15 min read

How The Hustle uses “media stacking” to future-proof their brand

The Hustle is known for being one of the best business newsletters around. However, they should be known for their incredible approach to "media stacking" and how it's future-proofed their business.

There’s a huge benefit for business owners who spin their primary business into multiple brands or offers.

Especially for brands relying on media to drive interest and sales (which is pretty much every brand in some way).

The benefit has nothing to do with revenue (although that is one of the benefits), but more to do with future-proofing your brand’s position as a serious player in the industry. .

One of the best examples I’ve seen is what Sam Parr has done at The Hustle.

He’s stacked multiple media assets across different brands to create an incredible overall brand and platform.

And, in my opinion, it’s key to not only their success, but also their long-term profitability and stability.

Here’s how it all breaks down.

What is The Hustle

The Hustle has had a weird and wonderful life.

Sam Parr, The Hustle’s founder, initially started this business with HustleCon. A business conference for founders.

I believe it’s still running as a conference, but has been slowed down somewhat thanks to Covid.

After Sam had achieved success with HustleCon, he started writing content he thought founders and entrepreneurs would be interested in.

After a lot of refining, we now have the daily business newsletter for founders and entrepreneurs known as The Hustle. It’s very similar to Morning Brew which we’ve also done a full analysis of here.

Sam grew The Hustle to millions of subscribers and a healthy revenue through sponsorships.

This caught the attention of HubSpot, who bought them out. There are no longer any sponsorships, but now the emails include sections like the below.

They basically replaced brand sponsorships with promos of HubSpot products and events.

All of this is interesting in itself. However, it’s not the point of this analysis.

What I’m more interested in is how Sam has turned…

  1. A business conference into a successful daily newsletter
  2. A newsletter into a successful paid community
  3. A paid community into a wildly successful podcast
  4. And all of the above into an incredible social media presence

You might be looking at this and thinking “yeah, of course - that’s just marketing Pete”.

And you’d be kind of right.

However, the most interesting aspect is how all of these assets work together.

This isn’t a case of one asset being repurposed for a separate channel.

Sam’s been very smart in building out these brands so they’re different and each one offers unique value.

However, he’s included enough overlap so each is relevant to the others.  Which has resulted in a business model that - for at least the next few years - would be very difficult for competitors to dethrone.

Media Stacking vs Simple Syndication

I first heard the term “Media Stacking” from Ben Settle in one of his daily emails.

He attributes the term to himself, and the concept to late billionaire William Randolph Hearst.

In his newsletter (which you can join for free here) he dropped the below quote…

“[Hearst] built the nation’s first media conglomerate by extending his newspaper empire horizontally into syndicated feature, photo, and wire services; magazines, newsreels; serial, feature, and animated films; and radio. . .The opportunities were limitless for expanding his empire — and his audiences — and he capitalized on every one of them.”

Now, this just proves that this isn’t a new concept in business - whether digital or physical. However, it is especially prevalent now in the digital age as there are so many different channels - and the barrier to entry across each is far lower.  .

Here’s the thing, the majority of the time “content stacking” across channels is little more than basic syndication.

We’re talking something like…

  • Write a blog article
  • Pull 5 snippets to share to Twitter
  • Create a short form explanation for LinkedIn
  • Create a short intro video for YouTube
  • Explain key points and paste to Reddit
  • Pull all key images and reshare to Insta / Pinterest
  • Republish to free platforms with an established audience

And so on.

The above isn’t stacking anything but using a single core asset to create promotional materials for other channels.

Everything depends upon and revolves around that initial asset. In the above example, that would be the blog post. You might pull it apart in a manner similar t the below.  .

It’s basic promotion rather than stacking media channels.

Yes, you are getting exposure to a wider audience on other platforms. And yes, a great content promotion strategy can massively benefit your brand.

It’s the tried and true method of moving people from a rented audience (social) to your owned audience (email) via your blog (you can read more about the below email’s concept on this piece about social media marketing).

But if anything ever happens to the core asset, the whole thing falls apart.

For example, if you’re relying on YouTube videos as your primary source of content and income, an algorithm change or the blacklisting of your account causes everything to collapse.

