Why I stopped my newsletter: results, learnings and next steps

Why I stopped my newsletter: results, learnings and next steps
Photo by Brendan Church / Unsplash

It's been quite some time since the last edition of Bootstrapping Byte, my weekly tech news digest - about six months, in fact. Upon reflection, I've decided to cease working on it and reallocate my time and efforts (to coding, raising kids, and bootstrapping) while continuing nurturing this blog.

Why I'm stopping the weekly tech digest?

Despite the initial excitement and enjoyment, I've decided to stop for several reasons:

Low Traction on Social Media, Stagnant Subscriptions, and Poor Traffic

After 8 weeks of newsletter, I did not saw any improvement in engagement on social media and the the number of subscribers to the newsletter wasn't improving:

  • The engagement on my LinkedIn posts stagnated over time
  • The number of subscribers to the newsletter did not increase past the first 2 posts, reaching painfully 13 subscribers after 8 weeks - all friends & family
  • The traffic generated on my article was poor with 2-3 visitors per day on average over the publication period
bootstrappingdad.com website traffic between June 15th 2023 and August 15th 2023
  • SEO performance was poor (performance did not improve on those articles since then)
SEO performance of bootstrappingdad.com between June 15th 2023 and August 15th 2023

I did received some nice support message from some of them as well as good feedbacks points but the metrics did not sum up from a pure business perspective: my digest was not resonating.

Lack of time and energy

Free time has been scarcer since the birth of our second child last spring. Handling sleepless nights, adopting new routines and being present with the family of course claimed more time but killed almost all focus time.

Even if running the digest required only 1-2 hours per week, those hours seemed very expensive to me: it required bandwidth (focus time) and conflicted with other projects that I wanted to work on. For instance, except for some stuff I needed for running the blog, I completely stopped coding. I did not like it.

Finally, I realised that writing about what's happening in tech was exhausting me. Just take the AI craze we are experiencing since one year, you can write about this sole topic almost every day (and some people do). It seemed vain to me to continue writing about news in tech: you just feed people with news that will be outdated after a few weeks (or even days). In other term, the endgame is to distribute a dopamine shot, that will make your audience crave for the next one. So I decided to stop.

What I learned from running a weekly tech-digest?

Despite discontinuing the weekly newsletter, here are my takeaways from running this projects:

  1. Build your audience actively: as long as you've not reached a critical mass of followers/subscribers people will not come alone. Like the fallacy "build it and they will come", if you don't actively market your content, people won't come. This is by actively engaging your potential audience that you will learn what's resonates with them: if you don't continuously experiment and engage, you are shooting in the dark.
  2. Develop a content creation system once you've found your audience and tone: generating high quality content is time consuming. Once you've identified what's sticks, create a system to streamline the content creation and distribution. There are so many (wannabe) content creator out there, the only way to stay ahead of the pack is through efficient high quality content production and distribution.
  3. Be passionated to be authentic and endure: Creating and developing newsletter is a long-run effort. If you are not 200% passionate about your topic, it will burn you. On the contrary, if you habe the spark, you will consistently appear authentic and compelling to people: they will follow you.

What's next? Refocusing on code, kids and bootstrapping.

I'm stopping the weekly newsletter but I'm not killing The Bootstrapping Dad. Writing is a good exercise for the mind. What I need is to refocus to it's essence: code, kids and bootstrapping. The experiment I made with a technical article encourages me to pursue this journaling adventure:

Hitting something: sharing about how I solved some problems

While I was trying to develop the newsletter, I encountered several small technical challenges. One challenge I had is that I wanted to use another mailing service for my newsletter than the default one for my self-hosted Ghost blog. Indeed, Ghost promotes an integration with Mailgun but if you want to use another provider, you need to develop a workaround: it get's a bit tricky. Looking on the internet, I realised that many people where encountering the same issue.

Therefore I decided to build my own custom solution (quick and dirty) and write a small article about how I did it: https://bootstrappingdad.com/building-a-simple-app-to-send-newsletter-emails-with-brevo-a-free-alternative-to-mailgun/

It happens that this article got way more organic traction than all other articles combined: it is resonating.

Refocusing on code, kids and bootstrapping

Sharing about a problem I experienced and how I solved/handle it seemed both compelling and easy to me. I did not felt constrained to do it and I was not subordinated to a regular publication timeline: it felt good. Therefore, as of today, I will share what I've beed working on (coding, raising kids and bootstrapping), how I have been solving problems and what I've been learning along the way but more on a ad-hoc basis.