Faster Than Normal by Alex Brogan - Part 1

"The first 1,000 subscribers are the hardest. If you can get there, you can get to 100,000—all it takes is time!"

Newsletter Circle is the newsletter all about newsletters.

👉 Every Sunday, you will read the unique journey of a different newsletter creator and learn more about how to start, grow and monetize your own newsletter.

👉 Every Wednesday, you will read articles and the list of curated resources to level up your newsletter business.


Alex Brogan scaled two newsletters to 50,000 and 60,000 subscribers (and 5-figures in monthly revenue) in the last 18 months.

It is obvious that he cracked the code of building a profitable newsletter business.

Want to know his secret?

Welcome to a two-part interview series where we'll uncover the strategies that led to his success!

But that's not all – Alex is ready to generously share his wealth of experience with creators of all levels with his Newsletter Mastery Course*.

Today, in Part 1 of our exclusive interview, we'll delve into:

  • How Alex kickstarted his newsletter journey

  • Why having a newsletter is the rock-solid foundation of any online business

  • The evolution of growth strategies he masterfully employed along the way

Stay tuned for Part 2 next week, where he’ll share the art and science of newsletter monetization:

  • The right time to start monetizing your newsletter

  • Different ad strategies

  • How to price newsletter ads

  • The most critical factors to turn a partnership into success

Get ready to level up your newsletter game and let’s dive in!

Faster Than Normal


Faster Than Normal - Newsletter Identity Card

🛠 Tool Stack


Welcome Alex. Let’s start with getting to know you.

Previously, I worked at Goldman Sachs for two years (2019-2020) in the Investment Banking Division, helping companies grow and raise capital. I also played Water Polo for Australia (2015) and was Valedictorian of my graduating class at the University of Western Australia (2017). 

I also spent time at an NFT Art Studio in growth and at a Growth Marketing Agency called Ammo Marketing, focusing on organic and paid social.

Most recently, I was Head of Go To Market at Zipline, a Series A B2B healthcare startup. Zipline aims to solve some of the most pressing challenges in the healthcare industry throughout the United States and Australia. 

I’m now splitting my time between two newsletters: Faster Than Normal and The Intelligence Age.


Why and how did you decide to start Faster Than Normal in the first place?

I started Faster Than Normal after beginning to build an audience on Twitter. I principally decided to start it to explore my curiosity around high-performance frameworks, but there were critical business reasons for doing so too: 

  1. Email is an owned channel. The list you build is yours to keep—no tech behemoth or rogue CEO can take it from you.

  2. ‍Email is everywhere. Most of the 8 billion people on our planet have an email address. This isn’t the case for social media platforms.

  3. Email is direct. Algorithms don’t decide whether your email reaches your readers—you do.

  4. ‍Email is personal. Email is an opportunity to deepen the relationship with your subscribers, your investors, your customers, your fans—anyone.

  5. ‍Email has the best ROI. Email is known to have the highest ROI out of any marketing channel.

  6. Email is the foundation of modern businesses. I’ve counted over 17 monetisation methods that can be built on a newsletter*, including digital products, paid newsletters, memberships, SaaS, Agencies, Investment Funds, and more.

“If you’re serious about starting to succeed with an online business, email is an essential ingredient that you cannot live without.”

Then, at which point did you think adding another newsletter, The Intelligence Age, is a good idea?

My cousin, Casey, and I had been discussing ideas to work on. Casey’s background and deep passion is in Artificial Intelligence. The combination of my newsletter experience and Casey’s interest made it a good idea to pursue!


You grew 50k+ subscriber newsletters in the last 18 months while working full-time. This is impressive. Let’s focus on one of them, which is Faster Than Normal.

How did you gain your first 1,000 subscribers?

“My Answer?

Doing Things That Don’t Scale.

The first 1,000 subscribers are the hardest. If you can get there, you can get to 100,000—all it takes is time!”

Doing things that don’t scale is a concept popularised by Paul Graham.

The idea is to do things that you wouldn’t do at scale:

  • Ask your family, friends, coworkers (anyone with a heartbeat that you know)

  • Share your newsletter in communities (Pro tip: Choose ones where you have an existing affinity; add value before asking)

  • Add value to social posts with a link to your newsletter

Once you get to 300-500 subscribers, look for Newsletters of a similar size in a related niche and ask to do reciprocal shares. Use Lettergrowth to find cross-promotions.

After reaching 1,000 subscribers, is it time to start “doing things that scale”?  Can you tell us how your growth strategy evolved after the first 1,000?

Here is the full summary:

— 0-1000 Subscribers—

Step 1: Do Things That Don’t Scale

— 1000-10,000 Subscribers —

Step 2: Organic Social Media

Building a newsletter without it is a herculean task. 

When starting Faster Than Normal, I focused on a single platform—Twitter. Each platform has nuances, and it’s best not to spread yourself too thin.  

Over time, I added LinkedIn and Instagram.

Create valuable content and invite people to join your newsletter after posting with a “Call-To-Action” at the end of your post.

“Pro Tip: Start with Twitter or LinkedIn because they’re text-based, meaning that folks on these platforms enjoy written content (like newsletters!).”

— 10,000 - 25,000 Subscribers—

Step 3: Recommendations & Cross Promotions:

Recommendations are when you subscribe to a newsletter and see 2-4 other newsletters that you can sign up to—now extremely common on Beehiiv, Substack, and ConvertKit.

