The Renaissance of Media
Welcome to a fresh edition of Growth Croissant!
I’m Reid, your host on this journey. I’ve been lucky to be part of incredible teams that launched and grew some of the most well-known consumer subscription products: Hulu, Crunchyroll, HBO Max, and Substack.
Growth Croissant will be an evolving home for our learnings, painful lessons, and frameworks for making hard decisions. My goal is to deliver you a comprehensive and actionable guidebook on how to grow your business.
Apologies for the radio silence!
Some personal updates from the past few months: I took some time off after leaving Substack and traveled around Japan; then Dee and I eloped at the Santa Barbara Courthouse and celebrated with family over the holidays; and now we’re preparing for a cross-country move to Charleston, SC.
On the work side, I’m working with my friend Chirag on a new way to help individuals and small teams grow their media business.
For those with a solid foundation and momentum, we’re exploring ways to add value through more hands-on, tailored support. You could think of us as your full-time tech (design / product / engineering) and growth (marketing / monetization) team, helping navigate problems and opportunities unique to your business.
If you’re feeling stuck, facing limitations, or focusing too much on non-creative aspects of your business, we’re here to help. We have the capacity to work with a few more folks and are excited to hear from you. To get in touch, send a note to firstname.lastname@example.org, reply to this email, or drop a comment below.
The post below shares more of the thinking behind what we’re doing. Let us know what you think or if any of it resonates with you.
The challenges of going solo
Over the past decade, I’ve been fortunate to work with a remarkable group of talented individuals or small teams building their own media businesses, especially during the last few years at Yem and Substack.
Helping folks earn a living doing something they enjoy has been deeply rewarding. The quote below fromsums it up well and serves as a constant source of motivation:
There is no better feeling than the freedom to decide what you work on, how you spend your time, and who you do business with.
But the past few years have also left me with a much deeper appreciation for how hard it is to build a business around a newsletter, podcast, YouTube channel, or any creative pursuit, especially as an individual or super lean team.
Getting to a point where you’re earning a living is very difficult, and there’s no guarantee of getting there. Getting to that point is like wandering through the forest, searching for the other side. There are no growth tactics, tools, or shortcuts — just a lot of hard work, trying stuff out, consistently showing up, and a dash of luck.
For those who find momentum and feel the wind at their back, growing their business brings new challenges and opportunities. My career has revolved around growing media businesses, so I naturally gravitate toward these problems.
Shifting the problem-solving burden
Let’s go through some common challenges folks run into as they look to accelerate growth and take their business to the next level, and how we’re thinking about solving those problems.
Making important decisions in a silo is hard.
I’ve had countless conversations with folks wrestling with the same questions we struggled with at larger media companies. What value to provide paid subscribers? How much to charge? How to find reliable, ongoing growth channels? And how to launch new products and expand monetization?
While there are no universal answers to these questions, there are patterns, allowing us to develop expertise and intuition. One advantage of working with multiple high-growth media businesses would be deepening our insights, allowing us to provide nuanced, tailored guidance.
Solo entrepreneurship is hard.
Launching your own media business in a few minutes is magical. But running any business as an individual is challenging.
I worked with some extraordinary people building Yem, but I was mostly by myself. The lows were a little lower, the highs weren’t as high, and it was easy to get stuck. It wasn’t nearly as much fun, and I really missed having teammates.
We want to be a constant source of encouragement, helping folks avoid overthinking things or getting in their own way, and guiding them to realize their full potential.
Managing growth & monetization can be distracting.
Successful media businesses of the future will likely have these characteristics:
Publish across multiple mediums and platforms — it’s already hard to cleanly categorize a media business as a “YouTube channel”, a “newsletter”, or a “podcast”.
Make money in many ways, including subscriptions, sponsorships, merch, courses, events, etc.
Expand audience through various growth channels, including paid marketing, partnerships, social, and other audience development efforts.
But each new platform, revenue stream, or growth channel creates a new list of stuff to do. Often, these new tasks pull time and mindshare from creative efforts — the hard stuff. A writer recently told us that they had 12 things on their to-do list for that day, not one of which was to write the newsletter.
Our goal is to drive audience and revenue growth by building unique features, automating workflows, and providing hands-on services.
Managing tech can be distracting.
From conversations with folks that move from off-the-shelf platforms to a custom set-up, there’s usually at least a hint of regret.
They’re now required to define their exact product needs (no easy task) and navigate the unavoidable compromises involved in product development. Additionally, they encounter a consistent wave of new challenges in maintaining and improving the product. Often, they’re surprised by how much of their calendar and mindshare are stolen by managing ongoing product and technical issues.
We would own the entire problem-solving burden around product and engineering.
Hiring, developing, and retaining talent is hard.
Some folks hire part-time or full-time employees to solve tech, growth, or monetization problems.
Recruiting and retaining people can be time-consuming, strenuous, and expensive for a lean media business, especially for roles that don’t improve your creative output. Being an effective manager is hard, and managing tech and business people can be quite different from managing creative talent.
Our goal is to provide you the superpowers of a world-class growth and tech team without the overhead and cost of full-time employees.
More growth, more problems.
All these challenges become more pronounced the more a business grows.
Taking on the responsibility of solving these problems pulls time, mindshare, and investment away from focusing on creative efforts, the core value proposition, the thing that makes what you’re doing unique — what people are ultimately paying for.
By serving as your tech and growth team, we hope to let you focus on what truly matters.
The future of media will be led by a rising tide of lean, niche media businesses. Creative talent no longer has to work at big media companies — they can pick up their phones and start their own media companies.
Patreon has 8 million patrons and Substack has over 2 million paid subscriptions. Teachable has paid more than $1 billion and Thinkific over $650 million to course instructors. YouTube and social platforms have produced several media businesses earning more than $1 million per year.
But today, there’s still a massive resource gap between huge media companies and individuals or small teams operating media businesses. This resource gap acts as a forceful headwind for the latter, making it difficult to scale operations beyond the capacity of the individual or team.
Our goal is to find ways to narrow the resource gap between The New York Times and an individual writer, Netflix and a YouTube channel, or Disney and a modern media business.
We want to narrow the resource gap by shifting the problem-solving burden from individuals and small teams to us, providing more hands-on support across tech and growth, and solving an expanding set of unique problems above and beyond one-size-fits-all, off-the-shelf solutions.
I hope we earn the opportunity to be a trusted partner, helping individuals and small teams take their media business to the next level.
I’d love to hear what you think. Does any of the above resonate with you? If you’re operating a media business and had a magic wand, what would you wish for?
Reply to this email, drop a comment below, or send a note to email@example.com.
As always, thank you for reading,
PS — here are some photos from our elopement! Tycho was out of his mind during the photo shoot on the beach, so this is the only reasonable pic we got with him. 😂❤️