Today's final email-focused interview features Kate of The Fetch. With a highly successful newsletter aimed at professionals, she has lots of awesome insights to share.
Kate Kendall is the Founder of The Fetch - which, if it isn't showing up in your inbox already, I highly suggest you sign up! Kate started The Fetch in her native Australia, and it has been such a success that there's now a unique edition for 8 cities across the world. Kate blogs about startup life on her personal blog, and you can catch great insights on The Fetch's blog too. Kate shares great email-focused links on Quibb, and you can follow her on Twitter at @KateKendall.
What are you working on? What does your role entail?
The Fetch is where professionals can share and discover what's happening in their city.
I've been working full time on The Fetch now for six months. In mid-2011 I noticed that it was really hard to find information in one place about what was going on event-wise in Melbourne (Australia, not Florida). I've been involved with the startup and web scene there for a while, organising meetups and communities, so would often get asked what's happening. Instead of having 20 different tabs open in Chrome to various event registration pages and five newsletters hitting your inbox daily, The Fetch packages the best of everything. There's also plenty of different city guides that will tell you about fashion, lifestyle, music, culture and food (Thrillist, Daily Candy, Tasting Table, Flavorpill, Refinery29, etc.) but nothing independent catering to the career geeks among us. I guess it's not dissimilar to how Newmark kicked off Craigslist.
We've now expanded to other cities and are in eight cities across the US, Europe and Asia Pacific with the flagship NYC on its way in early 2013. Another thing to note is our beta focuses on bringing three verticals together – business and entrepreneurship, tech, and creative and design. I find the industry silos we create don't exist in practice – if you're interested in heading to a media summit, you might also want to check out that intro to HTML/CSS or head along to a public lecture on sustainability from Stanford. We're 3D professionals in reality.
Being early-stage still, it's almost impossible to share what my role entails as it's everything. I tend to segment it into three priorities though – user development (i.e. list growth), customer development (i.e. revenue growth) and partner development (i.e. resourcing company growth).
What are your favorite news sites/blogs to read?
There's been a transition from the cult of mastheads to the cult of individuals so I think about my favourites in terms of people rather than sites. You can see this with the emergence of platforms such as Svbtle and Medium highlighting collections of authors and less about the media brand. That said, I do follow Pando Daily (Sarah and Paul's WITN video blogs always get a laugh out loud), TechCrunch (depending on my patience that day) and like The Next Web's new site design and global coverage. I consume Hacker News through Kale's HackerNewsletter.
In terms of individuals, hands-down Joel Gascoigne and the Buffer team are killing it when it comes to a solid content strategy (and customer service)! I subscribed to Joel's personal blog and Buffer's. I get Dave McClure and 500 Startups news through the weekly digest Liz (Elizabeth Yin) manages in CurateHub.
Then there's some East Coast updates through Fred Wilson, Bryce VC and Gotham Gal, and then Noah from AppSumo in Austin. It's not entirely startup/tech focused but Maria Popova's Brain Pickings is interesting to all and shows the art of curation at its best. And finally, Andrew Chen, where I first heard about Quibb and Sandi, which I read daily and love.
Surprising thing you learned about email this past year?
There's been a massive value shift in how much it's appreciated – especially over the past few months, with many recognising its merits again. Even in the short time since The Fetch kicked off, some attitudes have changed from "I hate email – I unsubscribe from everything" and "Isn't your startup just a newsletter?" to "Email's the one place you can still reach people" and "I love The Fetch, it's the main thing I look at – here's an award".
There's too much volatility in the social sphere at the moment, with FB changing a brand's organic reach all the time and Twitter sorting out its API access, that email's heritage and consistency is exciting to build on top of.
Another surprise is that it's been great to discover open rates don't necessarily decrease when list size grows. LaunchBit did a small study on this. We're still growing but I'm proud of our open rates so far (~45% averages across cities) and while we're got a plan to scale this – it'll be interesting to see the data at 100K and 1M subscribers.
Finally, I read somewhere that you should start monetizing once you get to 40K subscribers. I think this is a relevant in terms of focus with small teams, but we've been able to reactively monetize from day one with tactics as small as offering customers the ability to book sponsored listings and self check-out online.
With The Fetch - you've settled on a curation vs. creation model. what advantages or disadvantages does this have?
We've been a curation focused to date for many reasons. We aggregate numerous data feeds (such as event ticketer's APIs and user-submitted events) in our back-end and have a curator network that sorts this with a human eye to make sure only the best events make it in the digest. There's too much noise everywhere and being respectful of people's time and attention by this combined approach is key. Aggregation-only is just info vomit.
We also create and include content – mostly in the form of local interview and event reviews by a 70-person strong community ambassador network. Creation is a hard model and I don't view us a publishing play (my background's in magazines and online media though) – it's the context and community that will grow The Fetch. However, creation of content is important for storytelling and discovery. As we haven't sent out a press release yet or started ramping up outreach, it's been a bit like the architect's house that's falling down. People need to know your product story as well as the broader startup story.
When expanding across different countries - have you found any different behaviours around email?
Nothing too unusual. People wake up or start work later in some markets (cough… the Bay Area) so a later send time is better. Some countries take longer to adopt things – Londoners for instance, so it's about communicating trust and purpose more. Mid-sized communities work as well as larger cities as they need their emerging ecosystem mapped out.
Facebook events, newsletters such as The Fetch, Eventbrite, Meetup… how do you see the event space evolving? Any interesting trends you're watching?
Players are coming and going all the time. Eventasaurus was a one-click event creator that plugged into the leading platforms and that went in a blip. Plancast had amazing social elements but struggled to get beyond the tech bubble community. Mark wrote a great post-mortem here. LinkedIn recently announced its not focusing on the events app anymore. Google Plus is trying to take on Yelp with the Local city offerings. Splash by One Clipboard is a new service doing custom landing pages around events. Skillshare and GA are working out local education classes. Facebook is great for seeding and creating social events among friends. Event registration is a tough space and Eventbrite and Meetup have it nicely covered (although I wish Meetup would sort its email notifications out!). In terms of professional event discovery, well there's lots more to do there. :)