You’ve heard me say time and time again – build your list! If you want to grow your business, whether you sell products, services, or are a creator, you need to get people on your email list. And today’s guest, Maciek Palmowski, has definitely done that. He and his wife started the only Polish-language WordPress-focused newsletter (quick a niche) and grew it into quite a popular English-language newsletter. The format and process for putting it together are interesting too – making this a fantastic episode for those struggling with (or struggling to start) their newsletter. In Build Something More, we talk about what it’s like being an ESL programmer in an English-dominated market.
- The Twitter community can be a great place for finding news and growing your list!
- The secret to growth: stay consistent and put in the work. People will come, and share it!
- Trial and error is super important. Try things out and see what works. See what doesn’t. Iterate quickly.
- Maciek Palmowski
- Maciek on Twitter
- Delicious Brains blog
- Newsletter Glue
- Gutenberg Times
- Creator Crew
Joe Casabona: Real quick before we get started, I want to tell you about my free weekly newsletter called Build Something Weekly. Each week, Monday mornings generally, you will get an email with a little bit of insight around WordPress and/or podcasting, you’ll get the latest of these episodes with the top takeaways show notes, and more, and you’ll get the latest content from the previous week. You’ll also get a recommendation.
Intro: You’ve heard me say time and time again, build your list. If you want to grow your business, whether you sell products, services, or you’re a creator, you need to get people onto your mailing list. And today’s guest, Maciek Palmowski, has definitely done that.
He and his wife started the only Polish language WordPress-focused newsletter (quite a niche) and grew it into a popular English-language newsletter. The format and the process for putting it together are interesting too – making this a fantastic episode for those struggling with (or struggling to start) their newsletter. Plus and Build Something More, we talk about what it’s like being English and English as a second language programmer in an English-dominated market. And that market is computer science. So sit back, relax, and enjoy.
You will be able to find all of the show notes for this episode over at howibuilt.it/239. And of course thanks to our sponsors, TextExpander and Nexcess. You’ll hear about them later in the show. But first, let’s get on with the interview.
Joe Casabona: Hey everybody, and welcome to another episode of How I Built It, the podcast that offers actionable tech tips for small business owners. Today our sponsors are Nexcess and TextExpander. It’s Episode 239. So you can find all of the show notes everything that we’ll talk about over at howibuilt.it/239.
Today my guest is Maciek Palmowski. He is the co-creator of WP Owls. And I’m excited because I’ve really been enjoying this newsletter. We’re going to be talking about how he and his wife built and grew this newsletter and what it’s like running a multi-lingual newsletter. So Maciek, thanks for joining me today. How are you doing?
Maciek Palmowski: Hi. I’m really great today. It’s a really nice day, so… Even if it’s Monday today, right?
Joe Casabona: It is. It is Monday as we record this. I think it is, yeah. As we record this, I dropped my kids off at school, well, my daughter off at school for the first time, my son off at daycare. So this is the first time in a while I’ve had a quiet house. First time since the pandemic I think that I’ve had a quiet house. So I’m excited. We’re going to have a… hopefully. I’m sure somebody else are like jackhammering outside my window but more or less it’ll be good. How did I do on the name pronunciation? I did okay?
Maciek Palmowski: It was really perfect. It was really perfect. But I have a trick for people who has problem pronouncing my name. Just use magic.
Joe Casabona: Magic.
Maciek Palmowski: It’s quite similar. I’m really used to it. And it’s quite nice to have a magical name, right?
Joe Casabona: Yeah, absolutely. I love it. That’s fantastic. I’m really excited to talk to you today because I recently discovered WP Owls. First of all, it is beautifully designed, and it’s really in-depth, and I love the idea of having a guest editor. First of all, those out there listening if you want to see what we’re talking about, you can go to WP Owls, it’s wpowls.co to see what we’re talking about.
But before we get into growing and building a multilingual newsletter, Maciek, why don’t you tell us a little bit about who you are and what you do.
Maciek Palmowski: So I have two jobs. My day job is I’m a WordPress ambassador at Buddy and I take care of CI/CD. But this is the thing that we won’t talk about today. And by night, I try to find some interesting news, find interesting guest editors for WP Owls. Because creating a newsletter, at least in our case, takes a whole week, because for six days we have to scavenge the whole internet, Twitter, and everywhere to find some interesting things. Then we have to put them in one place. We use ClickUp right now. Then we have to decide which are the most interesting, because there are weeks when we find more than 30 interesting news, which is really more than enough because we try to publish about 15 a week.
