Starting a Local Newsletter Business: $200K from 18K Subscribers

Side Hustle Nation is dedicated to improving your personal profitability. To do this, we often partner with companies that share that mission. If you sign up or make a purchase through one of our partners’ links, we may receive compensation—at no extra cost to you. Learn more.

Ryan Sneddon

Local newsletters are low overhead, scalable, and sellable.

(With examples like The Hustle and Morning Brew both selling for impressive 8-figure exits.)

But Ryan Sneddon from Naptown Scoop took a unique approach to the newsletter business, focusing on his local hometown of Annapolis, Maryland.

Naptown Scoop has a subscriber base of almost half of Annapolis’ population — and paved the way for Ryan to bring in over $200k a year from his 18k subscribers.

Tune in to Episode 615 of the Side Hustle Show to learn:

  • how Ryan grew his subscriber base
  • how he monetizes the business
  • the logistics of putting out high quality newsletter five days a week

Download Your Free Bonus

50+ Newsletter Niches

Enter your email to check out the full list now:

You'll also receive my best side hustle tips and weekly-ish newsletter. Opt-out anytime.


tailor brands

  • Indeed – Start hiring NOW with a $75 sponsored job credit to upgrade your job post!


Starting a Local Newsletter Business

What are the benefits of starting a local newsletter business?

  • Low overhead: costs little to start and no need for physical inventory
  • Scalability: your income can grow as you get more subscribers
  • Sellability: successful newsletter businesses can be appealing to buyers (great acquisition targets)

Realization of His Growing Influence

“You’re the Naptown Scoop guy! Can we take a picture with you?”

Naptown Scoop Newsletter

Ryan had a celebrity moment at a local charity event, when people kept asking for selfies.

At that time, Naptown Scoop probably had 6-7k Instagram followers and a similar number of newsletter subscribers.

It was an “aha” moment when Ryan realized his authority. He also recognized the need to go to every single event like this that he could find because it was great marketing for starting a local newsletter business.

Getting Initial Traction with Facebook Ads

To get Naptown Scoop off the ground, Ryan turned to Facebook ads. He used a simple but effective ad featuring a stock photo of a woman looking at her phone and smiling, with the ad copy: “I always know what’s going on in Annapolis.”

Naptown Scoop Facebook Ad

He spent about $12k to $15k on Facebook ads blasting this picture out.

Ryan’s target acquisition cost was $2 per subscriber, and he estimated a conservative lifetime value of $7 per subscriber, assuming a 50% open rate and a 1-year subscription.

He had saved up about $25k from his previous job, and he was willing to invest that into growing a local newsletter business.

To further refine his targeting, Ryan focused on local Facebook groups and women over 45 within a 10-mile radius of Annapolis.

By narrowing down his audience, Ryan was able to maximize the effectiveness of his ad spend and attract subscribers who were most likely to engage with his content.

Referral Incentive Tiers

Ryan discovered that his referral program was the second-largest contributor to his subscriber base. He used AppSumo’s Viral Loops lifetime deal ($300) to set up the program.

He explained the three levels of referral that you need to understand.

First Level: This is the most critical level because 98% of referrers won’t go past this point. It’s designed to be easy to achieve and desirable for the audience.

For example, giving a “happy birthday” wish at the top of the newsletter for getting 3 referrals.

Second & Third Level: Ryan said these levels are less significant because very few people will reach them.

For example, Ryan talked about rewarding top referrers significantly, like a woman who referred 625 subscribers and received a gift card to her favorite restaurant.

Content Creation and Curation

Ryan’s approach to content is straightforward: “It’s easier than people think, at least it is now after three and a half years of doing it.”

Focus on what to include and, more importantly, what not to include.

The team checks about 50 websites every day, including press release sites from the city, county, fire department, and other organizations. They also don’t forget to check the local newspaper and blogs.

This makes the newsletter valuable. Because if you’re going to comb through all these things and try to pick which of them actually matters, that’s a lot of work.

Ryan aims for 8 to 16 stories every day, providing value through their curation process. As Naptown Scoop has grown, they now receive inbound content submissions as well.

He also incorporates the strategy of including names whenever possible because people love to see their names in print. This can boost engagement and make subscribers feel appreciated, encouraging them to share the newsletter with their friends and family.

Monetizing with Advertising

From the very beginning, Ryan was open to advertising in his newsletter.

Within 2-3 weeks of launching, he landed his first client. It was a web design agency that paid $500 for 6 ads over 6 months.