Sure, you can continue to promote it through different channels, but there’s zero point when the core asset that fosters engagement and builds trust that leads to a conversion no longer exists.

Sam’s (and The Hustle’s) method of media stacking overcomes this weakness.

It doesn’t rely solely on a single asset that’s spun across multiple platforms and networks for promotion.

Each asset is specifically for the platform it’s hosted on and offers unique value that cannot be found in their other assets.

Here’s a quick overview of the various media assets under The Hustle’s umbrella, and the networks/platforms they’re created for.

  1. Newsletter
  2. Trends (Paid community)
  3. MFM Podcast
  4. MFM YouTube
  5. HustleCon

Each of these still has its own content promotion system that helps it get in front of as many new users as possible.

But, generally speaking, they’re all individual assets created specifically for the platform.

They’ve cut no corners by taking the simple repurpose approach. The content and formatting of each asset is specific and unique to the platform it’s created for.

Hell, even the Tweets they put out are crafted specifically for Twitter to get max engagement.  The below is an example from Shaan Puri, the co-host of My First Million.

It’s great to have each asset created specifically for that channel both in terms of format and value. But if you look deeper, you’ll notice that there’s often an overlap in the value between each asset.

And that’s a great way to also stack value.

Marginal overlaps, not syndicated copies

All of the various offerings under The Hustle’s umbrella have one thing in common.

The audience.

From My First Million to HustleCon, the intended audience is always founders or entrepreneurs looking for a deeper understanding of the business landscape so they’re poised to pounce on the next big opportunity.

Or, in simpler terms, folk who want to make a lot of money with their businesses.

It would be so easy to create one item and simply roll it out across multiple platforms.

For example, record a video and…

  1. Rip the audio and publish as-is for a podcast
  2. Get it transcribed and publish on a blog
  3. Send the key points in a newsletter

The exact same information used across multiple platforms.

It’s the easy way to do it. And probably the best way for small brands.

But let’s be honest, there’s no real need for me to engage with the brand across any more than one platform and deliverable.

However large the total audience, you’re splitting where you engage with them in this method.  You might find that…

  • 25% prefer YouTube
  • 25% prefer audio
  • 25% prefer blog posts
  • 25% prefer the newsletter

You’ve split your audience 4 ways here diluting the impact of each channel.

If I learn about topic A on the podcast, I’m not then going to go and read about it on the blog.

That lower level of engagement and traffic to each asset means...

  1. Ad revenue from views and impressions on YouTube will be lower
  2. Sponsorship deals for the podcast would be less profitable
  3. Traffic to blog posts would be lower
  4. Sponsorships for newsletters would be lower due to a smaller audience

In short, diluting the audience by only reusing content means the impact and usefulness of that audience is also diluted.

But the way Sam’s organised it with The Hustle is to offer small overlaps between each platform.

Yes, the general topics are the same - becoming a better business owner and entrepreneur.

But the focus of the information is slightly different with each asset.

  • The Hustle - Curated business news (with a focus on opportunities)
  • Trends - New business ideas and a community of other founders
  • My First Million - Insight into seasoned entrepreneur’s businesses and thought processes with a focus on emerging opportunities
  • HustleCon - An in-person conference for deeper insights and in-person networking with other entrepreneurs

They’re all closely related, but the takeaway and value from each is slightly different.

Which means if you want 100% of the value from The Hustle’s media offerings, you have to…

  • Read the newsletter
  • Join the community
  • Listen to the podcast
  • Watch YouTube
  • Go to HustleCon

Rather than diluting their audience across multiple channels, they’ve done the opposite.

They have multiple related audiences which have slightly different desires, and they’ve pooled them under the overall The Hustle umbrella.

Sure, one person might not subscribe to every channel. But I’m willing to bet the vast majority of The Hustle readers have joined at least one of the other channels.

And I’d also bet that the people who subscribe to more than one channel then go on to subscribe to more.

The value add of the overlapping - but not straight copies - of each channel is huge.

And it builds a huge amount of trust. So when The Hustle launches a new paid offer, it’ll be received by voracious fans.

What if you can’t craft specifically for one channel?

So, generally speaking The Hustle creates custom content for each channel and ensures the assets offer unique value.