And there are weeks where it’s really a bit worse and we have to figure out how to add something that will fill in the blank spaces. And then we have the weekend when we can try to write all the descriptions. On Monday, we publish the Polish version and a day later we publish the English one.
Joe Casabona: Got you.
Maciek Palmowski: So this is our process, yeah.
Joe Casabona: That’s really interesting. You mentioned a couple of things here that I want to dig into a little bit. First of all, you are one of many people who recently mentioned ClickUp to me. It sounds like ClickUp is a lot like Basecamp was in the early 2000s, right? First of all, can you tell us a little bit about ClickUp? I tried it or I looked at it, but I haven’t really dug into it. And now multiple people are telling me it will probably solve some of the problems I’m having.
Maciek Palmowski: I was using ClickUp for many years. And this was because I was looking for some tool which would help me with task management for more complicated situations. I was looking for it when I was running my own agency. And on one hand, I wanted something almost like Jira because I’m a developer at heart, and then I was a full-time developer, and so on and so on.
But I wanted something that would be a bit simpler and wouldn’t require a separate person to manage. Because every time I see Jira I think that the company should hire one or two extra persons just to manage the application itself, which is horrible. And ClickUp was a dream come true. It’s also has a very nice free tier. This was the first part of my decision.
And it’s very flexible, because we can do so many types of how we display our tasks. We can do just a list like in Asana, we can do a complicated Kanban Boards. What’s interesting, even at the company where I work, at Buddy, where we develop a really big piece of software, we’re also using ClickUp there. So for me it’s great. I’m using ClickUp for WP Owls, and then I switch to Buddy ClickUp. I’m almost at the same place.
Joe Casabona: Got you. That’s great. I’m going to have to take another look at it because you know, when I tried to capture information I’m kind of doing it in a couple of places right now. My favorite app for note-taking is Craft. But Craft doesn’t have Zapier integration, which is one thing that I would love. I add something to pocket and then it adds it to my Craft document that I do for my WP Review podcast.
That’s the next question that I have. You say you scour the internet and Twitter. Do you have some go-to sources that you look at for WordPress news? How do you scour Twitter? Do you have a list of people? Do you mostly leave that up to the guest editor? What’s kind of that process like?
Maciek Palmowski: First of all, I really believe in the whole Twitter community because I follow so many people. And when something big (or sometimes smaller) comes up someone for sure will share it. So like the community of WordPress-related Twitter people is my first source.
Of course, I have some places where I always take another look. For example, I always check the Delicious Brains blog because they post such tremendous articles. I really love them. Also, WebDevStudios publish lots of interesting stuff. Yoast from time to time too. Especially I love their part about open source because they have the whole open source team, and they publish a lot of interesting reports and stuff like that.
So it’s like this. When I’m sure that I’m kind of short of news, then I go from site to site trying to find maybe something that wasn’t too popular this week. There’s one more source – GitHub. Because like I said, I’m a developer at heart. And this makes WP Owls a bit more developer-centric. So you can find, I think, more on different newsletters that we have some links to GitHub tools and so on that no one else would share. There’s also WPcontent.io. They also publish… I mean, other people publish articles there and I can find them.
Joe Casabona: Got you. And WPcontent.io is a little bit of an heir apparent or a successor to – what was the community before that?
Maciek Palmowski: They had the dot net domain. This I remember because-
Joe Casabona: Man, they had the service where-
Maciek Palmowski: Wpmanage.net.
Joe Casabona: Yes, yes. I used that frequently. And then when that went away, I did look at WPcontent.io a bit. I guess I should go back there. That was always confusing because they had the managed WP service, but then they had this other Reddit like website, right? Which was like two different things kind of the same. So WP Owls is more developer-centric, you would say. Is that right?
Maciek Palmowski: I mean, it’s more developer-centric when we compare it with other WordPress newsletters. But we tried to have everything balanced. This is also the reason why we have guest editors because I’m a back end developer, my wife is a front end developer, but we are still developers. And we knew that there are many areas of expertise, where we didn’t have enough knowledge. We could miss something that was important but we just couldn’t realize it because like I said, we are developers.
