DOOMBERG COVER

Doomberg: The Story Behind The Green Chicken | Value Hive Podcast

Check out the Episode Page & Show Notes 

Key Takeaways

  • The first rule of marketing is you can’t be remembered if you don’t stand out
  • Every business can be described through the Five Pillars: Brand, Channel, Technology, Demand Creation, and Operations  
  • The brand is the gut feeling you induce, in your ideal clients, when they interact with your product
  • Doomberg has a “Get to, Have to” ratio, which describes how much of their day is spent doing things they get to do, and how much of their day is spent doing things they have to do
    •  Maximize Get to, minimize Have to
  • The amount of work required to be successful cannot be done unless you’re truly passionate about whatever it is you’re working on
  • “If you have a genuine mindset of continuous improvement, there’s no such thing as a struggle. There is only an opportunity to observe data and improve.”Doomberg 
  • Doomberg doesn’t begin to write a piece without the perfect title 
  • The team prioritizes quality over sticking to some arbitrary, self-imposed, internal publishing cadence
  • For a piece to go viral, it must capture the zeitgeist of the moment 
  • What makes for a great piece: hook your ideal clients in with a great story, keep them interested with a great transition, deliver the promised goods, and then wrap it up tightly
  • Most of the people who pay for your content do so because they like you and they want you to succeed
  • The net present value of giving is infinite; authentically give, give, give, and sometimes money shows up 
  • The environmental movement in the United States has a history of anti-human,  Malthusian pessimists who were terrified of what humans would do with abundant, cost-effective energy 
  • Nuclear energy solves all the problems related to energy and climate; there are no new technical inventions required, only political will and ambition
  • “The fascination with wind and solar, we believe, is because they know it won’t work. They don’t want it to work. If they wanted it to work, we’d be doing nuclear.”Doomberg 
  • Don’t get distracted from the things that drove your initial success in an effort to “grab more” 

Intro 

  • Doomberg (@DoombergT) is a small team of former executives from the commodities sector. Their newsletter Doomberg is the number one finance substack in the world with thousands of paid subscribers. It covers energy, finance, and the economy at-large through educational, provocative, and fun content. Subscription details can be found here
  • In this conversation, Doomberg and Brandon Beylo discuss the story behind Doomberg, the Five Pillars of Business, how to create an authentic brand, operations at Doomberg, the struggles of running a newsletter, why the title must be perfect, virality, idea generation, the writing process, going paid, lessons learned from starting Doomberg, demand creation and the Magic Metric, investing, the green movement, nuclear energy, the future of Doomberg, and more 
  • Check out these Podcast Notes on Alex Epstein’s conversation with Peter Thiel
  • Host – Brandon Beylo (@marketplunger1)     

The Story Behind Starting Doomberg 

  • Doomberg is a small team of former executives from the commodities sector
  • During his career in the commodities industry, Doomberg’s superpower was the ability to convey complex scientific topics to non-scientific professionals, especially through the financial lens
  • However, as you climb the corporate ladder, your job becomes less about science and more about paperwork and firing people
  • Paperwork and firing people is not fun, despite how financially lucrative the position may be
  • A few years ago, Doomberg and some of his fellow executives decided to leave the financial world and start a consulting practice catered to C-Suite executives and wealthy family offices
  • Then Covid hit in 2020, and the consulting practice took a hit because consulting is one of the first dials public companies turn down when they need to cut costs
  • The firm decided to pivot to a new line of business catered towards people who were creating content and selling it into Wall Street, and eventually eclipsed where the firm was pre-Covid
  • One of their clients inspired them to create content for themselves, an inspiration that ultimately led to the creation of Doomberg from scratch 
    • “Those who can, do. And those who can’t do, teach.”
  • In less than two years, Doomberg has amassed +200K followers on Twitter (@DoombergT) and has thousands of paid subscribers on Substack   

The Name & Famous Green Chicken Logo 

  • The first rule of marketing is you can’t be remembered if you don’t stand out 
  • We’re huge fans of the Bloomberg terminal … and we found ourselves doom-scrolling a lot.”  – Doomberg on the formulation of the name 

