Entrepreneur: Ryan Sneddon

Biz: Naptown Scoop

Tilt: How to have fun in Annapolis, Maryland 

Scene: Newsletter (17K), Instagram (20.7K), Facebook (6.3K), X (139)

Snack Bites: 

  • Ryan Sneddon found an unfilled hyperlocal content tilt – news about how to have fun in Annapolis, Maryland.
  • The daily newsletter has a 65% open rate, with restaurant reviews attracting the most clicks.
  • In 2023, Ryan hired one full- and four part-time employees.
  • The secret sauce to the business launched in August 2020? Ryan says it’s replying to every single email or DM – positive and negative.

Why We Stan: Ryan Sneddon limits his coverage to a 10-mile radius from the city center but has attracted a subscriber base that represents almost half of the city’s population.

The Story of Ryan Sneddon

Going hyperlocal limits your audience, but Ryan Sneddon took a chance. In August 2020, he launched Naptown Scoop, a newsletter about fun things happening in his hometown of Annapolis, Maryland. (Naptown is the nickname for this city of 40,000.)

“I have no background in journalism or anything like that. I’m an engineer. But I know if you can fill a need, you can have a good business,” Ryan tells Canvas Rebel.

However, a successful local news business doesn’t require covering a large geographic area. “It’s a local paper, but where does local end? Annapolis has some micro-suburbs around it. A while back, I drew a 10-mile radius from the center of town,” according to his interview with Newsletter Crew. “Now, we only cover things in that radius. 10.05 miles? Sorry.”

By the end of 2023, Ryan says the newsletter has 17K subscribers, a 65% open rate, and over $200K in ad revenue. In the past year,  the Scoop saw a 20% in subscribers and a 60% jump in revenue. Ryan also hired one full-time and four part-time employees.

The secret sauce? Ryan tells Newsletter Crew it really isn’t a secret. “(We) answer every damn email we get. You hate today’s newsletter. You’re going to receive a really kind reply back thanking you for taking time out of your busy day to give us feedback.

“You love it and gave us a nice compliment? You’re going to get thanked, and I’m going to ask you what your favorite restaurant is. Next morning, you’ll wake up with a $15 gift card in your inbox. That’s super cheap, that $15 has a million-percent relationship return.”

Engagement is what his business is all about. After all, the total subscriber count doesn’t matter if no one opens it. They attract a high open rate for the 6 a.m.-delivered newsletter. Ryan says the click rate is driven by delivering content they know the audience will like. When he talked to Newsletter Crew, that hot click topic was restaurant reviews.

But we also like the attitude Ryan and team bring to the Naptown Scoop, as illustrated in its welcome email: 

“You might be wondering, ‘What makes Naptown Scoop different from all the other newsletters out there.’ Great question. For starters, we have a strict no-boring policy. Even if we’re writing about enervating topics like budgets and road closures. We keep it interesting like a double overtime football game.”

They also ask new subscribers what their favorite Annapolis restaurant is to encourage a direct reply. It’s a smart move given it knows that the audience is most receptive (i.e., willing to click) to restaurant news.

A year after launching Naptown Scoop, Ryan tells Voyage Baltimore the hardest part of his content business was doing almost everything alone. “For the first 10 months, the only help I had was when I hired freelancers to write blog content for us. It was sporadic and took a bit off my plate, but not enough …

“Working on something solo is lonely. There are late nights where nobody is keeping you accountable. It’d be easy to quit. But I write something to prevent that at the top of my to-do list each day: ‘Don’t Quit.’”

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About the author

Ann regularly combines words and strategy for B2B, B2C, and nonprofits, continuing to live up to her high school nickname, Editor Ann. An IABC Communicator of the Year and founder of G Force Communication, Ann coaches and trains professionals in all things content. Connect with her on LinkedIn and Twitter.