wondering whether you're using the Substack app? Usually on the paywall it will say "This post is for paid subscribers" with a "Subscribe" button below it. But in the app there won't be any button (because iOS app rules).

You also mention wanting to know the subscription amounts. I'm thinking I should be more clear on the exact pricing and what you get.

Thanks for the feedback

Expand full comment

You are correct, I was. It’s easy not to realize you are, though, since the experience is very similar to the web. Perhaps you could add a message if people are in the app?

Sadly for someone like me with just a casual interest in the topic, the fee is prohibitively expensive. But I can understand that it’s not a barrier for those with substantial funds to invest, and that’s your audience. For those who are curious, or serious customers who want to try before buying, you might want to try a short duration free trial.

Expand full comment

Michael has a great publication: thoughtful and always insightful. I am torn between wishing him the most success and selfishly wanting his ideas distributed to as few people as possible! If you are interested in Asia equity markets, you should subscribe. (ps. I am not his mom!)

Expand full comment

Excellent. I love the value you offer your readers, like problem solving, making them feel smarter, community, and beautiful writing. I received an interesting comment from a subscriber in England today..’’with the world as it is you really bring joy,’’ she said. Much success with your newsletter!

Expand full comment

Amazing content and work ethics. I recently started my newsletter in a similar investing niche and Michael has always taken on his time to support me. I will study this interview deeply.

Expand full comment

I wish Michael good luck.

Expand full comment

Excellent. I use the same strategy on my local news substack - I send out a free news summary every Thursday morning with long form content on the weekend. Linking the past weekend’s story has been one of my best conversion strategies.

Expand full comment

Interesting to hear. Yes, we have to remind people to become paid subscribers somehow. The only question is to do in a non-intrusive manner... a weekly news summary is a good solution, I think

Expand full comment

I consider it the core product. Every week on Thursday morning I publish what is basically a mini local weekly newspaper with news briefs (led off with a main bar that's a bit longer), event highlights, business briefs and sports. Usually below the main bar I include a link with a description that says "paid subscribers last week read about [insert topic of last week's deep dive]." (I make sure some of these are free too.) It has been very effective, and I'm at about 15% paid sub rate. Since I focus on local news, I use Facebook ads to grow the top of the sales funnel, explaining they get a free weekly no-fluff newsletter informing them of the local news so they can go about their day. I even get some paid subs from that, surprisingly.

Expand full comment

15% is amazing. I might borrow some of your conversion tactics. Thanks!

Expand full comment

Thanks, this is a useful, inspirational and enjoyable post.

Expand full comment

Glad to see a fellow expat in SEA pursuing this path (I'm in Penang). I just subscribed as your newsletter addresses a subject that I should have more understanding but embarrassingly don't after living in Asia for the past 9 years (I'm focused on the US market...). Keep up the great work - it's an inspiration!

Expand full comment

Great to meet you Michael, and just let me know if you happen to pass by Singapore sometime in the future!

Expand full comment

If you subscribe to my substack, I'll comp you fee paid...

Expand full comment

Some interesting ideas. Thanks for sharing.

Expand full comment

A niche with a global audience is a great way to think about it! Thanks for sharing!

Expand full comment

Brilliant and motivating article, especially as I'm building up my own Substack to help advise people on French, European and global political events!

Thanks for sharing your experience!

Expand full comment

Where are your readers based?

Expand full comment

Here is the split over the past 90 days, according to Google Analytics:

United States: 24%

Singapore: 12%

India: 7%

United Kingdom: 6%

Taiwan: 5%

Other: 54%

So it's a good mix.

Expand full comment

Other is interesting. Do these figures match with your subscriptions?

Expand full comment

I don't think Substack offers any data on where your paid subscribers are based

Expand full comment

While I will probably never read a newsletter about stocks, Mr. Fritzell has clearly put a lot of careful thought into how to create worthwhile content for his readers and make a platform like Substack work for him. I appreciate his insights.

Expand full comment

Thank you, the conversation was full of tips

Expand full comment

great advice, I will try it

Expand full comment