📊 ClassNotes 008: How long does it take to build an audience?

📊 ClassNotes 008: How long does it take to build an audience?
You are one of 1,061 awesome people reading this newsletter.

It takes a long time to build an audience. Or, at least, it feels that way.

What if I told you the path to audience growth is shorter than you might think? Let me prove it to you.

yellow timeline graph of newsletter subscribers
This group of seventeen newsletters is a representative sample. We'll likely study this again in the future with a larger data set. Designed by Ilya

There’s a newsletter about newsletters called Growth In Reverse written by Chenell Basilio. In almost every edition, she provides a timeline for an individual publisher’s growth (i.e., how long did it take them to go from 0 to 50,000 email subscribers and beyond).

I decided to run a meta-analysis on her content to see what patterns I could find. Here are a few gems from that study:

  • It took each of her case studies 18 months on average to reach an audience of 50,000.
  • The most frequent length of time fell in the 22–24-month window.
  • Growth rate was largely a byproduct of growth mechanism (more on this below).

Can you commit to 2 years?

Chenell’s content echoes the findings of other studies done on creator growth.

A study on bloggers found that the majority could replace their full-time salaries after 2 years of consistent publishing. YouTubers only need to gain approximately 20,000 subscribers to earn a median income, which is very achievable within 2 years.

All of this works because digital audience growth is exponential, not linear. For the examples on our chart, many struggled to break the 10,000-subscriber mark in the first year but went on to add over 40,000 in the following 6-12 months.

If you commit, 2 years could be all it takes to change your life.

How you choose to grow matters

Lastly, it's important to highlight the factors (or mechanisms) that influence growth.

  • The fastest-growing newsletters relied on paid ads and viral social posts to add subscribers.
  • The slowest growers took a more organic path by relying on SEO, podcast interviews, and audience sharing (like referral programs).
  • Newsletters that published daily tended to grow faster than weekly publications.

Every single newsletter on our chart took a slightly different path to reach its goals. The only commonality — they kept going.

1. It takes about 2 years to build a solid audience online.
2. You can influence this number through multiple factors, including publishing frequency and acquisition method.

Next week, I'll show you the prices that prevent sales and give my opinion on what the "sweet spot" is for digital products.

— David

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