Houck's Newsletter by Michael Houck

“Run your newsletter like a startup. Reinvest your profits to grow faster."

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.


Michael Houck grew his newsletter ‘Houck’s Newsletter’ to over 80,000 subscribers and approached $1 million AR in 1 year.

While he utilized growth strategies we’re more familiar with such as Sparkloop, lead magnets and paid channels he’s also acquiring other newsletters and believes that newsletter M&A is going to be big.

He wrote a fantastic guest post for Matt McGarry’s newsletter about how to apply this strategy which you can read here.

As an experienced founder who raised a $10 million Series A from a16z for his last startup, he runs his newsletter like a startup and reinvests his profits in growth.

Let’s take a closer look into the behind-the-scenes of his success.


Houck’s Newsletter - Newsletter Identity Card

🛠 Tool Stack


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

Hey 👋 thanks for having me!

Currently, I write Houck's Newsletter, a weekly advice column read by 80,000 startup founders, and recently launched Megaphone, a marketplace for content amplification on social media.

My last startup raised a $10 million Series A from a16z, and I've also founded a venture fund in the past and made over 50 investments in early-stage startups.

Before all that I built products at Uber Eats and Airbnb for a few years across data science and product management.


Why and how did you decide to start Houck’s Newsletter in the first place?

It started as a side project last year while I was working on my last startup.

“The original goal was to build up my personal brand to increase the profile of the startup. I left the startup a few months later and went all in on the newsletter.”


You started your newsletter by investing $10,000. How did you use this initial investment?

It never really got used. Early on I just wanted the business to have a cushion, but I was already generating revenue from sponsorships by the time I started having meaningful expenses.

When I launched it, I paid for annual plans for a couple of SaaS tools I knew I would need (including my newsletter platform of choice, Beehiiv), but I don't think the bank account balance ever went far below that.

How did you gain your first 1,000 subscribers?

Most of my early subscribers came from content marketing on X and LinkedIn. I had audiences on those platforms already, which helped a lot, but I optimized my content considerably by having strong, relevant CTAs in all of my posts and on my profile.

Different strategies can be more effective in different stages of a newsletter. Based on your experience, can you share the most effective growth strategies for different stages of Houck’s Newsletter?

Depends on how you define effective.

Lead magnets drove 15,000 subscribers for us within just a few weeks but those subscribers engaged with the newsletter less frequently.

“I've found paid ads and SparkLoop to be the right mix of scalable and effective.”

  • 0 - 5K subscribers → Content marketing

  • 5K - 10K subscribers → Recommendations

  • 10K-25K subscribers → Lead magnets

  • 25K -50K subscribers → Paid channels

  • 50K- today → Paid channels

Speaking of paid growth, when do you think is the best time to start?

“As soon as you have a clear and deep understanding of your target reader who really loves your content, you can start using paid channels to find them at scale.“

For some people that happens after months of experimenting, whereas others know it right away.


You approach $1 million AR with your newsletter.

Can you take us through your monetization strategy? How did you first monetize it and how did it evolve as your list size grew?

“I monetize via subscriptions, sponsorships, affiliates, consulting, and a software product.”

  • Sponsorships and consulting were first because they can provide meaningful revenue right away (that I reinvested in growth).

  • Next, I launched a subscription that includes premium content and a community.

  • Later on, I launched Megaphone and that's been my fastest-growing revenue stream.

In the future, I plan to launch a few more things as well :)

Affiliates are a very minor portion.


Why did you choose Beehiiv? Pros and cons?

Beehiiv is great! Their team ships fast, they really understand their users and are responsive to them, and the tool is very easy to use. No complaints.


You have a lot on your plate. How do you manage your time? 

I embrace chaos. I don't use any project tracking system or framework. I just throw myself into each day and focus on making progress against the highest leverage opportunity and biggest problem currently facing the business.

As a result, most days are different but incredibly engaging.


How did building Houck’s Newsletter contribute to your life professionally and personally?

It's had an impact on my personal brand and also isn't incredibly time consuming which has left me time to tinker on other things and spend less time working overall. My wife is a fan!

What is the most challenging part of operating a newsletter?

This sounds bad but, compared to my last company (a venture-backed startup), running a newsletter has been pretty easy! It's fun. I know that's not a satisfying answer.


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

“Run your newsletter like a startup. Reinvest your profits to grow faster.”

Thank you so much for sharing your journey Michael. I can’t wait to see what you continue achieving in the newsletter business!

🔗 Where to find Michael Houck and his work

That’s all for today. Thanks for reading and don’t be shy to leave your comment by clicking the below button.

See you next week.


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