In the ever-shifting media landscape, print and local news have been declared to be on life support. Whilst the hyperfocus on news at the national level is warranted, you still want to know about your city council meetings, grand openings of gyms, restaurant reviews, job opportunities, and the many events happening local to you. It won’t be covered on the 24 hour CNN cycle! Though the national news is important, we are also greatly (and in many cases more so) impacted by our local governments and the communities that surround us.
Meet Ryan Sneddon who has tapped into the need for community-based news with his newsletter, Naptown Scoop. Ryan delivers “local news with personality”, as he calls it, of all things Anapolis, MD on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. His style is direct and clear, offering just the facts in language that is easy and enjoyable to absorb. Naptown Scoop takes a ‘less is more’ approach and delivers the news without any hint of sensationalization. Plus, with beautiful photos of the city and local highlights, it is a boost of hometown pride.
Ryan has paved his own path in the media landscape and we at Newsletter Crew wanted to learn more about his process and his plans for growth.
What newsletters inspire(d) Naptown Scoop?
Ryan: The Hustle got me obsessed with newsletters. 6AM City’s local newsletters inspired the local focus. Morning Brew inspired the writing style.
What were some pain points to getting started and how are they different today?
Ryan: Two major differences are what we say no to covering and how we get information. In the beginning, we had to find all the information on our own because nobody would give us the time of day. Now we get sent a lot of things. We still have to find stories on our own, but we are becoming more respected in the media sphere of Annapolis.
We also stay strictly on Annapolis. In the beginning, I didn’t know where to draw the line. It’s a local paper, but where does local end? Annapolis has some micro-suburbs around it. A while back I drew a 10-mile radius from the center of town. Now we only cover things in that radius. 10.05 miles? Sorry. You have to say no somewhere.
Growing a Local Newsletter
What was your starting subscriber count and what is it today?
Ryan: We sent #001 in August 2020 to 61 people and currently have 9,100 subscribers!
Getting readers to discover Naptown Scoop
Ryan: Our biggest driver is Facebook ads. I film crappy selfie-style videos with my phone and sell people on why they need to read Naptown Scoop for about 15 seconds. My face is right in the camera like all those course salespeople on YouTube. Those ads are annoying. But let me tell you… they work. I hate filming them though.
Our next biggest driver is word of mouth. Some of it I can track through our referral program. The rest is when people are Googling “Naptown Scoop.” You aren’t Googling that unless you saw it somewhere. This is awesome because it’s basically free. Our referral program is set up so that the first reward (a birthday shoutout in the newsletter) is $0 for us. Most people never get beyond that first reward.
I also invest heavily (both time and $$$) on Instagram. It’s an easy place to build a local audience and is a good driver of subscribers but an even better reputation builder. That’s how most people around town know me. Many of them don’t even know we have a newsletter (which is the biggest problem I need to solve with Instagram).
Getting readers to trust Naptown Scoop
Ryan: First, write at a level they can understand. People inherently don’t trust things they don’t understand. Then, don’t do all the BS most news outlets are doing. Don’t dramatize the story for views. Just deliver the facts. People appreciate that.
My secret sauce (which is not a secret at all)? Answer every damn email we get. You hate today’s newsletter? You’re going to receive a really kind reply back thanking you for taking time out of your busy day to give us feedback. You love it and gave us a nice compliment? You’re going to get thanked and I’m going to ask what your favorite restaurant is. Next morning you’ll wake up with a $15 gift card in your inbox. That’s super cheap but that $15 has a million percent relationship return.
Can you share your goals for 2022?
Ryan: Growing in subscribers 3x my current level and increasing revenue 2x the current level. My subscriber goal is centered around the growth I promised advertisers so I have to hit that or we’ll have to refund partners for impressions we didn’t deliver.
My revenue goal is centered around reasonable expectations of what the newsletter can produce and how we can enhance that with events, merchandise, and a membership program. It’s also what we need to expand and pay me.
What metrics are you using to chart your growth strategy?
Ryan: Nobody cares how many subscribers you have if they aren’t opening. All I care about is engagement. So I ask: how do you get a high open rate? And the answer is in delivering a quality newsletter almost every time. Then, the next question is: how do you get a high click rate? It’s by delivering content your audience is going to like. For us right now, we know that is restaurant reviews.
You place corrections about any typos or errors right at the top of the newsletter, how do your readers respond to that transparency?
Ryan: Most of the time they don’t. That’s good. Sometimes they make fun of me. That’s also good. Only one person has ever said we should hide our apologies for typos at the bottom of the email. He’s our biggest advertiser by volume and I told him I wouldn’t dream of it.
Most Influential Book
Ryan: A Whole New Mind by Daniel Pink. Ever since reading it, I’ve tried to be dangerous in both the creative way of thinking and the analytical. If you can combine those, you will be a force to be reckoned with.
When you're not writing or publishing, what are you up to?
Ryan: I enjoy creative pursuits like video production and photography, boating, hiking, skiing, rock climbing, pickleball, and anything else outdoors that challenges me. Not to mention eating and drinking after any of these activities!
Learn more about the Naptown Scoop newsletter here.