Exploding Ideas by Eric Lam

"A newsletter is a product. Too many people put their ego first and pursue their interests. I look for what the market wants and give it to them."

Newsletter Circle is the newsletter all about newsletters for indie creators.

👉 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.

🎙CREATOR INTERVIEW

Today's guest, Eric Lam, has successfully cracked the code of Reddit to grow his newsletter Exploding Ideas. He has already reached over 6,200 subscribers in just four months, with 90% of his subscribers coming from Reddit.

However, it is worth highlighting that his success is NOT solely driven by his mastery of Reddit.

  • He understands the importance of being ruthless in finding the right product-market fit to ensure the success of a newsletter business.

  • He provides high-value content and Reddit posts that address the market's needs.

  • Additionally, he is highly competent at crafting efficient systems that make his newsletter business repeatable, which he identifies as the main challenge.

He is also ambitious about his newsletter business and focused on having a big impact; he aims to establish a multi-million dollar business that’s built around himself.

During our discussion, he shared exciting details about all the key ingredients for his success and we elaborated on his strategic approach to the newsletter business.

Let's dive in!

🏷 NEWSLETTER IDENTITY CARD

🛠 Tool Stack

👋 MEET THE CREATOR

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

I live in Los Angeles and started Exploding Ideas a few months ago.

Previously, I worked at a Fortune 500 company, then in Venture Capital, and then as Head of Strategy at a Startup. Over the years, I've bootstrapped multiple online businesses. Some I've kept, some I've sold.

My vision is to build out a portfolio of online businesses.

🥁 START

What is Exploding Ideas all about?

Exploding Ideas is about providing great research on emerging trends and startup ideas that heavily benefit from market tailwinds.

When I build online businesses, I need amazing research. It needs to be deep and give me the full scope of understanding why a trend is growing so that I know whether it’s worth paying attention to. I need to know where it’s growing, why it’s growing, how etc. I didn’t feel anyone was doing that in a great way.

I felt there was an opportunity to go deep on capitalizing on a growing trend every week. I then decided to test if that was a real opportunity in the market.

Why and how did you decide to start Exploding Ideas in the first place?

Ever since January, I've had the itch to build something new. I have a process I go through to test new ideas; here’s a link to the process I use to test new ideas. When looking for a new business to start, I run through that process a few times a month and cap my investment until I find something with a product market fit. I’ll run each idea for a few days and then scrap it and start a new one if it’s not getting natural market momentum. I had five or so ideas between January and March, and then when I tested Exploding Ideas, a ton of people started subscribing. Here’s the link to a post on Indiehackers where I deep dive into how it all happened.

Exploding Ideas is based on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.

I foresaw that we were headed into a market downturn and when the economy is in decline, people get laid off, get pay cuts etc. This makes them fear for their fundamental needs, whether they can afford housing and whether they can ultimately put food on the table. That leads them to look for ways to make supplemental income to bridge the gap between their new lowered income and their old income. Exploding Ideas is a solution to that problem. Exploding Ideas supplies you with great research so that you can start your own business.

🚀 GROWTH

How did you gain your first 1000 subscribers in 12 days?

Here’s the link to a post on Indiehackers where I deep dive into how I did it.

Which growth channels do you mainly use? Which one is the most effective?

Reddit has proven the only one that has been effective for me. Twitter seems like it will be a long game for me. Reddit gives me instant gratification. I get subscribers immediately and without much work.

“90%+ of my subscribers came from Reddit and it’s the most engaged audience I've identified, meaning they open the emails.”

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Let’s continue with talking about Reddit.

In which cases does Reddit work the best to grow a newsletter?

Reddit is a forum where people discuss topics with one another. If you can insert yourself into a conversation and can provide value, it works.

I actually refined this strategy on Facebook. In 2021 I sold a software business I owned. I developed the Reddit strategy for that business and grew my email list to 55,000 subscribers. I sold the software product to the email list and it was profitable.

I refined an engaging go-to-market strategy in private Facebook groups that got me tons of subscribers and customers. I just took the strategy and moved it to Reddit.

This works if you have a product-market fit for your newsletter. Some people don’t have it, so they struggle.