And this was one of the ideas why we decided to have guest editors because they also brings us another point of view on some things. Of course, yes, we had developers as guest editors, which was quite similar with our point of view. For example, we had Oana Filip from Pixelgrade, and she’s a copywriter.
I really love the way she writes because it’s just a pleasure to read it. Even if she writes about something that’s not my thing, I really love to read her because she has such a wonderful style. And she did a really interesting guest editor piece here. She picked some interesting things about copywriting.
We had Marieke. She also picked something about writing. We had it the Tomasz Dziuda from Polish community. He picked up some links about privacy. So there are many, many interesting topics. And sometimes the guest editors… because every guest editor has a total freedom to choose about what he will write.
Last week, we had Joost as guest editor. And when you think about Joost, you think probably SEO. Probably SEO. But not. He wrote something about acquisitions. So this is sometimes really interesting. I remember at some point, Denis, who is also a developer and writing combo in his guest editor section.
So yeah, this is really interesting. I think it makes WP Owls much more interesting because it not only gives the readers some different approach to some things, but it’s also a great chance for us to learn some new places to learn something. This is also the cool part about guest editors. It’s like newsletter in a newsletter. And this is the only part of the newsletter on which I don’t have to almost work in any way. I just read. This is really cool. I’ve learned so much from it. So having coming guest editors I think it was one of the best decision we ever did apart from starting the WP Owls altogether.
Joe Casabona: So let’s talk about that a little bit. First of all, how did you come up with the name WP Owls?
Maciek Palmowski: This is because of our Polish name. So the Polish name is WordPress Sówka. WordPress Sówka is a wordplay because it consists of “WordPress” and “sówka”. And sówka is a small owl. And we tried to find a way so we can have also this cool wordplay in English. It didn’t work. So we have WP Owls. But it’s still cool. We still like it.
Joe Casabona: Yeah, I like that though. I won’t try to say in Polish. But WordPress Sówka. Is that right?
Maciek Palmowski: That’s correct. Exactly.
Joe Casabona: Awesome. And this started in Polish. Is that right?
Maciek Palmowski: Yes. Yes. So the beginning of… let’s call it an origin story, right?
Joe Casabona: Yeah, yeah.
Maciek Palmowski: It’s quite interesting, because it started with my wife asking me, “Hey, maybe we would start putting some news about WordPress on Facebook.” And to be honest, I wasn’t listening. I just agreed. Yes, of course. So yeah, this is how it started. And I agreed.
So we started with using just Facebook. I think we manage that way for 10 or 15 issues. At some point, we realized, Okay, it’s working. It’s working, but we have to have our own home because even if we were using Facebook, I never liked Facebook. I still hate it. I mean, I know that there are situations when I have to use it. But like I said, I hate it. I hated it, and I still do. So we had to have our own home.
And we created the first version, because the current version is the third one. So we had few redesigns already. And you said that you liked how WP Owls looks like. So these older versions were a work of my wife because she’s not only a front end developer, she’s also a great UX designer and UI designer.
Joe Casabona: Awesome.
Maciek Palmowski: So she did a really marvelous job here. And we just started doing it like week after week after week. And at some point, I think it was close to the Polish 100 issue, we decided that it’s time to do another step. We were thinking what to do. “So let’s go global. Why not?” And that’s how WP Owl started.
I think with 100 issue we launched the English version. And here we are. We were celebrating the 15th issue last week. And we are still trying to think of what to do next because there are so many ideas. But on the other hand, we don’t want to change WP Owls into our job. It’s a hobby.
Joe Casabona: Got you.
Maciek Palmowski: I love this hobby. It helps me a lot in my day job because, thanks to WP Owls, I had the chance to connect with so many people. But still I want WP Owls just to be a hobby.
Joe Casabona: Got you. Got you. I mean, that’s really cool to hear. Because I feel like a lot of people think that they need to monetize their hobby, right? And then it becomes kind of a Jobby is the term that I’ve heard.
Maciek Palmowski: I like it. I like this term. And it’s really true.
