Discover more from Newsletter Circle
Morning Blitz by Danny Healey
"Blitz opened the door to a lot of cool opportunities in life with athletes and events I’d only dreamed of experiencing.”
Learn the secrets of successful newsletters with Newsletter Circle!
👉 Every Sunday, you will read an exclusive interview with a successful newsletter creator and learn how to start, grow and monetize your newsletter.
Danny Healey and Noah Cartwright started Morning Blitz during their senior year in college. But it didn’t stay as a fun college project. Despite working full-time, they continued to build it by working until 2-3 a.m. after work. While their friends were enjoying the happy hours and events, they had sleepless nights scanning the top sports news. And Danny says:
A trade-off I'd still take 10 times out of 10!
Today, Morning Blitz is sent out every 5:30 am weekday to 50,000 subscribers. It is crazy that they didn’t miss even a single issue during the 4,5 years since the launch.
Danny highlights that Morning Blitz is evolving to become a full-fledged sports media platform with other forms of content and they dream of reaching millions of readers.
From the sources of this consistency to the details of the acquisition process by TorchPro in Mar’21, Danny shared all behind-the-scenes of Morning Blitz and how this newsletter changed his life. Let’s dive in!
🏷 NEWSLETTER IDENTITY CARD
🛠 Tool Stack
ESP → Campaign Monitor
Writing & Design → in ESP
Sponsorship & Payment → In-house sales
Website → WordPress
Social Media→ Sprout Social
Team Communication → Slack
👋 MEET THE CREATOR
Welcome Danny. Let’s start with getting to know you.
I am a sports fanatic who grew up on the North Shore of Massachusetts during the golden era of Boston sports. While I was growing up, the Patriots, Celtics, Red Sox and Bruins were all winning championships and the only thing I did during my free time was fantasize about one day playing for one of those teams.
While my athletic career concluded in college after playing Division 1 lacrosse at Colgate University, I couldn’t escape the world of sports. Since my senior year of college (2019), I have been on the journey of building a daily sports newsletter called Morning Blitz.
“What started as a fun side-hustle at school, has turned into my everyday obsession and full-time career. “
Morning Blitz helps create smarter sports fans as we send out a newsletter at 5:30am ET every weekday recapping all the top stories from the previous day of sports. It’s meant for casual fans looking to learn more and we keep the die-hards in check!
“As you will learn, the newsletter is the first product that we started, but has since grown into a full-blown media company with several franchises underneath the umbrella, including podcasts and video series centered around pro athletes.”
You started Morning Blitz with Noah Cartwright while working full-time.
Why and how did you decide to start Morning Blitzs in the first place?
We had been subscribed to several newsletters across different sectors such as finance and marketing, but we had yet to come across a truly dominant force in the sports newsletter space and saw an opportunity.
Also, as D1 athletes we lived extremely busy lives and knew our peers had trouble keeping up with everything that went on in the world of sports just like we did.
“Little did we know how much the real-world adult was missing!
So we decided to create a short, concise product that is no longer than a 5-minute read with bullet points and bolded words to help people become smarter sports fans.”
And you continued building it by staying awake until 2-3 am after work. This is amazing!
I really would like to learn more about the source of this motivation. Was it the passion for sports space or was it the passion to create your own media business? What made you keep going?
After graduating college, I went off to New York City and worked a 9-5 insurance job while still producing the newsletter at nights, long into the nights. If you read my intro, I had ZERO interest in insurance but wanted to be in NYC and it paid the bills.
I spent every ounce of energy in my first six months there trying to find a way into the sports industry. While at 10K subscribers in 2019, I wasn’t ready to take on the Blitz full-time but it helped me kick down the door at ESPN, where I was hired to a marketing role in NYC. Yes, ESPN is the worldwide leader in sports and I seriously thought I had found my dream job, but after spending a full year there, I realized it wasn’t much different than working in insurance being such a massive corporation and I wasn’t of much significance to the outcomes of the business. Not what I felt I was cut out for. During my time at ESPN, I still wrote the Morning Blitz newsletter at night and continued to grow the audience.
I wanted to provide some context but to answer the original question, I stayed up until 2:00am every night because:
“I saw a world where it could become a full-time opportunity and I could dictate the path of my own career and do something I love every single day rather be a part of corporate America on someone else’s schedule.”
For any former co-workers at Aon (insurance) or ESPN reading this, I loved the people I worked with and learned a lot about general business, but I felt so restrained from my full potential in those roles.
Not to mention the constant positive feedback from our fans was a HUGE motivator to keep going and an indicator this could work. I highly enjoyed the grind and still do because it’s my passion and I understand the reward. We work so hard to this day to never have to fall back into those types of jobs/roles.
Now partnering and building TorchPro (the sports media network that currently powers the Blitz), the stat I am most proud about as founder is the fact that we have not missed a newsletter in our 4.5 years of existence, besides the major holidays. That’s a major credit to our team that includes current superstar writer Ian Dardani and the incredible roster of interns over the years.