The Five Pillars of Business 

  • Doomberg used a systematic technique to grow its business, which was the same methodology it used to create its consulting practice 
  • Every business can be described through “The Five Pillars”:
    • Brand
    • Channel 
    • Technology 
    • Demand creation 
    • Operations 
  • Pillar #1 – Brand: The gut feeling you induce, in your ideal clients, when they interact with your product
  • Pillar #2 – Channel: The corridor in which you bump into people who are authorized to pay you 
  • Pillar #3 – Technology: All the gadgets, software, and other tools that you need to operate your business
  • Pillar #4 – Demand Creation: Expressing your brand and vision through multiple channels in order to drive people to interact with your product 
  • Pillar #5 – Operations: Everything that goes into running the business, and most importantly, the production of the product 
  • Doomberg created a one-page summary of each of the five pillars and layered an authentic mindset of continuous improvement over each one of them 
  • The documents that capture Doomberg’s intent over these five pillars are living documents
    • At least once a week, the team meets to go over analytics and discuss areas of potential improvement 
  • In addition to creating an authentic mindset of continuous improvement, a ton of effort is required 
  • The amount of work required to be successful cannot be done unless you’re truly passionate about whatever it is you’re working on  
  • Doomberg has a “Get to, Have to” ratio, which describes how much of their day is spent doing things they get to do, and how much of their day is spent doing things they have to do 
  • Drive “have to” to zero as much as possible
  • Doomberg famously does not take meetings; the only meetings on Doomberg’s calendar are podcast appearances 

Pillar #1: Brand 

  • Brand is the gut feeling you induce, in your ideal clients, when they interact with your product 
  • You cannot anticipate and control what that gut feeling is unless you understand who your ideal clients are  
  • Doomberg made character sketches and wrote biographies of fake people that they believed to capture the essence of their ideal clients 
  • The name Doomberg captures the essence of an investor who is doom-scrolling and who loves their Bloomberg terminal 
  • When Doomberg’s clients receive an email of their latest piece, Doomberg wants them to have a gut feeling of, “Oh, I get to read that.” 
  • Three characteristics that Doomberg tries to executive against in each piece:
    • Provocative without being polarizing 
    • Funny without being silly 
    • Teach without being self-indulgent 
  • “Brand takes a long time to build and a moment to destroy.”Doomberg 

Operations

  • Doomberg has a 25-point checklist for each piece 
  • The team spends a lot of time thinking about titles
  • The Green Chicken has the question “Is the title great?” taped on the lamp that is on his writing desk 
  • Doomberg prides itself on responding to emails and Twitter DMs immediately 
  • “Show up. Number go up. And repeat.” – Doomberg 
  • “If it can be measured, it can be optimized.” – Doomberg 

Struggles of Running A Newsletter 

  • “If you have a genuine mindset of continuous improvement, there’s no such thing as a struggle. There is only an opportunity to observe data and improve.”Doomberg 
  • The biggest challenge was dealing with hundreds of nasty, trollish comments after writing a critical piece about cryptocurrency
    • This data observation opportunity led Doomberg to restricting comments for paid subscribers only when it eventually went behind a paywall
  • “Our objective all along was never ‘make the most amount of money.’ The objective was to make more than enough money doing only what you love.”Doomberg   

Crafting the Perfect Title 

  • Doomberg doesn’t begin to write a piece without the perfect title 
  • He will often spend an entire day thinking about the title  
  • Having the perfect title and opening quote often leads to the piece writing itself 
  • Readers recognize Doomberg’s relentless attention to detail and desire for improving the customer experience 
  • The title determines whether or not someone will click on it in their inbox 
  • Doomberg prioritizes quality over sticking to some arbitrary, self-imposed, internal publishing cadence; sometimes it takes a few extra days to finish a piece, and that is preferred to publishing garbage
  • Deadlines skew the “Get to, Have to” ratio more towards have to, and nothing great comes out of having to
  • “Anybody can say a lot with a lot of words. It takes skill to say a lot with a few words.”Doomberg 
  • The title should be consistent with the social preview 
  • Everything at Doomberg is done in-house; if there is a skill that they need, Doomberg will pay someone double to teach them how to do it