Joe Casabona: I tried to do that with… You know, I was watching the West Wing for the first time a couple of years ago, and so I started a podcast called Late to the Party, where I would watch an episode and take notes and kind of give my thoughts on watching it for the first time in the context of the mid-2010s. And I only got like six episodes in because I was like, “I just want to enjoy the show. I’m making work out of something that’s supposed to be enjoyable.” And so that format didn’t really work for me. It’s a seemingly cool format, but it wasn’t for me because I wanted to enjoy and watch the show and get more out of it and not think about the work angle. So I like that a lot.
So you built the platform. Let’s talk about the tools that you use. I don’t get to ask this question a lot because we’ve kind of shifted. But how did you build it? It’s presumably a WordPress site, but what’s the newsletter function of it?
Maciek Palmowski: So we’re using Mailchimp here. So just like that, we just created what’s called a theme, and we are just changing the content. But we are thinking about the switching to Newsletter Glue. We already did some progress. But on our end, because I really love to over-engineer some stuff. That’s true. Because like I said, it’s a hobby and when it’s a hobby, I like to have fun with it.
That’s why the current version of WP Owls I decided I will create the fastest site on there, something like that. On the other hand, let’s be honest, I’m quite cheap. So I didn’t want to spend too much money. So I decided “let’s go static.” And it’s terrific. It works. I learned a lot also about converting WordPress to static site. But it also adds some complexity when it comes to using some tools.
So this is also one of the reasons why we still didn’t switched. But for sure, we will at some point. So like I said, when it comes to newsletter, it’s quite simple. It’s just Mailchimp. And because it was quite an old account, I can have more than one user list for free. So it’s really cool.
Sponsor: This episode is brought to you by Nexcess. Look, I know what it’s like to spend too much time managing your website instead of your business. In fact, the previous host for this very show made it harder for me to focus on creating content, because I was always trying to fix some problem with my website, especially on new episode days. And that’s why I switched to Nexcess.
With Nexcess‘ managed WordPress hosting, I don’t have any problems to fix because Nexcess fixes them for me, usually before I even know about them. I don’t need to worry about my site going down on new episode days or updates or backups. I don’t even need to worry about plugging vulnerabilities. Nexcess has me covered. That’s why I can be so consistent.
And now they have membership sites with WP Quickstart, a membership site, especially if you’re a creator or small business owner like me can be a fantastic way to increase revenue. But there are too many moving parts for most people who just want to set something up and start making money. Membership sites with WP Quickstart does it all for you. That is great hosting.
So check out Nexcess today if you want a website and not a project. For a limited time, you can get 50% off your first six months. Just go to howibuilt.it/nexcess. That’s howibuilt.it/nexcess for 50% off your first six months. Thanks so much, Nexcess, for being a sponsor of How I Built It.
Joe Casabona: As far as getting the content… because if you visit wpowls.co, you have the newsletter there in its entirety. And I guess this is another thing to point out. You said this on… We’re both in the WPMRR community on Circle. It looks like you send the guest editor part, and then a link to the full newsletter via email, and then people can go to the website to read all of the links, right?
Maciek Palmowski: Yes, that’s true.
Joe Casabona: So are you like copying and pasting? Or is there a way that you’re automatically sending stuff from WordPress to Mailchimp?
Maciek Palmowski: It’s copy and pasting. I mean, we constructed the website in such a way that when we do Ctrl C, Ctrl V, it just paste everything we would like in quite correctly formatted way, so it looks almost perfect. So like moving everything to the newsletter is quite easy, quite easy. But I think this is really the moment to make it one step more and make it a bit easier. Because I really love to optimize stuff.
Joe Casabona: Yeah, absolutely. So, for those unfamiliar, Newsletter Glue is a WordPress plugin that allows you to build your newsletter with the block editor, and then it automatically sends the content to Mailchimp and a couple of others right now I think.
I am waiting on bated breath for ConvertKit integration. Once that rolls out, I will pay for Newsletter Glue happily, add it to my website and build my newsletter that way. Because I really love what Leslie has done. And I guess she’s not quite the developer though, so her and her developer have done over there. I think it’s great.
Now, as far as the translation stuff goes, it started in Polish. Are you using a translation plugin? Or are you doing the translation manually? How does the guest-editing stuff work there? Because I suspect that some of your guest editors don’t speak both languages.
