Founding a newsletter in a turbulent media world.
This time last year, I was on vacation. A group of friends and I made a 19-hour drive to the Outer Banks of North Carolina during peak off-season—we’re ballin’ on a budget here—for a long weekend away. The stress of surviving in a global pandemic was gnawing at us from all angles and personally, I was working to accept the fact that I was still unemployed.
My weeks leading up to vacation were filled with long days of interviewing, cover letter editing, resume writing, and LinkedIn DM-ing. Those days were slow and unrelenting, but thankfully, I wasn’t doing it alone. For better or worse, my friend and soon-to-be collaborator Sam Hoisington was there going through the motions with me. We spent time in my apartment-turned-co-working-space sharing hopes for the future and some less-than-stellar business ideas. Sam’s mind rarely—if ever—stops spewing ideas, so it wasn’t surprising that while I was on vacation, he reached out to tell me about and urge my friends to sign up for his new newsletter.
He called it Madison Minutes.
I called him crazy.
Now one year later, I’m able to introduce myself to you as Hayley Sperling, co-founder and editorial lead of our city’s premier daily morning newsletter Madison Minutes.
When Sam formally brought me on board as a co-founder, I admittedly had no idea what to expect. I’d never envisioned myself as the “startup founder” type, but quickly adjusted to the early-morning and late-night lifestyle that comes with starting a literal business. At the time, neither of us were making any money off this endeavor. In fact, Sam drained his retirement account on business expenses (and magnets, but we don’t talk about those). Nonetheless, I was eager to put passion into a project for the first time in a long time and, as it turns out, Madison was hungry for what we had to offer.
Some of you might be familiar with Madison Minutes already but if not, the concept is simple. Monday through Friday we send out a morning email with the Madison (and Wisconsin) news you should know from journalists you can trust. On Sundays, we send out an email highlighting dozens of events happening in the Madison area. TL;DR we are an email.
When Sam sent the first edition of the Minutes, the email list was mostly friends and family, most of whom didn’t even live in Wisconsin. But thanks to a couple of strategic partnerships (*ahem, shout out to Tone Madison*) and clever business ideas, our list quickly grew to the hundreds. Today, our list is in the thousands, and growing every day.
If you know and support our work, please know how much it means to me and Sam. We’ve come a long way since sending out the first newsletter on April 20, 2021 (no, the send date was not intended). But we’d be nowhere without the constant feedback and support from those in the Madison community and beyond who have told us how much Madison Minutes means to them. There’s no greater feeling than knowing someone learned something new, attended an event, or even adopted a dog (true story!) because of the newsletter.
I never expected to be a 20-something-year-old business owner, and yet here I am and here we are. Twelve months of ups and downs, 365 days of meetings and emails, one whole year of Minutes.
This is our newsletter-first column, Microtones. It runs on the site on Fridays, but you can get it in your inbox on Thursdays by signing up for our email newsletter.