All to ensure you go and engage with that channel and asset, thus increasing your exposure to the brand.

The one exception here is the My First Million (MFM) podcast and YouTube channel.

A lot of the content is a simple copy and paste.

Or more accurately, the podcast features the audio recorded in the video.

Take a look at two recent episodes to see what I mean.

On YouTube…

And the same episode on the MFM Podcast…

The content is exactly the same.

Which goes against everything I’ve said, right? Not exactly. Because The Hustle team has optimised each piece of content for the platform.

Let’s look at YouTube first.

Not only do they use a tried and tested YouTube video template and use the description to great effect (you can learn more about the best YT templates here), but they also…

  1. Use various jump cuts between screen shares, speaker focus, group focus, and any relevant graphics
  2. Create YouTube’s “Table of Contents” quick links to get the user to the section they most want to watch
  3. Have high-quality audio and video for the episode (good cameras, mics, and editing)

Then when you look at the same episode as a podcast, you’ll note they’ve also optimised for the platform.

You have the same high-quality audio, but also…

  1. Quick links to listen to parts that are most relevant for the user
  2. Like and share links to increase engagement and listenership
  3. The basic elements you’d expect with a podcast like show notes, transcription, and subscription elements

In short, the content itself might not be created specifically for each of these two platforms.

However, it’s been optimised specifically for them. From the initial production value to the little tweaks that make it a great UX on that platform.

All in all, it’s going to attract users who are most interested in that platform’s deliverable.

Creating your own syndication machine

This is where I think it gets really interesting and the real value of “stacking” becomes clear.

As mentioned earlier, most brands view content syndication as simple promotion.

You repurpose existing assets onto platforms with established audiences.

The idea is to offer a tease which moves people from the rented platform (something like Twitter) to your owned asset (an email list).

The problem here is the rented audience platforms leave you at the mercy of that platforms owners.

Algorithm changes, bans, terms of service, and understanding how to game their system can massively impact your reach and impact.

Of course, that’s the game we all play, and Sam and The Hustle team are no different as seen here.

The above is a Tweet that includes information from one of their latest newsletters.

This kind of promotion, while necessary, is a completely linear customer journey. Necessary for expanding to new audiences, but not helping make the most of those audiences beyond pushing them to purchase.

It’s little more than the rented to owned audience journey.,

What The Hustle has done is create a lateral audience engagement system.

Each media asset they produce promotes and links to their other assets. They syndicate short form summaries and push them out across the multiple media assets they own.

Rather than borrow audiences from established platforms that can change rules at the drop of a hat, The Hustle borrow from the audiences they own and have grown themselves.

They seed and grow new audiences for less established offers from offers already doing well.

Take the below from one of their recent newsletters as an example.

It’s a simple promotion of their paid community, Trends.

You’ll see these similar promotions on multiple assets like…

On their YouTube channel.

On their Podcast.

Each asset, at some point, promotes the other assets.

And because the value offered across these assets are slightly different (but still relevant), it’s not a simple “check this out in video/audio/written form”.

It’s a new offer that overlaps with the audience’s interests.  An offer that adds completely new and different value, and is only promoted to an audience that already trusts the brand.

It’s this wonderful little machine that ensures each asset grows in unison.

Not at the same rate of course. But the growth of one channel should always positively impact the others.

And because many of the channels (Facebook group, newsletter archive on their blog, YouTube channel) have some level of discoverability built-in, there should always be some passive level of growth.

The result is a spider web of new user attraction and multi-asset promotion that helps the connected brands grow.

Each asset is its own audience silo. It offers its own value and engages with its own information.

But, it also helps any of the other assets under the general Hustle umbrella.

I’m imagining that The Hustle newsletter is the primary source of new leads.

So I’d imagine it would look something like this.

Each asset brings in news leads. They then expose those leads to their other media offers to grow the overall audience and their loyalty.

What they’ve effectively done is taken the tried and true method of selling to a warm audience and adapted it.

While many people would use that warm audience and launch multiple products to them, The Hustle has launched multiple assets.

Which is a great way of future-proofing their business.

How this future proofs The Hustle

We’ve all heard the horror stories before.