Maciek Palmowski: Yes, that’s true. So we are using our friend. She’s called Asia Kałuża, and she’s translating it for us. But I have to admit one of the things because we are doing it for those 50 issues. And during this time, I was constantly checking how is Google Translate doing? Because I know that Google Translate had a lot of problems with Polish. Because Polish is quite difficult overall, but it’s also quite difficult for machines for many reasons.
And for me, it’s really incredible how Google Translate changed. It’s not perfect, but currently, I could translate the whole issue, do about, I don’t know, five small fixes, and everything would be okay. Of course. Asia is doing it much better because the human touch changes everything.
Joe Casabona: Right.
Maciek Palmowski: And you can really see the difference because there was one issue when Asia was on holiday, and we had to translate it all by ourselves. I mean, it’s not bad but there is a small difference out there. So yes, I think that there are still few years for people who are translating stuff when they can sleep steadily and don’t have to worry about the thing.
If someone wants quality content, someone just don’t care. Google translator at this point is a really terrific tool. I mean, there were moments when Google Translate really amazed me because I knew that this sentence that I personally had problem translating, and I was trying to figure out. And I put it into Google Translator and the preposition that came up it was just perfect. So I was, “Okay, let’s go by this.” So it really changes by a lot.
And when it comes to guest editors, this part I translate from English to Polish by myself because I know a bit of English as you can hear right there. I’m managing this part.
Joe Casabona: Awesome. That’s really cool, really interesting to hear. I feel like it’s kind of analogous to transcripts. There’s a lot of automated transcription services. But if you want a good actual transcript, you need to hire a person to do it or hire an editor to then go back and fix what the automated transcription service didn’t get.
Maciek Palmowski: Exactly. I heard a beautiful term. I think you will like it. During WordCamp Santa Clarita, we were doing—the day before meeting—some technical stuff and so chatting, trying to meet each other. And there was this beautiful term “corrupscription.” This is how people who uses the automatic transcriptions describe them because they are really poor.
When it comes to native English speakers, it’s much easier. But I saw how the transcript with my beautiful accent looks like and it’s horrible. It’s horrible. I’m always really surprised when I read my name in the transcript. It’s really something weird.
Joe Casabona: Yeah, I bet. Well, my transcriber, Evelyn, does a fantastic job. Shout out Evelyn because you’re going to hear this obviously. I’ll make sure to include Maciek’s name properly in the notes I send to you. But I mean, Evelyn does a fantastic job anyway. So well worth the service. Oh, that’s great.
As we kind of wrap up here, I like to ask if you have any tips for the listeners. We obviously didn’t get into number of subscribers. I’m not going to ask you the number of subscribers unless you want to share that. But you’ve grown your audience and it’s quite popular. You’ve got really good guest editors. So what was it like growing your newsletter as a hobby? Did it grow organically? Were you in communities pushing it? Did you have a big Facebook group beforehand? How did you go about getting subscribers?
Maciek Palmowski: It started with the fact that the Polish WordPress community is quite big. And we all know each other. So this was the first step. When we started the Polish edition, everyone in the community shared the news. This was the first big group that started following us.
Then it was just growing organically because together with the fact that we are developers, we like really don’t have a clue about marketing. The only thing we could do is just try to do our job the best we can and do it week after week after week. And that’s all.
I mean, we learned a few interesting things, especially when we started the English version. Because this was really, really interesting. We felt that when we start the English version we’ll just use the same marketing techniques as we use on the Polish version and it will work exactly the same. It didn’t.
For example, when it comes to social media, in Poland, the most users comes from Facebook. And when it comes to the Global Version, it’s Twitter. Like by a lot. It’s like 80% to 90%, the rest is Facebook and LinkedIn. When it comes to Polish version, I think it was 50%, 60% for Facebook. LinkedIn has also quite a share. And Twitter like almost no one uses it in Poland, which is strange.
I think Twitter in Poland is mostly used by politics and stuff like this. So it’s not a happy place like I would call the English-speaking developer world Twitter. Because it’s a really nice place and it’s totally different from the small politic hell we have in our Polish space.
Joe Casabona: Wow. Let’s dig into that a little bit. Because I think and Build Something More what I’d like to talk about is what it’s like working on the internet. I assume English is your second language, right?
Maciek Palmowski: Yeah.
