Making Own Your Web More Sustainable

I just published the 11th issue of Own Your Web, my newsletter about designing, building, creating, and publishing on the Web. When I started the newsletter back in autumn of 2023, I didn’t yet know what form the newsletter would take on, if people would like it, and also whether I would like doing it or not. Eleven issues in, I can say with confidence that I enjoy researching and writing those issues a lot! And with more than 1700 subscribers via email and RSS after just a few months and after all the feedback I received via social media and email – thank you all! 🤗🥳💚 –, I want to keep running this project as long as possible. In order to do that, though, I need to make it more sustainable. Naturally, setting up such a project and writing a newsletter every other week takes up a considerable amount of time. Also, hosting a newsletter costs a bit of money as well. Currently, I use Buttondown to do all the management and sending of the issues, and although Buttondown is not one of the most expensive solutions out there and is definitely worth every penny, the monthly fee still adds up. Providing a “free” newsletter isn’t that free for the person writing it, after all.

So, going forward, my goal is to make Own Your Web a little more sustainable, first of all by making sure that at least the costs and, going forward, maybe even a good portion of my working hours that go into this newsletter are covered.


But how do you make a newsletter sustainable? Do you add a paywall? Do you offer memberships for supporters? Do you ask people to buy you a coffee? Do you add sponsors or ads to the newsletter? Do you plaster it with affiliate links until it is indiscernible from spam? Do you do all of the above?

“Monetizing” any type of work online certainly isn’t easy. Many platforms promise that you can grow your publication into a thriving online business in no time – or at least make it sustainable. But in reality, they are often the only ones who really start earning money that actually pays the bills. And so, many people desperately try to do anything they can to squeeze out the last few dollars out of a project that started as a fun idea.

The Right Fit

There is something that really bugs me about this race to the bottom: I started this newsletter out of a passion for the open web and want it to be a genuinely useful, impactful, but also trustworthy resource. And that’s why I feel deeply that it would be a mistake to not be true to the values that connect me with my readers. Like, for example, the belief in a web that is open, distributed, and controlled by people creating beautiful things instead of marketing departments flooding the web with crap content, the targeted advertising industry harvesting data to create user profiles, and a few social media platforms manipulating your behavior to hook you into their walled gardens. Or values like the belief that owning your work, your data, your identity, and your connections online is one of the most valuable and empowering aspects of being a citizen of the open web. But most importantly, the conviction that the Web we all want to build together needs to be built on mutual respect and an appreciation of each other’s unique perspectives, struggles, and identities.

Therefore, whatever I do to make the newsletter more sustainable, it needs to be in line with what this newsletter is: a newsletter about being independent, about owning your web.

Sponsors Welcome

That’s why I will start looking for people or companies that would like to support the newsletter as sponsors – but I will be very careful in selecting them. They need to be in line with the values and goals of the newsletter. They need to be a perfect fit for you, the readers. They need to be people and companies that are trustworthy and supportive of the open web and that bring real value to you and everyone else who wants to own their web. Regarding the type of sponsorship, I am currently considering either a short “supported by” line with a link or, if it offers real value to my readers, a short shoutout inside the newsletter.

So: if you would like to support the publication or can think of a company that would be a good fit, let me know: 👉👈

And then, there is still also the option of asking all of you for support. Completely optional and voluntary – the newsletter will always be free –, but maybe a small contribution on a pay-what-you-want basis is something that a few of you would indeed do if it helps support the publication. I guess I’ll do that as well and see how it plays out.

I’m curious: how do you feel about all that? What kind of support or sponsorship do you find the most appropriate and valuable? Are you already supporting other projects? Or, do you also not mind a few ads for interesting products if they don’t track you? Or are you maybe even running a project yourself and have figured out a way to make it work sustainably for you? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this! So let me know via Webmention, Mastodon, email, or in a response blog post.


19 Webmentions

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@matthiasott The sponsors you will have the best track record with are other newsletters. That seems to be the great truism I’ve found—if people are subscribed to a newsletter they will subscribe to another one while reading.