I recently saw buzz around a newsletter business that closed $550MM in a year.
Here's the tweet from Sam Parr that kicked things off.
If you’re not aware of the brand, here’s a quick overview.
The Agora is a behemoth in the newsletter and info publishing space.
They’re known to have some of the best direct response copywriters, strategists, and media buyers in the business.
And that reputation is very well founded.
Back when I was freelance copywriting I made an effort to work with some of The Agora companies.
The short version is, I didn’t get to work with any of them. However, I did speak to copywriters, editors, and strategists within their companies.
And I was blown away with the level of understanding these folk had about selling online.
Their reputation as the gold-standard in direct response marketing is, in my opinion, very well deserved.
Notice how I said I approached “some of The Agora companies"?
That's not a typo.
The Agora is not a newsletter business. They're a collection of newsletter businesses (and more). All told, their collection pulls in over $1B per year.
Here's how their company infrastructure breaks down and how they make their money.
A quick note on The Agora companies
I need you to do something for me in this micro-study.
Ignore the quality of the products The Agora promote.
I’ve never bought any of the products they’re selling, so can’t speak to their actual quality.
However, there’s a lot of negative press around them.
I’m not going to get into the actual products or value they provide here. This isn’t the place for that.
We’re going to focus on the strategy they’ve rolled out across multiple brands to rake in the cash.
The Agora’s subsidiary newsletter companies generally focus on one of two niches.
The finance subsidiaries offer investment advice while the health subsidiaries offer advice on health issues.
I cannot say for certain whether any of the negative press is true. I'm not a health professional nor a finance whiz.
What I can tell you though is the way The Agora companies are built and marketed is nothing short of genius.
Let’s look at what they do so well.
The Agora's Organisation and Financials
Let's first look at how The Agora companies are organised.
If we focus only on the newsletter businesses they own, you’ll see they have...
- A single parent company (the Agora)
- 13 US-based subsidiaries
- 9 non-US based subsidiaries
- 120+ newsletters both paid and free (I tried counting but there's a lot of non-updated pages making it hard to put a definite number on this).
Everything kicks up to the level one step above it.
So a collection of, say, 30 financial newsletters might come under the Agora Financial subsidiary.
All of the subsidiaries are then under the control and purview of the primary Agora company.
It’s a super simple way to organise everything.
And it’s proof that once you’ve found a marketing and growth model that works for you, you can roll it out to other similar and complementary offers.
What I really like is how most of the brands are operating with small staff numbers.
The subsidiary 7-figure Publishing lists only 8 editors.
LinkedIn has 4 other members of staff for the brand which brings them up to a potential total of 12 employees. And they're running an 8-figure business.
Honestly, I'm sure a lot of the staff are Agora Financial employees (especially media buyers) working across newsletters.
It makes the average revenue per employee insanely high.
And to top it all off, the Agora owns more than just newsletters.
They also have a number of books, investments, and brick-and-mortar business interests.
It is truly a behemoth brand and proof that if you can write persuasively, you can find success.
The Agora's Financials
The Agora play their cards pretty close to their chests.
There are no real publicly available numbers for their revenue (or their marketing which made putting this analysis together a real pain).
However, sites like Owler estimate it to be $1B.
That number is also used on multiple other sites analysing their income.
And there’s plenty of sources showing that subsidiaries often have 9-figure ad spend.
Growth for the brand has been pretty impressive to boot.
According to this interview in 2015, revenues were around $500MM. Now, they’re reported to top $1B.
An extra $500MM+ in 5 years is nothing to sniff at.
How does The Agora grow its revenue?
There are really two very short answers to this.
- They acquire related newsletters or audiences in similar niches (example here)
- They launch a new newsletter and cross-promote it to their existing subscribers
Once they have a new newsletter to sell, they apply their tried and tested billion-dollar marketing and upsell strategy.
Which I’ve broken down for you below.