People often say they want positive news, but they rarely read them. Sean Devlin wanted to know: why?Thank you for reading this post, don't forget to subscribe!
“In our initial market survey, we saw that 81% of people were not familiar with any positive news platforms,” he says.
Others have tried to create positive-news brands, but with limited success. Actor John Krasinski launched a popular but short-lived YouTube series called Some Good News. But many attempts failed – like one local newspaper that once devoted a day Only Positive news, and saw a 66% drop in readership.
Devlin’s background is in newsletter-creation and he wanted to see if he could crack the code. And so it seems: His newsletter, Nice News, now has 450,000 subscribers and he’s building a healthy business on top of feel-good stories.
how did he do it? I discuss this with him in my podcast Problem Solvers, which you can listen to here:
1. Do your research
Devlin worked at Optimism, formerly known as InboxLab, an incubator for email-related concepts. (Optimism is now the sole investor and primary shareholder of Nice News.) It was here that Devlin learned the importance of research: You don’t just launch something and hope for the best – instead you understand the market and the audience, and then Run tests continuously.
Before launching Nice News, Devlin tried to understand why positive news wasn’t more popular.
“There’s a desire for it, but is there enough good news for us to consider it?” He was amazed. “Do people feel a need to engage with it on a daily basis? What do people want to see in their inbox, and how can we make it engaging, relevant and entertaining for people?”
To answer those questions, he launched Nice News and experimented with different content and formats. The newsletter is deliberately broad: each edition includes a range of positive stories from around the world – everything from scientific discoveries to pleasant local news.
To their surprise, no one topic was more popular than another.
“People are reading the entire email and engaging with what is most relevant and interesting to them, and that changes on a daily basis,” he says.
They also learned that positive news consumers tend to be women and slightly older women. All this information helped them refine the product.
2. Be smart, not detailed
To get ahead, Nice News does a lot of what it calls “cross-pollination” – partnering with other newsletters to cross-promote each other, and sometimes even dedicated email campaigns to targeted user groups. Send.
(I can attest to the power of this: Devlin ran a blurb about my newsletter in Nice News and I got 2,000 new subscribers that day.)
He also uses giveaways, which are a type of promotional contest: people enter to win prizes, and when they do, they are automatically subscribed to a newsletter.
Not everyone in the newsletter industry likes giving gifts. Some say it attracts disgruntled readers – because people sign up to win prizes, not because they care about the newspaper. Those people are then more liable to not open the newsletter or unsubscribe immediately.
“It’s a little misunderstood,” says Devlin. A giveaway needs to be specifically targeted to your newsletter’s ideal audience – which means your giveaway’s prize and marketing efforts need to align. Nice News uses partnership marketing company DojoMojo, which helps with all this.
“For example, rewards could be centered around wellness,” says Devlin. “It could be a wellness retreat. So they have an interest in the award itself which aligns with Nice News, because we also offer content focused on health and wellness.”
3. Create a system (and a team to execute)
Although Nice News delivers good news, Devlin realized it would not be enough. It also had to be surprising and unique – more than just a repeat of what readers saw online.
“We realized the importance of curation, and making sure we’re highlighting these really relevant, important stories,” says Devlin.
So how do you sift through the world of hard news, and find the most surprising, coolest gems?
He hired a small team of staff writers and editors led by a former People Magazine editors, who look at the news stories, decide what to feature, and write brief descriptions about each one.
But he also assembled a group of what he calls “freelance curators” – people who review more than 100 news sources looking for nice news-appropriate stories. They’re based in the Philippines, which means they can search during hours when their US-based team is sleeping – giving their employees plenty to review when they start the workday.
As a result of all this, Nice News creates a virtuous cycle: by targeting the users most likely to respond to positive news, and then delivering stories they don’t see elsewhere, the newsletter goes along with the dream and pretty much everything. Creates connections. Any Newsletter Creator – Organic Growth.
“Ultimately, the content we present is emotional,” says Devlin. “It connects our audience to their core, and as a result they feel compelled to share it with their family, with their community members.”