November 20, 2023 0 634

How Two Brothers Took a Twitter Following and Turned It Into a Million-Dollar AI Newsletter Empire

The Superhuman newsletter has exploded in popularity over the last few months, getting over 400,000 subscribers and generating six figures in monthly revenue. This meteoric growth is thanks to the vision and grit of brothers Zain and Awais Kahn, who leveraged Zain's existing Twitter following to launch a highly successful AI-focused publication.

This is the story of how two entrepreneurial siblings identified the public's interest in artificial intelligence, leveraged their backgrounds in marketing and technology, and utilized new AI tools to build a subscriber base of hundreds of thousands and make their bootstrapped newsletter a million-dollar business.

Awais Kahn and Zain Kahn

Spotting the AI Wave Before It Went Mainstream

Long before chatbots and AI art generators splashed across headlines in 2022, Zain Kahn saw the wave coming. With a background in marketing and growth hacking, Zain worked at an ed-tech startup in Dubai while simultaneously growing a following of over 400,000 on Twitter.

In 2021, Zain began noticing rising public curiosity in AI and wrote a few viral threads simplifying complex topics like transformers and neural networks. As the appetite for AI knowledge grew rapidly into 2022, Zain decided to zero in on artificial intelligence and make it the central focus of his content and community building.

While AI was still relatively niche, Zain's marketing instincts told him it would soon go massively mainstream. He quit his job in April 2022 to devote his full efforts to building an independent publication all about AI before the hype reached a fever pitch.

Validating a Newsletter concept with Twitter Threads

Rather than diving straight into publishing a newsletter, Zain wanted to validate the idea first. He began writing daily Twitter threads explaining AI concepts, developments, and applications in an educational but entertaining style forged from his past growth marketing experience.

Followers loved these easily digestible snapshots about AI and Zain's threads consistently went viral, further expanding his audience. He essentially turned his Twitter feed into a prototype of the AI publication he envisioned.

The soaring engagement indicated a real appetite for an AI-focused newsletter. Of course, Twitter's ephemeral, soundbite nature meant there was an opportunity to go much deeper on topics.

So in early 2022, Zain officially launched the Superhuman newsletter alongside his brother Awais Kahn, who brought a strong technical background to perfectly complement Zain's strengths in marketing and content creation.

Leveraging an Existing Audience for Early Traction

Launching the newsletter off the back of Zain's 400,000+ Twitter followers at that time proved brilliant for attracting an initial core subscriber base. Rather than starting from scratch, the brothers could market Superhuman to a ready-made audience that was already engaged with Zain's AI-focused threads.

This allowed Superhuman to gather over 135,000 newsletter subscribers in just the first 3 months. The conversion rate from Twitter follower to newsletter subscriber was exceptionally high, demonstrating how a social media following can provide a lightning-fast ramp for a new publication.

Optimizing Newsletter Content

In the beginning, Superhuman only sent out a single newsletter per week. However, the brothers soon realized they needed to increase output to turn their new venture into a true media business.

They shifted to a 'news you can use' daily format focused on helping readers understand and utilize AI. This drew upon Zain's strength in explaining complex topics in simple terms.

Superhuman now sends 5 newsletters per week from Monday to Friday, covering the latest AI developments, interviews with experts, explainers/guides, business use cases, and tutorials. Zain also writes every issue himself to ensure quality control.

To go even more in-depth, Superhuman introduced a premium Sunday edition for $5 per month with longer tutorials and insights to help others ‘learn AI from the best’.

This content format and cadence proved critical, allowing Superhuman to increase value for readers while also providing enough high-quality material to facilitate rapid growth.

Building a Team to Scale Content Production

With 5 newsletters to write per week, it quickly became apparent that Zain couldn't handle content alone. At first, he hired a researcher to focus on discovering and compiling AI news and findings.

As Superhuman continued growing, Zain built out a team of 6 full-time and 2 part-time employees including writers, designers, developers, and outreach staff. This team now handles researching, writing, editing, promoting, and monetizing the newsletter.