Crossing the Chasm into Virality 

  • For a piece go viral, it must capture the zeitgeist of the moment 
  • The Doomberg piece “Wide Awake” went viral because it captured the creeping sense of censorship that many people are angry about 
  • “Wide Awake” remains free to read because it’s something that all people should be able to read
  • “Wide Awake” effectively induces a gut feeling in Doomberg’s ideal clients, mostly the desire to be left alone by their government 

Idea Generation to First Draft 

  • Pattern recognition is vital 
  • No creator creates in a vacuum; everybody is building off of someone else’s idea or connecting two seemingly unrelated ideas 
  • A great piece connects something in the reader’s mind that makes them think differently
    • Teach without being self-indulgent 
  • When you have an idea, ask, “What is the one-sentence summary of this?”
    • The answer to this question often becomes the social preview 
  • As an executive, Doomberg learned to start public speeches with a story, and he has applied this principle to writing
    • If the speech’s opening story is interesting and unique enough to capture the audience’s attention, then it should also work for Substack
    • He cites the book Talk like TED as being influential on his public speaking 
  • The general arc for a Doomberg piece:
    • Opening story that is interesting
    • Transition paragraph that leads into the heart of the piece
    • Cut-off to paid
    • Heart of the piece
    • Finishing segment that ties back to the opening story
  • Doomberg writes about one single-space page of output per day 
  • Four single-space pages in Word is the ideal length for Doomberg’s clients and channel
  • What makes for a great piece: hook your ideal clients in with a great story, keep them interested with a great transition, deliver the promised goods, and then wrap it up tightly
  • A Doomberg piece is designed to be an enjoyable read, but not one that will take up the reader’s entire day

Free versus Paid Content 

  • The vast majority of people will never pay for content 
  • Somewhere between 8-15% of people who read you for free might someday pay you
  • Most of the people who pay for your content do so because they like you and they want you to succeed
  • Their paid subscription is a way of supporting your success, and they do not view it as a transaction that they’d calculate the net present value on
  • Resist the urge to “give more” when you go paid
  • You must give more in the sense that the paid subscribers get more than the free subscribers, such as access to the entire piece versus just the preview, but you don’t have to write longer essays or publish more frequently after going paid because that’s not why your paying subscribers are paying in the first place
  • Doomberg ignored Substack’s advice and stayed free an entire year
  • Having other streams of income through the consulting business took the pressure off having to monetize the content offering
  • Staying free for so long allowed Doomberg to build up a following, a brand, and to continuously improve its product, which ultimately contributed to its high conversion rate of free subscribers turning into paid subscribers  

Editing the First Draft 

  • “One of the biggest pieces of advice I could give any aspiring content creator, who is writing, is to get a great editor.”Doomberg 
  • You cannot be your own editor  
  • An authentic relationship between the writer and editor is required when operating in an atmosphere of continuous improvement 
  • The editor must be able to tell the writer that the piece is garbage, if it is garbage

Lessons Learned from Starting Doomberg 

  • With hindsight, Doomberg would have started doing podcast appearances sooner
  • The net present value of giving is infinite 
  • Give, give, give, and sometimes money shows up
  • Some people will take advantage of your giving, but sometimes your giving will be rewarded handsomely
  • “If you do enough giving, and you’re authentic about it, and you enjoy it, then you can very easily surf the sea of abundance.”Doomberg
  • In the content creation world, Doomberg learned this concept of abundant giving from Grant Williams
  • Don’t give for the direct back and forth, but for the integral of it 

