Growing A Paid Newsletter In Malaysia Is Tough 

ByAzleen Abdul Rahim

I just want to earn a passive income. That’s all. It is to cover the expenses when I retire. And I have about 5 years to go. I will be 55 by then. I am neither familiar with nor have an interest in videos, so becoming a YouTuber is completely out of the question. Since I am into marketing and writing, the only route I saw to do this was to create a newsletter.

The newsletter must have a new article daily. It must be gated too, meaning readers are required to pay to access the articles. I think it is time for me to do this. I’ve been sharing too many valuable hacks with people but many of them didn’t take those advice seriously. Giving away valuable things free is never a good idea—I learned this the hard way. From this difficult experience, I decided to give zero marketing advice for free to anyone anymore.

Pelantar, my marketing newsletter was officially soft-launched on 11 November 2023. During the period, there were only 20 articles in it. That month, I wanted to validate the newsletter to see whether whatever I’m doing here makes sense, can scale or otherwise. At the same time, I was also seeking feedback to improve the newsletter and make it better. To me, feedback is important in whatever project I do. There will always be gaps somewhere that I either didn’t see or missed out on. The input from the sentiment that comes from the people usually will help me to counter those gaps. This is the only way I can improve it.

I was overwhelmed by the feedback coming from people. It took me the entire November and December to clear all those. Then what happened was, I re-introduced Pelantar to the world again. Since I am bootstrapping, I’m using the organic way to push the news through. I use email, LinkedIn and 300th for it. 

Here comes the challenges. Mainly there are two of them actually. One, I am running the newsletter from Malaysia—a nation known for having audiences who prefer to consume videos than reading articles or books. A nation that is ranked among the highest in the world when it comes to social networking. And two, Malaysians are also known to prefer to go for free things rather than paying for things they believe can be accessed or acquired for free. “Why pay when we can get it for free?” This one person told me this the other day after he saw the fee is $3 per month after checking the newsletter out. I shared with him and his friends about Pelantar before that.  

Now, to overcome those two challenges, I need to tweak my strategy a little. For the first challenge, I decided to write my articles in English. This is for me to cater for a wider audience beyond Malaysians. I intend to go across the Asia Pacific first before going all out to the rest of the world. As for the second challenge, I decided to write things about marketing in a much more in-depth manner. It means whoever accesses Pelantar and reads through the articles will notice that the substance in them won’t be available out there for free.

Yet, these solutions are easier said than done. As of today, there are close to 100 articles already in Pelantar. I intend to write even more aggressively to ensure I can produce at least one or two good ones per day. After the re-launching of the newsletter, there are 14 paid subscribers already in hand. To me, that is a small win right there. I hope there are more Malaysians to subscribe and read what I write about marketing. But frankly, I doubt it. The majority of them don’t read. I want to make Pelantar a major resource centre when it comes to Marketing, soon. I am building the entire marketing library here—for the world. By then I hope, Malaysians will make reading their habits again.

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