Hobby Newsletters, Digital Members' Clubs and the Monetization of Online Communities


The hobby economy sounds great in theory. What if your particular area of nerdery was something that could be shared, for profit? The most common way this happens today is with a content stream of some sort: a blog, a newsletter, a Youtube channel, a podcast, all focused on an area of general interest.

The ecosystem of businesses that do nothing besides write about Apple is enormous and long-standing; besides the official Mac magazine, there is 9to5Mac, MacRumors and the now-defunct TUAW (RIP). These are what I'd call 'consumer'-focused sites as they don't have a paywall and focus mostly on explaining Apple products to laypersons. On the professional side, there's the newsletter Above Avalon that focuses exclusively on analyses of Apple product pipeline, targeted at those that have stock positions in Apple.

Sidenote: And considering that MacOS itself has long had a following of diehards, there are even businesses (SetApp) that bundle small MacOS apps together and sell access to that for a subscription.

None of these apps are made by professionals. That's also the case for the most recent one I discovered: a virtual clubhouse for Apple Fans known as MacStories. The main product offereing seems to be an Apple-focused newsletter, rather than the usual ad-revenue driven blog. Annoyingly, much of its content is paywalled, which makes it hard to determine the quality of the content.

And that's important to know because it costs $50/yr to get them, placing it among the upper range of the price range of paid newsletters. For that much I can get a year's worth of the New Yorker. They'll jack that up 10-fold once the introductory year expires, but that's not the point! What exactly am I paying for with MacStories?

Upon further examination....not very much. There have articles about new Mac/iOS features, which aren't exactly a rare commodity. There are no subscription perks to speak of, like discounts on apps or anything. But there is a Discord channel. I'm not a fan personally: I've been on chat channels for Spline, Logseq, Famous slack channel, and it's the same thing, over and over again.

Have a password-protected Discourse at least.

  • similar site called MacProVideo, but they have a giant library of tutorials, that make a lot of sense
  • Reminds me of those iPad/iOS tutorial books they sell at airports.
  • It seems to be working? They have sponsors, they have communities. At some point they could potentially leverage that

Old School Example

  • GAmefaqs.com, Rand Fishkin/HN comment
  • Anandtech, sold to Apple.

The Generalist

  • MetaMuse podcast
  • Going for a poor man's Stratechery, which is good
  • Don't you become a shill, eventually?

EV Universe

Good example of when a newsletter reads more like a fanzine, but with the professional polish of a PR piece, or native advertisement insert.

Link: https://www.evuniverse.io/newsletter/semi

HN Discussion: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=33861574

The Information

Opposite ends of the Spectrum

  • Ironically, Matt Levine's one, is free!

  • Platt's Oil & Gas - very expensive as I recall, market-moving info

  • Crypto - Messiari Research or whatever

Trying to Monetize something myself

Seems like it would be good lead gen for a book (James Clear, Atomic Habits), Atomic Habits is better in that the issue is actionable,


At some point, starts to feel like a job** -- the grind of churning out 'content' Don't you become a shill eventually?

What's the endgame?

PKM Influencers aplenty; I'd have to steer clear of the Notion crowd, and pursue the road less trodden, like Obsidian. Sorry Logseq I love you, but they have mind-mapping and Apple Freeform style infinite canvases now


You wouldn't think so, but this turns out to be the route I took. More info here: www.glidermag.com