Paid Communities are On the Rise

The Growth Report #23

Well, look who’s here!

I hope you had a great week. On my end it was fairly quiet, but boy I am looking forward to an adventurous weekend.

For tomorrow my girlfriend gifted me a barista course organized by Coffee Lab. We’ll be working hard to improve our espresso-pulling and latte art chops ☕

And on Sunday, Kevin and I will have our very first 2-day company retreat in Arosa, Switzerland to reflect on the first six month since we founded our company together. If its interesting to you, here are the 13 reflection questions we use to prepare ourselves:

Half-Year Reflection Questions

Whatever rad things you have planned, I wish you an awesome weekend! 🤟🏼


Today's topics include

📈 Community Marketing:
Paid Communities are On the Rise

🚢 Leadership:
The Role of a Leader: Facilitating Decisions

🧠 Personal Growth:
The Battle between the Present and Future Self

📈 Community Marketing

Paid Communities are On the Rise

If you’ve been reading this newsletter for a while you know that I am a big believer in private communities as the next evolution of the social internet and how we market to individuals.

We are at a crossroads right now. People are becoming overstimulated by mass social media networks, legacy media companies and the sheer volume of branded content that is out there to consume. We are flooded by an endless stream of in-authentic easy-to-copy content that all looks and sounds the same.

But on the outskirts of social media platforms, there is a new economy forming: Paid communities.

In Toby Shorin's brilliant analysis called Come for the Network, Pay for the Tool, he outlines the history of paid communities, the opportunities and risks involved and the skills needed to run one. If you are a marketer or interested in building a community, do yourself a favour and read this in-depth piece.

He describes how Social, Commerce and Content are coming together to form this new powerful movement that's more authentic, targeted and social than anything most marketing departments are churning out today.

It's really a form of bespoke and customized social network that enables customers to be closer to the brands or people they admire, while also being exposed to likeminded human beings.

Toby summarizes it beautifully:

Paid communities are a still-nascent category, but the business model is familiar: free content with a subscription paywall for more (the standard model of content + social). Paid communities develop this formula further: they take the subject matter of a content producer or brand lifestyle, and pair it with a paywalled digital social space for ongoing user interaction. Here the community is not a passive audience, but one that generates its own discussion, and for users comprises much of the value in and of itself. This community often comes to re-shape the brand or content development process.

Read the full analysis here, chuck-full with current examples

🚢 Leadership

The Role of a Leader: Facilitating Decisions

I recently read a wonderful opinion piece on leadership by Natalie Nagele, who found and sold multiple companies that focus on company culture and treating employees fairly:

To me, leadership feels like it should be mostly about building teams, building communities, and rallying folks together. You don’t need to be the smartest person in the room, but you need to be the voice that people follow. The voice people listen to. The voice people believe in so that they can live their full potential. So that they feel safe. So that they feel supported to move forward. Whether that is to build a new product, or, much more importantly, to support what they believe is truly right.

I could not agree more. If you are leading a team, it is not that you need to be smarter or more skilled than everyone. But instead, as a leader you are a mediator who listens and brings together the opposing views within your team or organization to make space for the right decision to be chosen.

So much of this job heavily relies on soft skills like openness (to new information), empathy and active listening skills; "...the qualities that will prevail through politicking and through disagreements."

In the current crisis-ridden economy, media and political environment, we can only wish for ourselves that more leaders with such qualities take the helm of companies, parties and institutions.

🧠 Personal Growth

Perception of Time:
The Battle between the Present and Future Self

We eat too much, we drink too much, we skip that gym session..again, we procrastinate, we stay up into the wee hours. We humans are funny, aren't we?

We succumb to our cravings in the present moment even though we are well aware of its future consequences. How does the mind do that? How are we convincing ourselves over and over that a dopamine hit right now is worth sacrificing our physical and mental wellbeing in the future? We don't seem to learn and our future selves pay the price.

A Psychological Phenomenon

I was always fascinated by this phenomenon. While doing some research on the topic, I found that the underlying problem is the brains skewed perception of time. It's a psychological phenomenon called temporal discounting or time preference.

Wikipedia defines temporal discounting as follows:

Temporal discounting refers to the tendency of people to discount rewards as they approach a temporal horizon in the future or the past (i.e., become so distant in time that they cease to be valuable or to have additive effects).

Or in other words, the further in the future the consequences, the less we pay attention to them.

Temporal discounting is a survival mechanism that made absolute sense for most of human existence. The threat right in front of you is what's important and in order to live, you need to act right now. The issue is, in our more or less safe and cozy world this well-meant mechanism has a devastating, compounding effect on our lives. Each decision in the moment might seem small, but added up over time they become a huge deal. Good decisions lead to desirable outcomes, bad decisions to undesirable outcomes.

How to bring the future self into the picture

In her book Thinking in Bets, the successful poker player Anne Duke suggests the following:

“Bringing our future self into the decision gets us started thinking about the future consequences of those in-the-moment decisions.”

So how do we do that?

The psychological community recommends a mental exercise it calls 'visualizing regret':

Before making a decision, put yourself in the shoes of your future self. Make a real effort to visualise how your future self will feel about the decision of your present self, which will become your past self.

BUT, visualizing potential future regrets is not here to stop you from making a decision. It is merely a thought exercise to make your brain learn how decisions in the now may effect your future state. To me in fact, it's about training our own empathy toward our future self and escape the current momentum of wanting something at all costs.

A structured approach to empathise with your future self

Now, its really freaking difficult to bring up the mental energy to stop in the moment and properly visualize the feelings and thoughts of our future self. Luckily there is a method called the '10-10-10 approach to decision making' that was popularized by the famous investor Warren Buffett. It's actually really simple and works as follows.

When you are about to make a decision, big or small, ask yourself those three questions:

  1. How will I feel about my decision in 10 minutes?

  2. How will I feel about my decision in 10 months?

  3. How will I feel about my decision in 10 years?*

For smaller decisions its even more powerful if you account for the compounding effects of a decision: How would I feel about my decision in 10 months if I take this decision every day?

Even knowing about these exercises and doing them consistently won't ensure you are taking the "right" decision every time. But what it will do is to train your brain to let your future self join the conversation on what the "right" decision might be.

That's it for this week.

Enjoy your weekend 🏡

See you next week,