Cross-promotions are when you organize a reciprocal ‘share’ in someone else's newsletter.

We’ve used both of these heavily on the journey to 50k subscribers.

— 25,000 - 50,000 Subscribers—

Step 4: Paid Growth (Refind, Upscribe)

We’ve relied most heavily on Refind and Upscribe by Sparkloop given their simplicity.

“The key to paid growth is only to start investing here when each additional subscriber you pay for adds more value than they cost (LTV > CAC)”

A simpler way to think about it is that you want to make sure you’re profitable before you start spending on ads, and then only spend up to your breakeven point. 

This isn’t sweeping advice; only what we choose to do to keep growing.

While these steps are listed sequentially, in reality, once you start a new step, you don't stop the previous one. 

— 50,000+ Subscribers—

Step 5: More Paid Growth (Twitter, Facebook, TikTok, Quora)

So, in the end, you’ll be doing Step 1 + Step 2 + Step 3 + Step 4 + Step 5, only in different proportions depending on what’s most effective.

Which growth channels do you mainly use currently?

All of the above, but hardly any things that don’t scale!

Can you elaborate a bit on how you utilized Recommendations, as one of the most effective growth strategies?

  • Step 1: Find candidates (using Directories, Sparkloop, or Beehiiv) with good audience crossover, a similar list size, and similar flow (the number of subscribers they’re adding per month)

  • Step 2: Send an email like the following:

Hey ____, I run an AI newsletter called The Intelligence Age, it's a daily, curated AI newsletter focused on the business implications of AI. It’s mostly read by senior leaders and technical folks.

We have 50k subscribers (40% open rate + 3% click through rate) at the moment and a premium community of ~100 folks where we go a bit deeper into business use cases and AI implementation.

Since there's almost certainly a good amount of overlap between the audiences for The Intelligence Age and _____ would you be interested in setting up reciprocal recommendations to help grow both of our audiences?

Let me know if you'd be open to this!


We dive into over 30 growth strategies in the Newsletter Mastery Course*


Can you tell us who should take Newsletter Mastery Course and what they should expect to learn?

This course is suited for:

(1) Beginner Newsletter Operators with no existing newsletter

As far as I’m aware, this course will be the most comprehensive, efficient, and risk-free way for people serious about starting a newsletter to get started

(2) Intermediate Newsletter Operators with up to 5,000 subscribers

You’ll get all the tactics you need to continue scaling and optimizing your workflows, including growth and monetization

(3) Advanced Newsletter Operators with 5,000+ subscribers

  • The main value for advanced operators will be having everything you need in one place and a behind-the-scenes look at how 2 other 50k+ newsletters have been scaled, operated, and monetised. You’ll be able to replicate all the advanced playbooks and templates in your business

  • Further, you’ll get access to an entire paid growth course with Special Guest, Matt McGarry. Matt’s been responsible for driving over 5M subscribers with paid ads for The Hustle, Milk Road, Chartr, Codie Sanchez, Sahil Bloom, Wondermind, Bankless, and 20+ more

No past experience with Newsletters is required; you just need the desire to make a Newsletter a part of your future.


Why did you choose Beehiiv? Any pros and cons?

The reason Beehiiv is so powerful as an email software provider is that you can use it for every category required to run a newsletter—content creation, growth, monetization, and engagement.

In my humble opinion, no other tool comes close. It’s also been a joy watching the speed which Tyler and the team execute and release new features. 

My favorite features: 

  1. Content Creation: Create, schedule, and send newsletter posts (includes AI-writing capabilities)

  2. Growth: Organic & paid recommendations 

  3. Growth: Landing pages

  4. Growth: Referral programs 

  5. Monetization: Premium Subscriptions, Boosts (Recommendations), Ad Network (Sponsorship opportunities) 

  6. Engagement: Polls and survey forms for readers

The only area for development is with their automation and segmentation. I’ve found a few bugs here and there—but I’m confident these will be improved soon!

As a side note, Beehiiv has kindly offered students of Newsletter Mastery* a 30% discount.


How did building Faster Than Normal contribute to your life professionally and personally?

Professionally, it’s helped me develop skills like copywriting, understanding media businesses, social media. It’s created a high-margin income stream.

Personally, I’ve created wonderful relationships and have been forced to learn more than I could have imagined!

What is the most challenging part of operating a newsletter and how do you handle it?

Staying consistent!

I’m reminded of this quote by James Clear:

“You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems.” 

Without a system in place for: 

  1. Generating and validating ideas

  2. Writing content

  3. Scheduling content

  4. Distributing content

It’s a very tall order!

I go into this and even more in the Newsletter Mastery Course*!


What would it be if you had the right to give one piece of advice to aspiring newsletter creators?

If I told you that before committing to a newsletter, this is the price you must pay: At a minimum, a 6-month commitment of ~10-15 hours/week. 

Would you still do it? 

If not, don’t do it.

It’s critical to set the expectations of what this actually takes.

Doing so will give you the freedom to detach from the outcomes in the beginning.

“The number #1 reason why beginner newsletters fail is because they don’t fully understand the price they have to pay and commit to it.”

What are your favorite newsletters that you can’t wait for the next issue?

Don’t miss Part 2 of Alex Brogan Interview:

Next week Alex will share precious insights about monetization:

  • The right time to start monetizing your newsletter

  • Different ad strategies

  • The art & science behind pricing newsletter ads

  • The most critical success factors to turn a partnership into success

🔗 Where to find Alex Brogan and his work

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