Naptown Scoop offers three main ad types:

  • Top ad: Logo, up to 150 words ($812.50, with discounts for bulk purchases)
  • Featured ads: Photo in the middle, up to 100 words
  • Baseline ads: Text only, 70 words (3 per day)

With 5 ad spots per day and a $70 CPM (cost per 1,000 impressions), Ryan sells long-term packages and consistently sells out his inventory.

Ryan’s success includes a realtor client—a top performer in the state—becoming an “anchor tenant” and attracting other advertisers.

Offering industry exclusivity and achieving $1 per subscriber per month, Naptown Scoop shows effective local newsletter advertising.

Current Tools and Growth

Ryan now uses several key tools to manage and grow NaptownScoop:

  • Beehiiv: used to send emails and manage subscribers
  • Notion: used for content management and planning
  • Newspaper Manager: used to track advertising inventory and serve as a CRM
  • Sponsy: potential alternative to Newspaper Manager

A Day in the Life

Ryan’s day-to-day operations have evolved as the business has grown. He recently hired a head of content and a head of sales to help manage the workload.

They have a 3 p.m. cutoff for the next day’s newsletter. Ryan or his new head of content will review the stories, deciding what’s important enough to include.

As Ryan puts it, “Anything that says Annapolis, my assistant will throw it in there, and then the head of content will sift through like I do right now and decide what’s actually important.”

Surprises Along the Way

Throughout our conversation, Ryan noted that people valued his Instagram following more than his newsletter subscribers.

Despite having 22,000 Instagram followers compared to 18,400 newsletter subscribers, people often introduced him as “the guy with the really big Instagram.”

While flattering, Ryan couldn’t help but chuckle at this introduction, knowing that his newsletter was the real business driver.

In fact, last year, the newsletter generated around $170k in revenue, while Instagram only brought in about $3k.

Ryan attributes this discrepancy to the public-facing nature of Instagram. People can easily see and be impressed by the number of followers, likes, and comments on his posts.

In contrast, the size and engagement of his newsletter subscriber base remain hidden from public view.

What’s Next for Naptown Scoop?

While the newsletter has the potential to generate $400k in revenue, Ryan is exploring additional growth opportunities.

One focus area is expanding the newsletter’s presence on Instagram, particularly through Instagram reels. Ryan aims to attract new followers and monetize this channel through sponsored content partnerships.

But Ryan is quick to emphasize that the newsletter will always remain the core of the business. As Naptown Scoop grows, the team is committed to providing high-quality, curated content for the Annapolis community.

In the long run, Ryan envisions Naptown Scoop becoming an integral part of the fabric of Annapolis—a trusted source of information, a platform for local businesses to reach their target audience, and a way for residents to stay connected with their community.

50+ Newsletter Niches

Enter your email to check out the full list now:

You'll also receive my best side hustle tips and weekly-ish newsletter. Opt-out anytime.

Ryan’s #1 Tip for Side Hustle Nation

“Read the book How to get Rich by Felix Dennis.”

Episode Links

Looking for More Side Hustle Help?

side hustle show cover art

The award-winning Side Hustle Show is a
Top 10 Entrepreneurship podcast
with over 1,200 5-star ratings!

5-star rating

Listen in your favorite podcast app or directly in your browser.

listen on spotify
listen on overcast listen on podbean

Like That? There's More!

Join the 100,000 Who Get My Best Stuff via Email

I'll also send you my free guide: The 5 Fastest Ways to Make More Money.

Nick Loper

About the Author

Nick Loper is a side hustle expert who loves helping people earn more money and start businesses they care about. He hosts the award-winning Side Hustle Show, where he's interviewed over 500 successful entrepreneurs, and is the bestselling author of Buy Buttons, The Side Hustle, and $1,000 100 Ways.

His work has been featured in The New York Times, Entrepreneur, Forbes, TIME, Newsweek, Business Insider, MSN, Yahoo Finance, The Los Angeles Times, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Financial Times, Bankrate, Hubspot, Ahrefs, Shopify, Investopedia, VICE, Vox, Mashable, ChooseFI, Bigger Pockets, The Penny Hoarder, GoBankingRates, and more.

Usually Hustling, Occasionally Social

plutus winner

The Company

4580 Klahanie Dr SE #155
Sammamish, WA 98029

The Fine Print
Terms of Use
How We Make Money
Do Not Sell My Personal Information
As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases.