Unlike legacy publishers, start-ups must find the right balance between exclusive and new information. Pit Gottschalk, publisher of football newsletter Fever Pit’ch, explained how his team approaches this to attendees of INMA’s Media Innovation Week in Hamburg on Monday.

“More than 90% of our stuff published is not exclusive and it’s not breaking news,” Gottschalk said.

Listing more differences between legacy newsrooms and start-ups, or what Gottschalk calls the “role models,” he said legacy newsrooms also separate editorial stories into traditional categories, keep distance from business insights, and make top-down decisions. Traditional structure keeps the news team too far away from crucial data that should inform strategy.

“I think that the editors, the journalists, must not just be part of the data management, but at the center,” he said.

Pitt Gottschalk of Fever Pit'ch talks about reader value and engagement.
Pitt Gottschalk of Fever Pit'ch talks about reader value and engagement.

Giving an example, Gottschalk talked about My Little Paris, a digital brand that began as a newsletter with tips and insider information about Paris. Fany Péchiodat, the newsletter’s founder, built a community around her newsletters and then offered a subscription box. For €10 a month, Péchiodat sends subscribers beauty items they may like. Of her 1.8 million newsletter subscribers, 80,000 signed up for the box offering.

Off of one story per day, Péchiodat built a €10 million per year business. How was she able to do this? Gottschalk said it boils down to relationships: Péchiodat produces tempting stories that affect everyday life.

The mindset of “What can we sell to readers?” is outdated, Gottschalk said. Instead, the main point is: “How do our readers want to be approached?”

Being invited into someone’s inbox is like being invited into their living room. To demonstrate this, Gottschalk asked the audience to open their email inbox on their phone and then pass the phone to the person on their right. He was met with uncertain laughter. “Now you’re getting nervous,” he joked.

There is value created when a subscriber invites your brand into their inbox. Gottschalk’s own company, a football newsletter start-up called Fever Pit’ch, would not exist without a strong brand and a community he has developed on Facebook. This community helped him choose the name for his company, signifying a relationship that is not one-sided.

Within one year, with the publication of Fever Pit’ch’s 240th issue, the brand has hit 10,000 subscribers and has a 30%-50% open rate. Dedicated brand and community building efforts are getting him closer to his monetisation goals, Gottschalk said: “By creating engagement and value, I am closer and closer to small payments and membership.”