“You need to be ruthless about finding product market fit first and then pursuing a product/newsletter. Otherwise you’re basically wasting your time pursuing a dead product.

A newsletter is a product. Too many people put their ego first and pursue their interests. I look for what the market wants and give it to them.”

At that point, if there’s traction and I'm interested, I'll pursue it. But I look for market momentum first. Too many creators put the cart before the horse.

It’s a fundamental nuance that will make or break your newsletter/product.

In a nutshell, what was your strategy to grow on Reddit??

Here’s a good Twitter interview I did with Matt McGarry that breaks it down.

What are the most critical success ingredients / watch-outs while posting and commenting on Reddit to gain new subscribers?

Don’t be a shill. Some people will put minimal effort into their comments and just blatantly tell the OP to check out their newsletter; it’s inauthentic and shilly.

“Authenticity and helpfulness thrives on Reddit. If you shill, you’re wasting your time. Don’t shill, provide high value!”

What is your Twitter strategy to grow your newsletter?

I simply teach people how to do the Reddit strategy and show them how to run a newsletter like a real business.

Most people approach it from an influencer perspective, not an entrepreneurial perspective. So, I mainly showcase go-to-market strategies like The Reddit Strategy on Twitter with a business-driven perspective and then I deep dive on niches you can smash with those go-to-market strategies in the newsletter.

“That’s really the pitch; learn some parts of running a business on my Twitter, then find the business that’s right for you to apply it to in my newsletter. It’s all part of a funnel strategy. “

I’m iterating and refining it over time. I’ve found a market on Twitter, now it’s just about streamlining the messaging.

You recently did a “newsletter give-away” which was an unconventional thing. What was the thinking behind it?

So I built that newsletter in about 4 days on Reddit. I was bored on a Sunday and was lying on the couch with my fiance. As a fun activity, I decided to brand an AI newsletter and make a post on Reddit to see how quickly I could grow it. I branded it and set it all up on Beehiiv in a few hours. I made a post on Reddit; then I went to bed.

I woke up to 250 subscribers and then got a few hundred more over the next few days. I didn’t want it to take time away from running Exploding Ideas, so I decided I could probably sell it for $800. Then I thought, why not just give it away? People who follow me would probably appreciate it. So I did.

How do you keep your open rate and CTRs high? 

I’m still experimenting with this. I follow Matt McGarry closely and have hired him in the past as a consultant. He’s the master. I just follow his teachings mostly.

#1 seems to be getting the right subscribers. Meaning if you’re paying for referrals from an AI newsletter but your newsletter is about Sports, you’ll probably have a low open rate. Get subs from where your audience hangs out like other Sports newsletters, Sports subreddits etc.

#2 is creating amazing content. Add polls to your newsletter so people can rate the content “good, meh, bad” that kind of thing. Shoot for a high percentage of “good” votes.

#3 is to scrub your list, and be religious about it. A lot of people obsess over their subscriber count as their top KPI and are too emotionally attached to cutting out the non-readers because they don’t want to lower their subscriber count. You need to make peace with this. Cut out the non-readers. You want your emails delivered and people reading them. Strive to be unemotional and data-driven about your business.

💸 MONETIZATION

How do you make money with your newsletter?

I just started monetizing on June 10. So it’s only been a few weeks. So far, I've made about $1,000.

Right now, I make money on referrals, consultations, pro plans and sponsorships.

The revenue has been pretty equally weighted between all the revenue streams, which is interesting.

How do you find sponsors?

I have a link in my newsletter for prospective sponsors to advertise. That takes them to a Calendly link that’s connected to Stripe. They can add their sponsorship details there and book a sponsorship via that method.

This way, sponsorships can be relatively passive for me so I can focus on other things. I get a notification when a new sponsor comes in.

Sponsorship booking page

You have a pro plan for paid subscribers. At what point did you decide to start it? Do you have a strategy to turn free readers into paid ones?

I started paid plans on June 10th, so I started a few weeks ago. Matt told me to do it when I had around 5,000 subscribers. I released an MVP paid plan right when I hit that. I’m currently building a backend dashboard for paying subs on my own tech infrastructure, so it’s a highly branded and unique experience.

