At the end of 2016, after landing my first few clients in my shiny new business, I signed up for ActiveCampaign as my email service provider.

For several years, I have endorsed ActiveCampaign. I’ve personally sent tens of thousands of emails through ActiveCampaign, put my clients on it, made dozens of walkthrough videos on it, and recommended it to other business owners. More than endorsing any one particular tool, what I endorse is picking something that works, then just sticking with it so you’re not bouncing around all the time.

The Substack Effect

In this seven-year timeframe, though, newsletter culture changed. While I don’t recommend Substack, I would call this evolution of email “the Substack effect;” email newsletters developed broader appeal as a result of Substack’s initial messaging in 2017. This messaging seeded the idea that platforms like Substack let us give independent creators our time, money and attention directly, making those creators’ livelihoods more viable. This was already achievable through platforms like Patreon. But somehow, Substack met the moment in a way that turned people on to niche newsletters. Newsletters and independent media startups became cool.

The sales of Morning Brew in 2020 and The Hustle in 2021 further validated the idea that newsletters are a more valuable audience than social media. The user engagement is better, the data is easier to measure, you can segment your audience, you can use the data to inform targeted advertising efforts, you can customize communications accordingly, and if the government makes a sudden decision to ban your chosen platform, you’re not screwed. The newsletter boom of the last few years has made certain subvarieties of newsletters more viable, and seems to have tipped consumption patterns away from social and more towards email.

During these seven years, I also changed. Working alongside professional journalists and editors has reinvigorated my interest in news, content creation and, perhaps most importantly, content curation. Taking a 9-to-5 two years ago has supported my physical and mental health, and it has reduced the need to market my business. My IP is more asynchronous now because I am time-constrained, and any work I do on the side has been referral-based. I also completed a journalism certificate at UCLA in 2023, doing coursework over a 15-month period. I am a different writer and entrepreneur than I was in 2022.

All of this meant I needed a burst of freshness for my newsletter, something that would match my new direction as a writer, editor and consultant. After considering several options, I settled on beehiiv.

I picked beehiiv because:

  • Its builder has social media embeds (But not Threads yet – need that!).
  • It has decent-enough automations. (It does not have enough for what some ecommerce brands and SMBs require, from my consulting experience.)
  • It has an internal discoverability network and a community.
  • It has an interesting Ad Network feature.
  • It just raised a $33 million Series B.
  • The UX is fast and light.
  • I got a free 30-day trial.
  • I oversaw a client migrating to beehiiv recently, and liked what I saw and experienced.

Another reason I moved from ActiveCampaign to beehiiv is that it just feels like the company wants it more. There’s a spunk and a scrappiness at beehiiv right now with the fast rollouts, the founder still sending the emails, and the community. beehiiv was founded by former Morning Brew employees, and the Morning Brew model continues to intrigue me.

Consumers Want Something Curated

There’s too much good information on the internet now. It all takes time to cull through, and spending time can be painful. We’d rather follow people who can do the curating for us. I believe curation solves a problem, and that some people in online business basically sell curation as their product, program or service, and have an audience of people who are happy to pay for it.

I still think ActiveCampaign is fine as an email service provider. It has strong ecommerce integrations, and you can do freaky cool stuff with conditional content and site tracking. But what I think has also happened as a result of the newsletter boom is that there are more providers on the market and their offerings are getting more niche. An ESP like beehiiv wasn’t an option five years ago, and now it is.

The Takeaway

Make decisions that keep your creator fire burning bright. Don’t be afraid to change what you’re doing. This sometimes means letting go of past beliefs or perspectives. It’s okay.

The right next step is the one that gets you into action and re-inspires you about your work and overall message. ◆

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