scuttleblurb business update (2021)

Dear friends and subscribers:

While I consider this my most productive year from a research standpoint, the business side of things was mixed.  Scuttleblurb is on track to surpass $300,000 in subscription sales this year, more than I could have imagined when I launched nearly 5 years ago.  But growth has slowed and subscriber trends look weak. 

It used to be that publishing twice a month and pushing a link out to Twitter was all I needed to grow.  But now it seems more is required, especially given the explosion of competing newsletters over the last year or so.  Slim Charles put it best: “game’s the same, just got more fierce”. There are only so many investment newsletters that one has time to read. As the selection continues to expand, so too inevitably will the number of newsletters that do a better job than I reliably addressing certain readers’ interests, particularly given my broad and thematically inconsistent coverage. Also, newsletters today are clued in to the reality that readers are drawn not only to content but to vibes and community. They reinforce their brands through regular Twitter threads, Spaces, AMAs, podcast appearances, collaborations, etc., activities that I have neglected entirely this year in my hermit-like focus on research and writing (and, frankly, due to personal anxieties around such stuff).

So I was early to this paid newsletter game and shined for a while but am fading somewhat amid the scrum of new talent.  Admitting this feels a bit weird…as if in doing so I am violating tacit norms of the “creator economy”, where one gushes about the infinite reach of the internet and sticks to prescribed ways of calling attention to personal victories in blusterous tweets. Projecting success is good business because social proof is important for subscriber growth and people would much rather support winning projects than prop up stagnant ones.

But I never set out to run a business and never saw growth as an end in itself. I was just striving for “enough”. Scuttleblurb began as a personal research journal that I paywalled to cover rent and groceries as I tried to scale my investment fund, which launched in 2016 with round-down-to-0 AUM.  Scale happened, thanks to the backing of a large institutional allocator that discovered me through the blog.  Along the way, I forged what I expect will be lasting, meaningful friendships.  Because of your feedback, I cringe less at things I wrote 3 months ago than things I wrote 3 years ago.  Scuttleblurb makes me a better analyst and investor while providing for my growing family (the twins are doing great!).  So long as that remains true, I’m good.

I want to give some shoutouts to fellow newsletter writers whose work I appreciate. There are too many great ones to name, so I’ll limit myself to the paid invested-related ones I subscribe to, most of which exhibit an authentic style that sets them apart from the usual bowdlerized sell-side fare, all of which demonstrate that we need not rely on pedigree as a proxy for insight and critical thinking when those qualities are plainly observable in someone’s writing. Abdullah Al-Rezwan at MBI Deep Dives and Alex Morris at The Science of Hitting are generalists who analyze investment opportunities with nuance and intellectual honesty.  Andrew Rangeley at Yet Another Value Blog is one of the sharpest, most thorough analysts I know, particularly in media and special sits.  Nathan Baschez and Dan Shipper started this online writer collective last year, Every, that bundles newsletters about strategy and leadership.  I subscribe to 2 of the strategy ones, Divinations and Napkin Math, both thought-provoking and enjoyable reads.  Mule for semiconductors (Fabricated Knowledge); muji for hhhypergrowth techMarc Rubinstein for financial services (Net Interest); and Frederik Gieschen for investor profiles (Neckar’s Insecurity Analysis).  Byrne Hobart at The Diff is reliably insightful about finance and tech.  LibertyRPF‘s eclectic newsletter, Liberty’s Highlights, is one of my morning staples, along with Ben Thompson‘s Stratechery.    

I am so grateful for your support in what has got to be the wildest time of my investing career. Absurdity cavorts with profundity. Dog coins and various web3-instantiated woo woo are bound up in intriguing frameworks for creating, distributing, and tracking value. Meme stocks were bid to the stratosphere by retail investors compelled by not only hopes and dreams but also nihilism and lolz. But beyond the speculative fervor and techno-utopian themes that have seized the public’s attention, more prosaic considerations like strategy, culture, and capital allocation in established terrains like market infrastructure, coatings, insurance, cable, enterprise software, payment processing, and real estate remain as relevant as ever.

I can’t wait to see what happens next. Have a wonderful holiday season and catch you in the new year,   

Dave

7 thoughts on “scuttleblurb business update (2021)

  1. Jason Smith says:

    Excited to see your work, family, the little two angels, and you grow!

    Your work still standout from rest of the newsletters (free or paid). Your level of analysis and depth is hard to find. You don’t focus on clickbait titles or sensational copy. You write good stuff that makes sense for a serious reader – student or investor.

    Continue to keep up your good work. And please publish more often!

    Thank you

  2. douglas mohn says:

    I will second Chris’ suggestion about logging in. I’m sure you have your reasons, probably piracy and data collection, but it really introduces friction. I see your email and if I don’t start reading then, it goes to my must read later folder where frankly it often dies even though I don’t remember an issue you’ve ever written that I didn’t enjoy reading. Could I suggest you send half the article by email and let me get excited before you ask for the login? I’ll be more likely to make the time to read if the alert email offers more than one or two sentences.

    I really don’t your challenge is content but time and attention.

    Good luck!

  3. Jake Metcalf says:

    For what it’s worth, I subscribe to many of the other newsletters you mentioned, and yours stands out for its clarity of thought and sharp analysis (and I like the more wide-ranging sector focus). One suggestion – have you considered attaching an Excel file with your modeling work to your analyses? I often find myself wanting to explore your analysis more deeply, and it could be a good way to further differentiate.

    Keep up the great work!

  4. Chris Winterhoff says:

    Love these updates. I’m one of your churned users (as of yesterday). Not that I don’t love it but I just don’t have the time and you’re competing in my inbox with other newsletters (free and paid).

    A big reason why I don’t read your newsletter as much as others is that I have to click through and make sure I’m logged in. It seems trivial but that’s a huge barrier when I could be reading other equally brilliant newsletters with just a tap in my inbox.

    I’m sure there’s a reason for doing it this way, but you’re upping the barrier for referrals if fewer of your readers get to read your newsletter as well as probably decreasing your LTV because you’re less in people’s minds (the reason for me churning).

    I’ll be back at some point though!

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