I didn’t do anything special to upsell users to paid plans. Paid subs is a long game. They trickle in over time; you don’t get them all at once. That’s what Matt told me. You look to other revenue streams to bring in the majority of money short term. So that’s the path I'm taking.

📩 E-MAIL SERVICE PROVIDER

Why did you choose Beehiiv? Pros and cons?

They’re cheap. That’s why I use them. For my old software business, I used Omnisend and it cost like $500 a month. It was the most expensive part of my infrastructure. It was a joke, honestly. When I saw Beehiiv as an alternative was $1,000 for the most expensive plan for a year and you could have three publications, I saw it as a no-brainer.

🧩 SYSTEM & PRODUCTIVITY

What is your typical weekly process of creating a new issue?

Tuesday is my day 1 of the week for Exploding Ideas. On Tuesday, I start research for the week's newsletter. My week breaks down like this.

  • Tuesday → Research day

  • Wednesday → Research day & Pick topic

  • Thursday → Write article

  • Friday → Write article

  • Saturday → Have my fiance edit and make changes

  • Sunday → Send out Sunday article and schedule Tuesday’s article

  • Monday → Off day

🎢 NEWSLETTER EXPERIENCE

How did writing Exploding Topics contribute to your life professionally & personally?

I’ve met a lot of cool people so far.

“I’ve met some of the biggest newsletter creators on Twitter through Exploding Ideas.“

Almost every day, it feels like someone interesting is DMing me to ask about my strategies and connect. It’s helped me expand my network of high-value people.

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

This might be an annoying answer and somewhat philosophical, but in my opinion, businesses should not be hard; they should be repetitive. The repetitive nature should be what’s challenging. If a business is hard, it means one of the systems isn’t working properly.

“I have systems built around everything. My goal is that I need to treat myself like a computer and just put myself through the processes I've designed so that they can be highly unemotional and exclusively data-driven.”

For example, with Twitter I ran tests in the beginning to gauge engagement. Here’s how it worked:

I wrote down on a piece of paper 3 hypotheses for topics people would be interested in that could be a part of my newsletter funnel. These 3 topics were exclusively what I was allowed to tweet about and if one of the 3 topics worked after 2 weeks, then I double down on the one that worked. Over time I kept doing this; pick 3 topics and select the best performing. Then scrap the 2 underperforming and add 2 new topics to pair with the top performer. Then see if any new topics perform well and replace the one underperforming until I got 3 high-performing topics. The topics I ended up with were

  1. Newsletter,

  2. Reddit Strategies and

  3. Success posts.

Those are the only 3 topics I'm allowed to post about. That’s it. So every Sunday, I write all my tweets through Wednesday. Then Wednesday, I write them through the rest of the week. There’s some ad hoc posting but generally speaking, it can be as automated as I decide it to be.

My whole business is built and structured this way. I have a system around everything. The Reddit strategy as well.

Over time this gets repetitive, but I've built processes around things that are working currently; therefore, they’re not hard, just repetitive. Then when a process breaks in the future, I design a new system.

🎯 FUTURE

What is next on your newsletter journey?

I’m launching a backend platform for paid subscribers. That will be out at the end of this week or early next week. That will make the platform much more engaging. I may do a cohort-driven course as well. I ran a poll the other day and 70 people said they would be interested and I keep getting DMs requesting it.

Long term, I want to build this into a multi-million dollar business that’s built around myself, hopefully, that doesn’t sound narcissistic. I feel that in order to really have an impact nowadays, you need a platform to do so and I'm personally focused on having a big impact. It gives me purpose.

“The business that I sold a few years ago was not built around myself and I think that was a mistake. You get massively rewarded and always have a financial opportunity if you build around yourself as the centerpiece.”

📌 RECOMMENDATIONS

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

“Find product market fit before you start your newsletter, that’s the most important step “

If you nail this and have success metrics for tracking what constitutes product market fit, you’ll be golden and everything will fall into place from there.

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

Matt McGarry’s newsletter, Newsletter Operator. It’s highly informative and Matt’s very smart.

Thank you so much, Eric. Looking forward to witnessing your newsletter business turning into a huge one.

🔗 Where to find Eric Lam and his work

🙏 From You

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