How did you decide that newsletter is the best channel for the content you create?
Again, from a business standpoint, we knew there was no dominant player with a sports newsletter so we saw the opportunity to create a name for ourselves there.
“Also, it was very cheap to begin with and we knew owning your audience through an email subscriber list was more valuable than relying on social channels (IG, Twitter) where algorithms and platforms constantly change.”
Can you take us through the process of creating the first version of your newsletter? Then, how did you find your niche and voice?
I have always been a very outgoing person that loves to entertain people, so I wanted that personality to be shown in the product. Our first product was rough around the edges in terms of looks and content, but flash forward 4.5 years, there hasn’t been too many changes to the product.
At first, we had more opinionated types of content like who we thought was going to win games, awards etc., whereas now we report straight facts and rarely give our take on outcomes. We want to give people the info.
Noah mentions in a video that the early days were difficult to gain subscribers. Not many people were reading your newsletters, including your parents:)
How did you overcome this and gain your first 1000 subscribers?
Family and friends from college, sports teams and our childhood made up the first couple hundred.
“To crack the 1k mark, we used social media channels and a basic referral system that rewarded fans with prizes. “
Not to mention, we had been pushing the product anytime we were socializing in-person. Word-of-mouth will forever be the best acquisition tactic, just hard to scale that!
Which growth channels do you mainly use?
In true Blitz fashion, I will use bullets here:
Giveaways - one-off giveaway prizes such as Amazon gift cards, tickets to sporting events, cash, etc. were very effective early on in encouraging subscriber growth
Referral system - was always just basic merch
Live events - we hosted a few live events at bars in NYC where people who came into the bar and subscribed won a free drink.
Cross promo - partner with other like-minded newsletters to push growth
Social media - growing a social following across Instagram and Twitter as a funnel to the newsletter was also a major - current day with IG Reels, this has really helped our organic following explode!
Paid marketing - After about 2 years, we implemented two paid marketing channels including Dojo Mojo (mass giveaway campaigns + co-registration via DMi)
What are the most effective growth strategy & channels?
All of the above are currently utilized still, with Dojo Mojo being a main driver having doubled-down there.
“Be weary, though, as you need to make sure to turn on double opted-in for campaigns and regularly clean your list to maintain open rates.”
Social media continues to be a place we are seeing tons of growth as well. We spend a lot of effort on social media growth.
Regarding growth efforts, what would you do differently if you had a chance to start over?
Make more of an effort to achieve a paid-marketing strategy early on as it would have pushed our brand to the next level at an earlier stage.
Also have a more advanced referral system with increased back-end tech.
🤝 NEWSLETTER ACQUISITION
Morning Blitz was acquired by TorchPro in Mar’21.
Despite hearing more acquisition news from the newsletter space, it is still a relatively new area where newsletter creators need to learn from one another. So, I would love to hear about your experiences with the acquisition process.
How did you decide to merge with TorchPro? Were you actively looking for opportunities or did TorchPro reach out to you?
After a year at ESPN, I was very actively looking for an opportunity to take on Morning Blitz full-time networking with many people in the industry.
I was introduced to the founder TorchPro (what was then called Kompany39) and loved his vision of building a larger media company with Morning Blitz as the anchor and daily touch point with consumers.
“TorchPro was the perfect partner for us given their network of professional athletes that gave the Blitz credibility and monetary investment being made to the letter for marketing and a strong writer.”
When I started my journey in media, I always had ambitions to do more than a newsletter. I was very passionate about podcasting and video content. This platform was the perfect chance to pursue those avenues and extend our content. We now have four podcasts with pro athletes, filmed several docuseries and created raw vlog-style content as well across all social media channels.
How was the agreement and how did your new roles are decided?
We essentially formed a new company and had an acquihire format - so we became equity holders in the business + salaries. I came on as Head of Content, overseeing all content operations and productions.
How did you make the valuation? (What are the most critical metrics that were questioned?)
Dollar per subscriber + revenue at the time made up the price point.
Open rate and daily openers were a more telling metric than the total overall list.
“The health of a list is the most important.”
What advice would you give to newsletter operators who aim for their newsletter to be acquired?
Focus on audience growth while maintaining a very healthy and engaged subscriber base.
“A newsletter with 100k subs and 10% open rate (10K daily openers) is less appealing than a newsletter with 50K subscribers and a 60% open rate (30K daily openers).”
Also make sure your content/product is top-notch and actually valuable for readers.
When it comes to running a newsletter with 50K subscribers, retention is another critical part of the business.
Do you have a strategy to decrease the churn rate?
When it comes to decreasing churn, we just want to make sure our daily content is extremely valuable and consistent. We, of course, listen to feedback, but our product is our product and hard to stop churn from the standpoint of someone not having an interest in the content if sports isn’t for them!
Although we clean our list at the end of every single month, taking out people who haven’t opened the newsletter in several weeks and setting up a re-engagement campaign to win back their activity trying to get back in their inbox.
