Entrepreneur: Tim Huelskamp

Biz: 1440

Tilt: News with no bias

Scene: Newsletter (3.4M)

Snack Bites: 

  • When they launched, Tim and co-founder Andrew Steigerwald had 78 subscribers (friends and family). But they still focused their first quarter of operations on developing the newsletter to become “as kickass as possible.” 
  • They built a unit-cost business model – the cost to acquire a subscriber vs. the lifetime value of that subscriber.
  • The newsletter now has a team of 14 and earns at least $1M in revenue per team member.
  • Word-of-mouth referrals are its best organic growth tool.

Why We Stan: Tim has known since the beginning the secret ingredient of a successful content business – always focus on the audience. 

The Story of Tim Huelskamp

In 2017, Tim Huelskamp and his co-founder Andrew Steigerwald created the newsletter they wanted to read – a comprehensive news roundup without a slant or bias. Their first subscribers totaled 78 – all friends and family.

By May 2021, in an interview with the Newsletter Crew, they had a reported 750K subscribers and an open rate of over 50%.

Today, the 1440 newsletter has over 3M subscribers.

At first, 1440 didn’t focus on subscriber growth. They focused on the product. “We didn’t worry about revenue; we didn’t worry about growth … We spent the entire summer asking, ‘How do we make this product as kickass as possible?’ Because if you don’t do that, nothing else matters,” Tim tells Newsletter Crew.

A year in, they turned their attention to the channels, scaling, and monetizing.

The growth formula revolves around the cost of acquiring a customer and the potential revenue from that customer. 

In Tim’s example in Newsletter Crew, he says an opened email can lead to revenue of 2 to 5 cents. If you spent $2 to acquire a customer, they need to open the newsletter 66 times to recoup the investment. So, for creators who don’t have good retention rates, the math won’t work to scale the product.

But the 1440 newsletter folks know how to deliver content their audience wants.

In a recent interview with The Rebooting, Tim says they make five cents each time one of the 3M subscribers opens its daily email. That revenue now pays for a 14-person team – that means it generates over $1M in revenue per employee.

The 1440 newsletter uses both paid and organic promotion. Word-of-mouth marketing is their favorite. As Tim tells Newsletter Crew, “What’s great is these customers have significantly higher engagement than other acquisition channels. Word of mouth works really well for newsletters.”

Regarding paid advertising, 1440 finds paying to advertise or doing cross-promotion swaps with other newsletters valuable. But it doesn’t scale like big social platforms can, Tim notes. To that end, they find Facebook and Instagram to deliver the best results.

*image courtesy of Medium/Authority Magazine

Get stories of content creators and business advice for creator entrepreneurs every Tuesday and Friday in The Tilt newsletter. Subscribe today.

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.