Uri Bram is no stranger to entrepreneurship. He had a few good projects under his belt when he launched his most recent, and perhaps most successful, project: The Browser.
He and his business partner identified an important need.
There was a lot of content already on the internet, but it was getting increasingly complicated to find articles that were truly worth reading. The Brower is a service that sends its subscribers—all 95,000 of them—the best stories on the web, a selection of videos and podcasts, and a Sunday supplement.
Today Uri is earning 6 figures a year from his growing business.
Keep reading to find out more about:
- His entrepreneurial background
- How The Browser came to be
- How his team identifies the best content online
- His marketing secrets
- The resources and tools he uses to grow his business
- The biggest challenge he’s faced
- His most impressive accomplishment
- His main mistake
- The advice he would give to other entrepreneurs
Meet Uri Bram
I’ve spent the last ten years in the media business.
I started out as an author writing a bestselling popular statistics book, spent some great time writing about the economics of everyday life for the Economist’s 1843 magazine, and am now lucky to be running the internet’s favorite curation newsletter, The Browser.
His Successes and Failures
I would say there are two big types of failures in life: things you did that went badly, and things you didn’t do but should have.
All my failures have been of the second type, which makes them rather boring stories. People who launch big, spectacular failures have much better stories, sometimes achieve things us more-timid types didn’t think possible, but I think they also often harm a lot of people (without acknowledging it) along the way.
Depending on your perspective, perhaps my lack of Big Failure Stories is itself my failure.
How He Created The Browser
My business partner, Robert Cottrell, was a legendary foreign correspondent for the Economist and the Financial Times for many decades. While he was thinking about starting a new publication of his own, he realized that what he really wanted in life was not a new source of good articles, but for someone to curate the amazing writing that already existed online.
I think he was very prescient, because that was more than a decade ago!
The amount of good content available online has exploded since then, but finding the gems is harder than ever. So finding excellent “DJs” for all your interests is crucial for any thoughtful person, and The Browser hopes to be that DJ for intelligent readers. We find five outstanding articles to recommend each day in our short, fun newsletter.
Unbelievably, our entire editorial team is just two phenomenally smart and thoughtful people: the aforementioned Robert and Caroline Crampton, who is also a wonderful author of non-fiction bestsellers and hosts a fabulous podcast about Golden Age detective fiction. That’s it!
Robert and Caroline spend their days reading a truly incredible collection of RSS feeds from all corners of the internet, and use their superlative judgment to decide which pieces deserve the Browser blessing for the day.
Our core team is myself, our two editors, our wonderful assistant publisher Sylvia, and various magical freelancers.
Every reader gets the same five pieces every day (although we do offer new readers a special personalized edition of picks from our archive). We think part of the appeal of our newsletter is that we serve you things you wouldn’t have read otherwise.
Our criteria for selection are simple and timeless: will this piece be as interesting ten years from now as it is today?
How Much Uri is Earning
We make 6-figures a year through subscriptions from our loyal (and smart! and attractive!) readers.
His Top Marketing Strategy
Below is my #1 secret to all of marketing.
Most marketing channels are easily saturated, and are hot commodities among those who know them, so nobody who has a truly magical marketing channel that is currently working well is likely to shout about it in a public forum.
If someone is talking publicly about a great marketing strategy, most likely it’s either already used up or they’re not telling you the details you’d need to actually make it work. Of course, another option is that they’re just claiming to have a marketing secret, but actually they don’t!
That can be true on the production side: if you’re a talented writer with great insights on a particular topic, it’s easier for you to create great blog posts on that topic than it is for another company who doesn’t have your advantages.
It can also be true on the distribution side: you might have access to a marketing channel that doesn’t make sense for your rivals. So e.g. if you’re a small business, maybe you can use small/local advertising channels that don’t make sense for a huge rival, while that huge rival has a comparative advantage at any channel that requires large investments and data-heavy experimentation.
The poet Mark Leidner gives the best advice I ever heard about marketing:
When I was in business we used to do this trick. We would tell other people in
business we had a secret. We would tell them that if they paid us, and paid us well,
then we would show them how to do highly efficient, targeted marketing. We
would tell them that with our way of marketing, you could invent products and
put them in the hands of consumers mere moments before those consumers even
realized they needed those products.
I can’t give you the end of the poem, you’d have to get his books to find it.
How Long It Took Uri To Reach 6 Figures
Whenever people ask the secret of our success, I always tell them it’s “start ten years ago!” That’s how long it took to reach our current revenue levels, though I’m glad to say we’re still growing strong.
His Favorite Resources
I think the best advice on running indie businesses is from John O’Nolan’s Rediverge – though, of course, everyone’s situation will be different, and the specific context of your type of business will matter a lot!
Uri’s Favorite Tools
Far and away our most important tool is the Ghost platform, far and away the best place to write a modern blog, newsletter, podcast, or other membership site. Ghost’s combination of technical excellence, stylish design and true independence for creators is like nothing else out there.
Churnbuster has been great for us. Essentially, they send well-tailored emails to customers whose credit cards have expired, and have an implausible success rate at winning those people back. The Churnbuster subscription pays for itself many times over!
Finally, ListenNotes does amazing things with podcast feeds. Basically, they allow us to create a feed of all our favorite podcast episodes from many different shows, one of our popular subscriber features.
His Biggest Challenge
Scaling up slightly from a very small business to just a regular small business is really hard. You often feel like you don’t have enough time/money/attention to overcome the hurdles you would need in order to free up more time/money/attention to get to the next level.
I wish I had something wise to say about this, but I don’t!
The trick is probably to be very strategic about focusing on the most important bottlenecks, but…. the problem is exactly that you feel like you don’t have the time/money/attention to do that!
His Most Impressive Accomplishment
This will sound very corny but I truly believe that staying true to our values, remaining best friends (and a huge huge fan) of every person on my team, and constantly attracting readers who I respect and admire, is worth more than making billions or grabbing headlines.
What He Wishes He Knew When He Started
I wish I had known to be suitably wary of over-funded VC-backed startups. Their interests often don’t align well with yours as a small business, even when they explain to you why in their case it’s different. Using indie software built by teams who really care about it seems to be more sustainable more of the time.
Uri’s Main Mistake
Our biggest mistake was signing up with Substack and giving them the benefit of the doubt long after they’d lost any right to it.
We originally took a chance by moving our successful newsletter onto their platform, doubling “their” paid subscriber base overnight, and trusted (what was then) a small team who promised to focus on supporting independent publishing.
Unfortunately, it turns out they were promising things they couldn’t deliver to every different publisher, trying to keep squeezing their numbers and raise more capital so they could squeeze more numbers and raise more capital.
My sense is that many of their big publishers have tried to leave in the last year or two, but with (what’s left of) $80m of VC money in their pockets, Substack has a lot of levers to try to keep them on board.
Meanwhile, it feels like watching a speed run of every bad way to juice numbers. I just hope not too many small publishers get burned in the process.
His Advice for Other Entrepreneurs
Best of luck and hope it goes well for you!
Because without a bit of inner peace and tranquility, I think it’s hard to solve your practical business problems, though hey, some famous business leaders seem to be very successful while still having unsolved emotional issues, so that shows how little I know about anything!