  • A brand that relies on Facebook ads to drive new user acquisition has its account banned.
  • The business that’s built a solid organic search presence sees its traffic drop by 90% after a Google penalty.
  • A simple social algorithm change damages the reach and impact of a brand that depends on social promotion for new customers.
  • The YouTuber who relies on ad revenue sees their reputation and viewership collapse.

It happens. Not as often as the doom-mongers would have you believe, but it happens. I myself had a Facebook ad account temporarily banned last week for a few days thanks to an algorithm error on FBs part.

It caused traffic and revenue to drop for the period it was out.

If I’d built my business on that channel around one key asset, the error could have been catastrophic.

The brand with no asset to promote has nothing to help convince new users to buy.

When you have no asset, you’re not able to promote on various promotional platforms.

Which loses you your audience and authority there.

Which then stops you from generating new traffic and leads.

All because the core asset is no longer viable.

The Hustle will no longer have this problem.

Because they’ve interlinked their assets they always have a fallback.

And because each asset is ever so slightly different in its value and focus, none of the other assets are dependent on it staying viable.

Imagine that their biggest asset - the daily newsletter - suddenly ceases to exist. That the ESP Gods smite them and their sending reputation so every single email drops into spam.

Their engagement rates tank and no one is willing to sponsor them. Cash dries up, and staff are laid off.

If that was all they had, it would be catastrophic.

But, thanks to their various other assets, they still have…

  • An audience
  • Revenue
  • A reputation

And so, if the worst does happen and they lose one of their assets to events out of their control., The Hustle still has multiple media assets that can keep business chugging along nicely.

Any one of The Hustle’s assets could be removed, shut down, or destroyed tomorrow, and they would still have a solid platform from which to rebuild.

Some assets pull more weight than others in terms of audience and revenue, sure. But each one is no longer completely reliant on the others for its own continued operation.

And what’s more, these multiple assets mean that if they were to launch a new asset or offer, they could immediately seed it with a sizeable audience through simple promotions on established assets.

And that would add yet another spoke to their asset wheel, further increasing the promotional channels and pillars of their business.

How is this different from other newsletter brands?

When I first thought about analysing The Hustle, I was a little worried.

I’ve already done a huge breakdown on one of their biggest competitors, Morning Brew.

I was worried I’d dive in and find little difference. And sure, there are similarities between the primary newsletter and Morning Brew. Elements like the referral sequence are almost the same.

However, I think The Hustle has surpassed Morning Brew in terms of diversification.

Morning Brew has taken an approach most similar to The Agora.

Yes, they now have multiple offers, but they’re all of the same kind. They’re all newsletters.

It’s still a viable method.

What Morning Brew have done is spread to other verticals which secures them if there’s a huge upheaval in one industry.

But they all depend on the same acquisition source and people who prefer written newsletters.

If anything ever happens to the world of newsletters and email marketing, they’re kinda screwed.

It makes me wonder how things like iOS15 and the new difficulties in tracking email engagement will affect their ability to charge sponsors increasingly higher fees.

Has it (or will it) have a measurable impact on the business as a whole?

The Hustle no longer has this issue. Partly because they’re no longer taking sponsors and are instead simply promoting HubSpot offers.

Partly because they’ve diversified across multiple channels and platforms to cover multiple bases.

Unlike Morning Brew and The Agora, I don’t class The Hustle as a newsletter company.

They’re closer to a multi-media company that’s grown to dominate multiple platforms. And I think it will help them stand the test of time.

I’m not saying The Hustle’s approach is better. It’s just different. And it secures their future in a different way to The Agora and Morning Brew.

How to copy this yourself

Growing a single channel is challenging. And trying to replicate The Hustle’s approach of creating content for various channels shouldn’t be done all at once.

You need to focus on one channel first, get it to the point of profitability and predictability, then grow from there.

This is exactly what The Hustle did.

Sam led with a conference.

Which he segued into a newsletter.

Which laid the groundwork for a paid community.

Which enabled the growth of MFM.

One after the other. And leverage the existing audience to seed the audience for a brand new asset and get off the mark with a running start.

Reading materials

Be sure to check out the below that have been mentioned in this piece.