Joe Casabona: So I’m very curious about that as I’m American, and I speak a little bit of Spanish. lo capisco un po italiano, which is I understand a little Italian. But I’m really not fluent in another language. And it seems like basically everywhere else I go people know at least a little bit of English. So in Build Something More, we’ll talk about that.
But for here, I do want to dig in on this point. It seems like probably Twitter, because most of the world, I think it was something like 60% of the world, speaks English, that’s probably the primary language you’re going to find on Twitter. Right?
Maciek Palmowski: Exactly. Exactly. Also, there’s problem in Europe, because like almost every country has its own language. So we have to have some common ground. And English became this language. Even if it spoken only by two countries in Europe that are currently not even in the European Union.
Joe Casabona: Right.
Maciek Palmowski: Ireland this is still there. Sorry.
Joe Casabona: Ireland is still there.
Maciek Palmowski: It’s only one.
Joe Casabona: Which, I mean, Ireland, right, they also have… Well, I say Gaelic, but my Irish friends insist it’s Irish. So that’s really interesting, though. Because you’re right. I mean, in the United States, we all speak English, but there’s these regional dialects. Depending on who you talk to, they might say, “I’m wearing sneakers,” or “I’m wearing tennis shoes,” or “I’m wearing gym shoes.” And so it’s interesting.
Maciek Palmowski: You said a very interesting thing about tennis shoes, because, for many years, the word in Polish we use as sneakers was Tenisówki. So exactly, tennis shoes.
Joe Casabona: I learned recently the predominant way to refer to, we’ll say like casual shoes that you wear for sports and other things, it’s only in the North East that we say sneakers, which I thought was wild.
Maciek Palmowski: This is really interesting, because I thought… I mean, at some point, I was even thinking about it because we started using sneakers in Poland. And so why at some point were we using those tennis shoes? I mean, no one plays tennis.
Joe Casabona: Right. That was my… I was like tennis is such… it’s like not even the most popular sport in the United States. So yeah, I thought the same thing. I had a friend say she bought tennis shoes. And I said, “I didn’t know you played tennis.” And she said, “What are you talking about?” And I was like, “Okay.” Super interesting.
Maciek Palmowski: But in Poland, we also have those regional things about shoes. For example, we have the same word. And it depends when you are for shoes that you use in house. In some other regions, the same word is for elegant shoes.
Joe Casabona: Got you. Got you.
Maciek Palmowski: So this might be quite funny when you try to find those elegant shoes in the city when it uses another meaning.
Joe Casabona: So we’ll talk a little bit more about kind of what it’s like working on the internet ESL in Build Something More. If you are not a member of the Creator Crew, you can sign up over at howibuilt.it/239. There’ll be a link right in the show notes for that as well.
Sponsor: This episode is brought to you by TextExpander. In our fast-paced world, things change constantly, and errors in messaging often have significant consequences. With TextExpander, you can save time by converting any text you type into keyboard shortcut called a snippet. Say goodbye to repetitive text entry, spelling and message errors, and trying to remember the right thing to say. When you use TextExpander, you can say the right thing in just a few keystrokes.
TextExpander lets you make new approved messaging available to every team member instantly with just a few keystrokes, ensuring your team remains consistent, current, and accurate. TextExpander can also be used in any platform, any app and anywhere you type. So take back your time and increase your productivity.
Last month I saved over two hours in typing alone. That doesn’t even take into the account the time I saved by not having to search for the right link, text, address, or number. You have no idea how many times I want to type out a link to a blog post or an affiliate link and I can’t remember it and I have to go searching for it. That generally takes minutes. But since I have a TextExpander snippet, it takes seconds.
TextExpander is available on Mac OS, Windows, Chrome, iPhone, and iPad. I’ve been using it a lot more on my iPhone lately because I’ve been working from my iPhone more because there are days when I’m just not in front of my computer right now. If you’ve been curious about trying TextExpander or simple automation in general, now is the time. Listeners can get 20% off their first year. Just visit textexpander.com/podcast and let them know that I sent you. Thanks so much to TextExpander for sponsoring the show.
And now let’s get back to it.
