How Grew to 1 Million Subscribers.


Today is Part 4 of our series on Untapped Traffic Strategies. And it all begins with a story. It’s the story of Dany Levy, creator of which grew to over 1 million subscribers. In fact, in 2004, DailyCandy was one of the most popular websites on the web.

In fact, I discovered the story while I was at the library this weekend. Browsing through the business section, I picked up a book that told the story of how they got started. Interesting stuff…

So going back now to 1998, that is the year that was created. But before that, Dany worked at New York magazine. She wrote about style, fashion and bargains but had very little creative freedom. She was writing and freelancing for major magazines but still felt stifled.

She was fascinated by the internet because it offered instant publication where magazine articles had a 3-month lead time. It took months to actually get an article into the readers’ hand. The internet however, allowed anyone to publish their thoughts in real time and to build an audience of thousands.

For a writer, especially back in 1998, this kind of complete creative freedom was like a heavenly oasis. But this was still the very early days for the internet. Web 1.0 you might say.

DailyCandy got started in 1998 and back then, no one was creating a business out of email. But Dany had an idea… To create a brief daily email, on style, fashion and what’s hot. She wanted the email to be fun and personality driven. Something that women would look forward to opening each morning, like a little piece of candy.

And because she was delivering this content via email, she could publish her fun, quirky thoughts instantly. Without the long lead times of a magazine. And best of all, she could do it by herself, without a huge staff. They were very little start-up costs.

Again, this was impossible before the internet. Media gatekeepers literally controlled the publishing business. They controlled the audience. And to even have a chance at getting your content to the front of that audience, you had to play by their rules.

But when the internet came along, we now had the opportunity to publish and distribute our content instantly. To build an audience of thousands of people. To build our own platform.

Dany Levy built her business ( around email. Which up to this point, had never been done before. Now we have sites like Groupon and Thrillist that are very well known for their daily email. But DailyCandy was the first.

Each email was written in a style of the DailyCandy girl. A stylish, smart, young woman sharing the latest fashion tip of the day, or the latest must-have product, or the hot new restaurant in town, like a modern day gossip girl.

She sent that first e-newsletter to about 700 people, friends, family, co-workers, and other names that she invited from her own rolodex. And to grow the community, she put a button at the bottom of each email that said “send to a friend”. When the email was shared, it would send them to a webpage that had another button at the bottom of that page, shaped like a piece of candy.

It simply said – “Sign Up for DailyCandy”. This simple strategy added 100-200 new subscribers per day. Simply forwarding the email to friends. That was actually their number one strategy for growing the business and their subscriber list. It was a built-in marketing mechanism included at the bottom of every email. And by 2003, she had 285,000 subscribers. Eventually it grew to over 1 million subscribers, making it to one of the hottest websites on the web.

In 2008, ComCast purchased the site for $120 million. Starting out in 1998, Dany grew the business newsletter from just 700 subscribers to over 1 million subscribers, largely in part due to word of mouth. It became a viral newsletter. And of course today, forward to a friend would probably be replaced with sites like Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and Google+. But in the beginning, that forward to a friend button was the key to adding thousands of new email subscribers each and every week.

And because of the fun personality driven emails, they built a community of raving fans. In fact, whenever they would write about a restaurant, it would get completely flooded. Whenever they would write about a book, it would often times shoot to number 1 on Amazon.

After they wrote about the Silk Day Spa in New York City, it received more than 15,000 visitors to their website and nearly 400 bookings in a span of 3 days. These were raving fans who trusted their recommendations. A huge amount of power but also a lot of responsibility.

So to end off here, I just want to talk about how you can use these same principles to grow your own business. We already know that email marketing is the foundation of every successful online business. But way too many marketers are making the mistake of promoting just one product after the next, and not really doing their due diligence to make sure that product is quality. You have the responsibility of protecting your subscribers, of only giving them the very best. Because when you lose trust, you’ve lost them. A lot of people wonder why their subscriber list is not responsive. And it’s because they’re not nurturing that relationship. They’re looking for what they can get instead of what they can give.

In order to build a community of raving fans, you have to be the protector of your subscriber list. But even more importantly, you must be creating fun, personality driven content on a consistent basis. Emails that people want to tune-in to each and every day. So that when they see your name on their inbox, they’d look forward to opening it. And just like Dany Levy was trying to do, you want to be that little piece of candy they’d look forward to each morning.

My goal for you is to use these principles to double your traffic specifically with email marketing. Email is one of the best platforms for building an engaged audience. Much like your favorite TV show, podcast, or talk show, listeners can tune-in each and every week. And if you do it right (creating fun, entertaining and personalized emails) they will eagerly wait for your next email.

This is how you build your tribe. Your first 1,000 raving fans. And just like DailyCandy, you can also use email to grow your audience. In the early days of DailyCandy, their main growth came from people forwarding their emails.

Email is essentially the oldest social network, long before MySpace, Twitter, and Facebook. And the cool part is now we have even more powerful tools for amplifying your content. Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and Google+ are some of your very best business building tools. Every email, every blog post and every new podcast helps grow your audience. Every new piece of content is a new opportunity to grow your community.

In fact, it’s a really simple formula. Great content + simple social sharing tools = massive market reach. My challenge to you is to use these tools to double your website traffic. And to be more specific, if you’re currently only sending one email per month to your subscribers, start sending just two per month. You’ve just doubled your traffic with a simple email.

If you’re currently sending your subscribers one email per week, send two per week. The more content you create, the bigger your audience will grow. Compounding effects start taking over and the fact of the matter is that most business owners simply are not as sending as many emails as they should be. Most are not creating enough content as they should be. I’ve been guilty of this myself. We all get busy but we know that we should be doing it.

So my challenge to you, is simply to 2x your content creation. Send one more email per month, create one extra article per week. This one simple step can double your traffic and start building raving fans. Make it fun. Make it quirky. Make it personality driven. Make each email like a little piece of candy. Something your subscribers will look forward to opening each time they see your name in the inbox.

I hope you enjoyed today’s episode of the 10-minute marketing show. If you’re enjoying this content, I would love it if you are able to leave a rating and review inside of iTunes. Let me know how we’re doing and any sort of topics that you would like to hear in upcoming episodes. Go ahead! Leave us your comments, questions, and feedback and let me know what we can do to make this podcast even better!

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4 thoughts on “How Grew to 1 Million Subscribers.”

    • Yeah. After they sold to Comcast in 2008 they lost a lot of the original vision that Dany created. A big company that’s only focused on growth is MUCH different than a startup gal like Dany who was relentlessly focused on entertaining and providing value to the community she had built.

      Unfortunately, Comcast used her as a figure head instead of letting her continue with the vision of what made DailyCandy work so well to begin with.

  1. Kim, I like your content but not a fan of having to listen through. I am a faster reader then having to spend more time listening to audio. Having both options is fine, but only one me no likey : (

    I know you are trying t build up your podcast audience and rating, but still.

    • It’s only 10-15 minutes… really? LOL. Do something in your office or listen while you’re driving… Kim is always worth listening to.

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