Demand Creation & The Magic Metric 

  • There are many ways to create demand, such as by buying ads
  • When you buy an ad, you’re basically buying an impression
  • You don’t need to pay for impressions; Twitter gives you the opportunity to generate your own impressions for free
  • Most content creators fail in their use of Twitter because they view it as a distribution outlet for their product that exists somewhere else 
  • Doomberg views Twitter as a separate outlet for its content 
  • The objective is to make @DoombergT a must-follow Twitter account 
  • A must-follow Twitter account is funny, provocative, and one that teaches on a daily basis
  • Doomberg’s Magic Metric is Twitter impressions per day; this is the straw that stirs the whole drink 
  • Doomberg has three nodes in its marketing funnel: (1) Twitter followers, (2) free subscribers, and (3) paying subscribers 
  • How a proper marketing funnel works in three steps:
    • Create overwhelming value relative to the cost at each node 
    • *Occasionally* remind people that there is more value at the node to the right  
    • Most importantly, make it easy for them to go to the node to the right 
  • As of this recording, Doomberg gets 1M Twitter impressions per day, which equates to the Green Chicken being flashed before someone’s eyes every ten seconds 
  • When reminding a node that there is more value at the node to the right, it’s important to do so with a little joke or sense of humor that is consistent to the brand
    • You are reminding them, not selling them something

Doomberg’s Investing Strategy

  • Doomberg does not publicly trade on the information it writes about 
  • Doomberg’s unique financial strategy: earn money in fiat, save money by buying real assets, and invest privately in projects where they can positively impact the outcome
    • Sweat Alpha: investing in a project where you can positively impact the outcome
  • The Green Chicken giving the interview has zero dollars invested in the stock market 
  • Doomberg does not accept ads or sponsors; being 100% subscriber-supported increases editorial freedom 

The Best Energy Policy in the World

  • The province of Ontario is a showcase of how to decarbonize your energy sector without negatively impacting your standard of living
  • Ontario has completely eliminated coal from its grid and has approximately 80% of its grid energy coming from nuclear or hydro 
  • The power of nuclear energy cannot be understated 
  • Nuclear energy is the solution to the climate crises, as it is called
  • “Anybody who says nuclear waste is a problem is either a victim of propaganda or an annoying purveyor of it.” – Doomberg
  • Nuclear energy solves all the problems related to energy and climate; there are no new technical inventions required, only political will and ambition 

The History of the Green Movement, Malthusians, & Nuclear Power 

  • The environmental movement in the United States has a history of malthusian pessimism embedded in it 
  • In the early 1800s, economist Robert Malthus wrote a book on population control has influenced the environmental movement to this day
    • Malthusisan is an outgrowth of eugenics that argues for there to be less people on the planet
  • Malthus himself was a proponent of both birth control and “allowing higher mortality rates” 
  • Malthusisans pessimistically believe that humans cannot adapt 
  • Malthusians were terrified of what humans would do with abundant, cost-effective energy; they were fundamentally anti-human
  • Malthusians were the original opponents to nuclear power 
  • “Giving society cheap abundant energy at this point would be the equivalent of giving an idiot child a machine gun.” – Paul Ehrlich, Stanford Professor and anti-nuclear environmental spokesman in 1975
  • It easy for people to fall into the malthusian mindset
  • Once you think there are too many people on the planet, it’s a short step to start doing things that are bad for humans in the name of protecting the planet
  • “The fascination with wind and solar, we believe, is because they know it won’t work. They don’t want it to work. If they wanted it to work, we’d be doing nuclear.”Doomberg 
  • Doomberg covers these topics in its piece titled “Malthusian Malarky”, which calls for a long-awaited liberation of nuclear power from anti-scientific nonsense peddled by closet Malthusians 

The Future of Doomberg 

  • Internally, the Doomberg team agreed to not think about “the future of Doomberg” until June 2023 
  • The team’s objective to keep their heads down and create tightly-edited content 6-8 times per month
  • Pontificating about the future too soon could erode the brand and prematurely cap success
  • Do what you were supposed to do and let your winners ride 
  • Don’t get distracted from the things that drove your initial success in an effort to “grab more” 
  • Managing success and enjoying it is just as hard as getting the success in the first place

Dinner With the Green Chicken 

  • The host asks Doomberg who he’d have dinner with from the past or present
  • His answer: David Einhorn 
  • David Einhorn is a hedge fund manager that Doomberg respects and has known at a distance for some time
  • David was the person who gave the team the idea to develop the consulting aspect of their practice that helps content creators, a catalyst that eventually led to Doomberg creating its own content
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Notes By Stan Rizzo

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