Joe Casabona: This is also interesting to me because the Polish community is big. “We all know each other,” you said. But the Polish community is mostly on Facebook. Whereas when you switch to English, would you say that there’s probably more newsletter or WordPress news competition in the English-speaking space as well. Or is this really like not a zero-sum game?
Maciek Palmowski: First of all, when it comes to Polish community, when we had the first subscriber, we became the biggest Polish WordPress newsletter because there is no competition.
Joe Casabona: Got you.
Maciek Palmowski: I mean, when I described, especially at the beginning, because when I wrote to someone, I also wrote about that we started as WordPress Sówka, which is the biggest Polish newsletter there is. Which was always true but yeah, there wasn’t any competition. But we were the biggest. We are the biggest.
And when it comes to English speaking or let’s call it global, yes, there is a lot of competition. But we differ a lot. Because for example, we have newsletters that are focused only on one thing. For example, Gutenberg Times by Birgit. She’s really doing an amazing job here. I really love it. We have WP Mail that I think it’s the oldest newsletter that we have in our WordPress space. And they just put everything there.
I think that the biggest when it comes to the number of news that we can read about, we have WP Mail and Post Status because they send a lot of news in the newsletter. Both are quite general. There’s also WP Weekly that is bit more consistent rather than us. Because I think we add more of this human touch in the descriptions because we try to write the sentence or two about everything.
We also have a newsletter that focus on less news but they try to connect everything into a story. For example, MasterWP or Order Repository. This is a totally different way to approach it. I really love it. Even if sometimes MasterWP like post only one fully WordPress-related news there, but the overall story is terrific. So there are many newsletters but I wouldn’t call it a competition. For example, together with WP Weekly we share each other’s stuff. We help each other. The same goes with Birgit. So it’s really friendly out there.
Maciek Palmowski: Absolutely. Like you say, it’s just like podcasting, right? It’s not like if I tell somebody to subscribe to someone else’s podcast I’m going to lose them as a subscriber. You can be subscribed to both. You can be subscribed to as many WordPress newsletters as you want. Pick your favorites.
Maciek Palmowski: Exactly.
Joe Casabona: So I think that’s really interesting. The last question I’ll ask you here is, how do you stay consistent? I know it can be really hard at times, but it sounds like you have a good process for collecting stuff through ClickUp, and you probably have a list of guest editors. Do you try to batch as much content as you can? Do you try to give your guest editors notice? What are some of your secrets for making sure you get this newsletter out in two versions weekly?
Maciek Palmowski: To be honest, there is no secret. It’s just hard to work just like this. It’s really hard for any medical trick. When it comes to guest editors, the only thing I can do is, of course, try to stay in touch with them as early as possible, so I won’t have to worry that I won’t get something written in a bad way or too long or too short or something like this.
The week before I’m really starting to send a lot of emails. “Hi, do you remember that you are a guest editor later? Are you sure? Do you remember that you have deadlines?” So it’s just like this. And sometimes it’s very easy. And some guests editors… I think that Milana she sent her material like three weeks before. So really good for her because she was so stressed because she wasn’t sure is this okay. She sent me everything and “Could you check? Is it okay?” And it was perfect. Everything was perfect.
On the other hand, there were guest editors where they had to like… it was Sunday late at night, and “Hey, we are releasing the Polish issue in few hours. Send something.”
Joe Casabona: Yeah, absolutely. This is part of the reason that for my sponsors, I try to use products I know really well because I’ve had some sponsors that didn’t get me the copy in time for the episode, the first episode that they paid for. And so I had to go off and figure out the copy.
And luckily, I mean, the sponsors for this episode that I have for the rest of the year are fantastic. But there are some where I just kind of had to make it up and hope it was good. Which is less than ideal for both me and for the sponsor. Because they’re paying for a spot, I want to make sure that I’m putting out the message that they want. So that’s fantastic.
So I do need to ask you my favorite question, right, which is do you have any trade secrets for us?
Maciek Palmowski: Well, like I said, the trade secret is nothing revolutionary. Because if you don’t have a talent for something, you have to just work it out like doing week by week heavy lifting. That’s all. Because like I said, there are parts of WP Owls that I love. I love finding those news. I always love to know stuff.
This is my thing. I’m one of those person who has to read everything. When it comes to everything, just like that. If I would go to a doctor, it’s probably curable or not, but then I have to read everything. So this part I really love.
