austin reif morning brew

Advice from the Newsletter King (God) – Austin Rief, Co-founder of Morning Brew, on Off The Chain, Hosted By Anthony Pompliano

Check out the Off the Chain Podcast Page

Key Takeaways

  • As a business, the worst mistake you can make is hiring the wrong person
    • “I’ve never regretted spending too long to hire someone … The only hires we regret are the ones we’ve made too quickly.”  – Austin Rief
  • Media companies require time to grow their brands, and venture capital doesn’t do much to help accelerate that growth
  • To build a successful brand, you must start in a deep niche
  • “Nothing is higher leverage than Twitter; you get to interact with the smartest people on the planet” Austin Rief

Books Mentioned

Intro

Growing Morning Brew to Nearly 2 Million Subscribers

  • Austin, now just 25-years-old, met his Morning Brew co-founder, Alex Lieberman, at the University of Michigan. They launched Morning Brew on March 15th, 2015.
    • As of today, the newsletter has nearly 2 million subscribers
  • In the early days, Austin and Alex grew their subscriber count the hard way—by going around to business and econ classes, asking fellow students to write down their email addresses on a sheet of paper
    • They also got friends at other schools to do the same
  • When it came time to graduate, both Austin and Alex forwent internships at well-known finance companies to go all-in on their newsletter
  • In 2017, Morning Brew raised a $750K angel round—they haven’t raised any money since, nor do they plan on doing so anytime soon
    • One reason for not raising any more money: media companies like Morning Brew require time to grow their brands, and venture capital doesn’t help accelerate that
      • “Can you actually build true brand affinity with hundreds of thousands, or millions of people, in a few years? You can, but it’s a huge challenge and it takes time.” – Austin Rief

Morning Brew is Expanding

  • Morning Brew has several sister newsletters a
  • Morning recently launched a podcast, Business Casual
  • How does Morning Brew decide which areas to expand into?
    • There has to be enough content in the space (enough content for a newsletter to go out 3x per week)
    • There has to be enough people who are interested in the industry (ideally, 100k+ potential subscribers)
    • There has to be advertisers in the space willing to pay

Two Thoughts on Advertising

  • When it comes to their ads, Morning Brew writes the copy the same way they write their newsletter so it resonates with readers
  • “We like to treat our advertisers as well as we treat our readers” – Austin Rief

Don’t Hire Too Quickly

  • The most impactful mistake you can make is hiring the wrong person
    • “I’ve never regretted spending too long to hire someone … The only hires we regret are the ones we’ve made too quickly.”  – Austin Rief
  • The more important the position you’re hiring for, the more time you should allot to finding the right person
    • Even if the candidate has other offers, never rush the process

Brands & Media

  • Media companies Austin admires: The Infatuation, Axios, Buzzfeed, Barstool Sports, and Complex
  • Over time, video, podcasts, and other media spaces become saturated; brands are the exception
    • More and more media personalities are launching brands, such Kylie Jenner with her makeup brand and Dwayne Johnson with his tequila brand
  • Substack is doing an excellent job of being a faceless publisher—they built the infrastructure and let writers provide the content
  • People like Ben Thompson of Stratechery are blurring the line between indie publisher and influencer
  • “If you’re unbelievable, there are endless opportunities to monetize yourself, monetize your content, and monetize your network. If you’re not, I think things are going to be very, very challenging.” – Austin Rief
  • To build a successful brand, you must start in a deep niche
    • “I think niches are way deeper than people think. You can provide endless value to those willing to pay. – Austin Rief

Let’s Talk Bitcoin

  • Austin owns some Bitcoin but isn’t sure how things will play out
  • Anthony is bullish on Bitcoin; why?
    • Bitcoin was the first mover in the space; if it fails, almost all other cryptocurrencies likely will as well
      • “We have Bitcoin as the one chance at a separation of wtate and money. If it doesn’t work, I don’t care who launches what after that; the human species will not trust a software-led non-sovereign currency.” – Anthony Pompliano

Additional Notes

  • Austin is toying with the idea of starting a Morning Brew sock brand
  • Austin enjoyed a16z’s blog post about the 100 True Fans business model
  • Austin recommends reading Tim Urban’s article about Elon Musk
  • Austin prefers email over Slack
    • Slack is too frictionless and easy to communicate with—this leads to more messages than necessary
  • On Twitter:
    • “Nothing is higher leverage than Twitter; you get to interact with the smartest people on the planet” – Austin Rief
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Notes By Alex Wiec

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