Zain still writes the key newsletter editions himself while delegating other issues to his team. Assembling a skilled team to scale content production was vital to take Superhuman from a solo passion project to a real media business.

Using AI Tools to Enhance Efficiency

Here’s where things get meta — Superhuman extensively utilizes AI to streamline its own operations. The team leans heavily on ChatGPT to generate newsletter ideas and email subject lines. They also use it to summarize lengthy AI research papers into digestible snippets for readers.

ChatGPT’s conversational nature makes it easy to refine and iterate the output until it meets the quality bar. The team also uses AI tools like Midjourney to create eye-catching images for the newsletter.

By Zain’s estimate, these AI tools save Superhuman 5-10 hours per week. They boost the team’s productivity and creativity, helping ensure newsletter issues are high quality while releasing more time for strategic tasks.

Rapidly Building a subscriber list through multi-channel promotion

Leveraging Zain’s existing Twitter following certainly kickstarted subscriber growth. However the team used a mix of other channels to keep expanding Superhuman’s reach.

Zain cross-promoted the newsletter through his LinkedIn profile and Instagram account, driving further signups. He also made sure to link to the newsletter at the end of his daily AI Twitter threads, funneling highly targeted traffic.

The team posted Superhuman content across social platforms up to 3x per day, maintaining a steady stream of promotion.

Small amounts of Facebook and Twitter ads were tested but found ineffective compared to organic social promotion. More successful was using newsletter crossover services like Sparkle and Beehiiv boosts to access targeted recommendations.

This multi-channel promotion strategy helped Superhuman gather over 400,000 newsletter subscribers entirely organically within its first 6 months.

Monetizing Through Sponsorships to Fund Continued Growth

Like many digital publications, Superhuman’s primary revenue stream comes from sponsorships. Because AI is such a hot topic, it wasn’t difficult to attract relevant sponsors like tech companies and AI startups.

Superhuman’s engaged subscriber base and niche AI focus offer sponsors exposure to precisely the right audience. With high open and click-through rates, sponsors are seeing great ROI, allowing Superhuman to charge premium rates.

Sponsorship deals combined with low overhead costs provide strong profit margins. Ad revenue consistently hits 6 figures per month, already turning Superhuman into a million-dollar business.

Rather than taking profits, Zain continually reinvests this revenue into growing the publication. He envisions Superhuman becoming a far larger media property over time.

Streamlining Operations to Run the Business Smoothly

According to Zain, one of the biggest challenges was transitioning from a passion project to a smoothly operating media company. As Superhuman grew, the workload and complexities mounted.

To meet these new challenges, he focused intently on streamlining operations, automating processes, and clearly defining team roles. Responsibilities are reassessed every 4 weeks as priorities shift.

This operational excellence keeps Superhuman's rapid growth on track. Zain notes he's only focused on hiring new team members when there is an obvious need and productivity gap that someone with specialized skills could fill.

These optimizations helped evolve Superhuman from a bootstrap operation into a fast-rising media company competing with the largest tech publications.

The Future Looks Bright for Superhuman

In under a year, Superhuman has accomplished rapid growth most newsletters would take many years to achieve. This is a testament to Zain and Awais' vision, skillful use of AI tools, and stellar execution across content, promotion, monetization, and team building.

Looking ahead, the Kahn brothers aim to expand Superhuman's subscriber base to 500,000 by the end of 2023. Zain sees plenty of room to further optimize operations and leverage emerging AI capabilities to make content production even more efficient.

If the newsletter continues its remarkable trajectory, the founders are firmly on the path to creating a hugely valuable 8-figure media business out of nothing more than an engaged Twitter following and astute observation of an emerging trend.

Superhuman AI's success proves the power of maximizing existing audiences and executing skilled operational management. For entrepreneurs looking to build the next media phenomenon, Zain and Awais Kahn have provided the blueprint.

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