Marketing channels will be set up where churn is higher, and you need to be able to identify those lanes clearly. Co-registration and giveaway entries will have a higher churn rate than people coming from social media, your website or word of mouth.
“Make sure you understand where subscribers are coming from and a cleaning system is in place.”
When & How did you start monetizing Morning Blitz?
Monetize via brand deals where companies come in and become the presenting sponsors of the letter, inclusive of a whole section. These brand deals flow into our other social channels to give them maximum reach.
“If you have the luxury, focus on growth prior to monetization. We began turning on brand deals around 10K subscribers, making sure the price was right for brands and they saw ROI to come back as a returning customer.”
How did your monetization strategy evolve in parallel with the growth of your subscriber list?
We’ve built a sales process/team that allows us to plan weeks in advance and advertise brands at the right time of the calendar.
Example being with football season here, we’re promoting NFL streaming deals this Fall. You can ramp up your price of ads as you show you can drive awareness and clicks.
“Partnering with a like-minded brand will always result in a better outcome for everyone involved.”
We stay away from CPC and affiliate deals, focusing just on flat fees. We also sell in packages of 10 and 20 newsletters rather than one-off days. Better for planning and execution and the brand involved.
📩 E-MAIL SERVICE PROVIDER
Why did you choose Campaign Monitor? Pros and cons?
Campaign Monitor has been our ESP since day one based on its reputation. Never had any issues with deliverability or back-end reporting - we highly recommend it!
Con → one of the most expensive products.
🧩 SYSTEM & PRODUCTIVITY
Providing such high-value content every single day requires so much effort.
What does a typical day for Morning Blitz look like regarding your daily process of creating and releasing a new issue?
Set up the newsletter skeleton at Noon with all of the sections without all the content.
Then we fill in some information that is available to us prior to the day in sports, such as Trivia, On This Day, What To Watch and some headlines.
Remember, the sports day ends at about midnight every day, and even later when big games are happening on the West Coast. So when the sports day ends, collect all the major headlines, scores, and news that fit the letter and spend from 7 p.m. to midnight crafting the letter.
Spelling and grammar edits happen later than that.
LA Lakers tip off at 10 pm ET and sometimes can’t finish the letter prior to 1am ET due to what’s needed from an epic LeBron performance. Then, it is automatically set up to send at 5:30 am ET every day.
Every day the newsletter has different info about how dynamic the sports calendar is! That’s why I am so proud of the team for not missing a letter in 4.5 years!
🎢 NEWSLETTER EXPERIENCE
How did building Morning Blitz contribute to your life professionally & personally?
Having a daily product that had to be curated past midnight really took a hit on our social lives. My friends working 9-5s wanted to hit happy hours, events, and games but days were spent scanning the internet and TV for the top news in sports instead.
A trade-off I'd still take 10 times out of 10!
“Blitz became a huge identity of who I was, my personal brand essentially has become the Blitz. So much of my personality is in the brand, and so much of the brand makes up my personality.
It’s opened the door to a lot of cool opportunities in life with athletes and events I’d only dreamed of experiencing.”
What is the most challenging part of writing a newsletter and how do you handle it?
As a writer, the time it takes to put out a perfect product on a daily basis on a subject that has SO much information is very hard. Not to mention the subscribers all have different feedback on content they want to see in the newsletter. So focusing on content perfection combined with growing the audience, deliverability and monetization is a hard task.
Having a very talented writer like Ian takes away the content stress.
The back-end work of newsletters (growth, tech, monetization) will never go away. We need to continue to put in the work to grow at all costs!
What is your dream for Morning Blitz?
Build a newsletter audience with millions of daily subscribers, combined with a consistent and valuable podcast that includes athlete interviews and a home on social media that mixes original content and viral sports moments.
We are more than just a newsletter and want to continue down that path.
What would it be if you had the right to give one piece of advice to aspiring newsletter creators?
“Stay consistent with whatever you do. Consistency, no matter the platform, will get you the proper credibility and attention you deserve.“
It's so cliche, but do not give up and just keep chugging.
Finding something you truly love and are passionate about will only drive that consistency.
What are your favorite newsletters that you can’t wait for the next issue?
👋 FINAL WORDS
I hope this helped some newsletter early-stage founders, 4.5 years in and we still are on the daily grind with a lot of challenges brought to our plates that we also experienced on day 1. Love the grind, and go make some noise!
Check out the Morning Blitz and join the rocketship! Reply to us with your feedback.
Thank you so much, Danny. Can’t wait to see you reach millions of sports fans!
🔗 Where to find Danny Healey and his work
🔎 3 Popular Issues from
That’s all for today. Thanks for reading.
See you next week.
📌 P.S. I’ve switched from Substack over to Beehiiv (here). But don’t worry; you don’t need to do anything; I will manually add you to my Beehiiv list if you subscribe here. This is just for you to know :)
And don’t worry; you will receive the new issues only from “cilerdemiralp.beehiiv.com”, no duplications.