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Goodbye Revue, Hello HubSpot

I spend a lot of time reading articles online. In 2016, I decided to do something productive with all of that reading. Inspired by my brother’s Sunday Evening Post, I began a weekly roundup of things worth the time to read.

The newly launched service Revue seemed like an ideal fit. It had a really simple email editor that focused the sender’s attention on writing good words, not formatting HTML. It handled all of the signup, sending, and opt-out management. It even promised some nifty integrations like collecting your links from Instapaper and helping people sign up via your Medium page. As an early user of the service, I got a nice deal: free.

My first issue went out just after I returned from a summer vacation in 2016:

Early on, my format was pretty consistent. I used tech, simplicity, and leadership as recurring headings for my recommended links and I added a short blurb about each piece. As I got used to sending a weekly message, the introductions at the top grew longer and I included fewer links. Some of my most replied-to emails included only a brief essay and one link. After six years, I’m pretty pleased with the results. Right around 150 people subscribe to the email and about half of them open each one I send.

All things change

After a nice run as an independent company, Twitter made the owners of Revue an offer they couldn’t refuse. I got the impression that Revue wasn’t quite making money. Their revenue operations didn’t seem that prominent. Sometimes, a company is worth more dead than alive. The acquisition by Twitter was the latter’s attempt to cobble together a compelling paid content strategy.

A few years later, it’s not that surprising to see Twitter close the whole thing down. I only had one complaint about Twitter running Revue: one time a server error didn’t send my email out on time. It’s tough to have a service you like close. The online product people always write that shutting a service down is a hard choice to make. But it seems more common than not. The internet lets you launch things pretty quickly and it doesn’t tend to incentivize keeping things going.

I like writing a weekly email. It’s a good discipline and keeps me connected with some cool people. The lesson I learned from Revue closing down is that I need to own (read: pay for) the tools I use. And so, I’m migrating my weekly email to HubSpot. (That’s why it will look a little different starting next week.)

Taking the show to HubSpot

Twitter’s shutdown of Revue gave us some pretty lousy tools to export content and subscribers. I have the content saved in a folder, but it’s a CSV that could be made to connect with a JSON database. Even the creative developers stepping into the void didn’t give me something that’s very usable. And so, I turned to HubSpot because 1) I own the account, and 2) it has tools that make things like grabbing content and sending emails straightforward.

It took me a few minutes to customize the email template to look right. I opted for a blog email, where I publish the message to my blog and then the email automatically picks it up and sends it to my subscribers. There are a few more elements to get right, like making sure my subscription options all point to the new HubSpot forms, but overall the migration is in a good place.

Some highlights from six years on Revue

Here are my subscribers' most clicked links:

This one from the NYT seems a little on-the-nose:

From: Issue #70, in 2018.

In a recurring theme, I wrote about being outside. I humorously linked to an "op-ed" from the fine folks at LL Bean:

On LinkedIn this week I saw a post from LL Bean. And as an exiled Mainer, I had to click the link. Its headline was arresting: “Social distancing does not mean staying inside.” One wouldn’t think this needed to be said. On the other hand, endlessly online celebrities having been telling us to stay inside at home. But, keeping a safe distance from others and aiming not to spread the virus doesn’t require endless Netflix on the couch. We can be safe and be outside. Perhaps, it’s even safer to be outside.

From: Issue #182, in 2020.

Pretty much all of the links in this one were well-clicked. People must've been bored at work in June of 2020.

From: Reading: Highways, Silos, & Alcohol

We had some really high open rates early on. The fifteen or so people who joined right away are some of my closest people, and they probably thought I was emailing them personally. Things settled out a bit after that. Here are three of the top opened emails:

  1. November 2018's Issue #108
  2. January 2021's Nathanael's Recommended Reading: 3 Sobering Articles (Issue 212)
  3. June 2019's Read About Cities (Issue 137)

Thanks to all of my subscribers and I hope to see you around the Friday inbox in the future