The marketing part on the other hand is something that I would prefer that never existed and people buy some… either know magic power or something just find my website and subscribe. But that won’t happened sadly.
So this is the part that isn’t my favorite, and this is the hard work. But I try, together with my wife, to figure out something. Like I said, we don’t have a clue about marketing, so we are guessing. And then we analyze because we know how to analyze stuff. And this part is easier.
So for example, what we learned by guessing… because at the beginning, we were just releasing one information a week. “The new issue is up, you can read about it, blah, blah, blah. And see you next week.” So for the whole week, we were quiet. And at some point, we realized, maybe let’s try to promote three most interesting news that we have during this week. And we started doing it.
So when we send the information about the release on a Monday in Poland, two days later, we send a reminder that we have a cool article about… and it was the first article. And the same happens every second day. And we saw it was a great decision. It worked. Many people subscribed after reading some other news rather than the release notice, let’s call it. This was the thing that worked.
At some point, we were publishing all the news in the newsletter, but we decided it’s too long. This is something that I know that WP Mail and Post Status are doing. And for me, it’s too much. Especially that Google sometimes loves to cut the mail at some point and you have to click the “read more.”
I think that our formula is a bit better because it’s easier to show the whole content on the website rather than in an email, especially that some people are still using for example Outlook, which works as it works. So…
Joe Casabona: Got you.
Maciek Palmowski: So yeah. From what we saw, based on our experience, this formula works really, really nice. And from time to time, we are still experimenting with something. We learned that articles are very important and we try to write something from time to time. But because I write a lot of stuff at my day work…
Joe Casabona: Yes.
Maciek Palmowski: This is my hobby, right?
Joe Casabona: Yeah. For sure.
Maciek Palmowski: But we are trying to get some guest editors and guest writers to write something for us. It started with Leon Stafford from WP2Static, because he was our guest editor, and he decided to write his piece. It was so long that I decided, Okay, so I will create a shorter version as a guest editor. And the full version will go as a full article. And I see that it’s still doing quite well when I look at my analytics. So the articles are also a good way to have more people reading the newsletter because it’s another way they will find their way to WP Owls.
Joe Casabona: That’s fantastic. Well, if you ever need a guest writer, a guest editor, I’m happy to volunteer. I talked about podcasting a lot, though, so maybe not. That’s great. So do the work, and trial and error, constantly evolve. I love that.
I change my newsletter up every couple of months for the same reason. I want to see what’s working, what’s not. I was trying to do long-form articles in the newsletter for a while but like you said, you know, I’m writing scripts all day. I’m writing blog posts and videos all day. And then like the last thing I want to do on a Saturday morning is write an article that I’m like, “Am I going to reuse this somewhere else?” So I think that’s great point. Maciek, thanks so much for joining me today. If people want to learn more about you, where can they go?
Maciek Palmowski: Mostly you can find me on Twitter. You can either find me through WP Owls. And when you will find WP Owls profile you will find also my private one is @palmiak_fp. Better go for WP Owls. It’s much easier. I think this is the only place where I’m quite active when it comes to social media. Because for me it’s quite difficult to handle a big group of people in many places. So Twitter, at least I have a big group of people but at one place. So it’s much easier.
Joe Casabona: Awesome. I will link to those two Twitter profiles. WP Owls, and everything else we talked about over in the show notes, which you can find it howibuilt.it/239. If you are in the Creator Crew, stick around till after the sign-off. We’re going to be talking about what it’s like working on the internet with English as a second language. I might also ask you about building out something with your wife because my wife and I do two totally different things. If you’re comfortable talking about that, of course.
If you are not a member of the Creator Crew, you can sign up over at howibuilt.it/239. Just go there for everything, show notes, sign up for stuff. It’ll be great. It’s 5 bucks a month or 50 bucks a year, and you get ad-free extended episodes a day early. That’s a new perk. A day early.
So Maciek, thanks so much for joining me today. I really appreciate it.
Maciek Palmowski: Thanks.
Free Email Course!
5 Fast Fixes to Grow Your Podcast.
Wondering why your podcast growth is stagnating (or non-existent)? You likely just need to make a few small tweaks to see growth. In this free email course, we’ll go over what they are, why they work, and how you can implement them. Sign up below to have it delivered instantly.