- beehiiv Blog
- How Rowan Cheung Grew His Audience from Zero to 300,000 in 4 Months
How Rowan Cheung Grew His Audience from Zero to 300,000 in 4 Months
The Secret to Exponential Growth on Twitter & beehiiv
Artificial intelligence hasn’t taken over yet.
Do you want to know who is taking over?
Rowan Cheung. He’s a creator who saw the opportunity of AI and pounced on it quickly.
And—his results are exceptional.
In just four months, he’s built two massive audiences. He’s grown his Twitter following up from 1,000 people to 250,000 and his newsletter from zero to 150,000.
We recently sat down with Rowan Cheung, founder of The Rundown newsletter, to discuss how he fast-tracked his audience growth and built a successful newsletter in a highly competitive niche.
Rowan was eager to share how his obsession with AI, combined with his unique content strategy, accelerated his audience growth exponentially. He shared plenty of key insights into his exact content strategy, how he leverages AI to speed up his newsletter creation, and how he automates the sponsorship process.
If you’re looking to start your own newsletter, or you’re looking to tap into proven growth strategies, then keep reading. Rowan’s story is unique in that he tapped into rapid newsletter growth without relying on a pre-built social following. Keep reading to learn how you can build and expand your own newsletter from scratch–even if you don’t have an audience.
The Rundown Origin Story
Originally, Rowan was a former semi-pro athlete in swimming, but his career trajectory took a sudden turn when health issues forced him to quit the sport during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, instead of being disheartened, Cheung saw this as an opportunity to immerse himself in learning about tech and AI, eventually developing an obsession with it.
Cheung's relentless pursuit of learning eventually led him to DALL-E 2, an image-generation tool. His fascination with the technology spurred him to become an active player in the AI space, well before Chat-GPT was introduced in late 2022.
Rowan Cheung’s story is similar to that of many other creators in the artificial intelligence community. He was minding his own business, cruising down one lane, when AI seemed to suddenly merge into his lane and take over.
While many people would be crushed after their entire career and livelihood were put on hold, Rowan didn’t see it that way. Instead, he took the time to stop, rest, reset, and learn something new.
“That's when I found my new obsession with tech and AI,” Rowan shared. “I would say I’m a very obsessive person. So, I spent almost a year learning how to code and design.”
If Rowan learned anything from his success in swimming, it’s that if you want to be the best, you have to learn from the best, no matter what you’re doing.
“Then, I listened to a podcast with Mr. Beast. He said he was studying other content creators, and I'm like, ‘Okay, that's what I’ve got to do.’ I literally spent every single day for a year studying. I couldn't really work out, or train, or do things I normally had to do or could do. So, it was my new obsession.”
“I went to school for kinesiology. I had literally no tech experience at all. So after about a year of learning the fundamentals, and being a little bit immersed in the space, I stumbled across DALL-E 2, which is an image-generation tool.”
“When it first came out, I started playing around with it, and it was a few months before Chat-GPT came out. And it blew my mind. It was crazy. I can just type things in and generate crazy images. And I remember that's really when I got started really getting into AI.”
Being in the Right Place at the Right Time
While many never cared for AI until Chat-GPT was released in late 2022, Rowan was already in the space. He was learning, researching, and sharing everything there was to know with his friends and family.
“I remember obsessing over it, and then reading a lot of the news and trying to digest it all to share with my family and my friends. And they were just as mind blown as I was. That’s when I first got a glimpse of, ‘Oh, maybe I could post it on YouTube or something.’”
When Chat-GPT was launched, Rowan was already immersed in the space. While others were playing catch up, he was already a few steps ahead, ready to pounce on the opportunity to become a creator.
“Then, Chat-GPT came out and then it went absolutely viral. I remember nerding out in it the first day it came out. I was on it, asking random questions—and they're the most basic questions ever. But back then, those things were crazy, ‘How can this answer so quickly?’”
“I remember the first two weeks I was literally showing all my friends. I thought everyone knew about it by then, but no one did. Not a single person knew what Chat-GPT was, and they were all mind blown. And I was like, ‘Okay, now's the time.’ I just started creating content around this.”
Rowan started realizing that he was the AI expert to his friends and family. He became the AI guy. When he couldn’t stop sharing it with those close to him, he realized there might be an opportunity to share his passion with a larger circle.
“I was obsessing over this for a few months, and no one knew that it was going to change the world. So I had to start creating content about this. At first, I considered YouTube, but then I realized very quickly, I'm not very good (or not good yet) at saying my words out loud in front of a video camera.”
“I'm better at typing it all out. So I decided to start a newsletter.”
“I decided on beehiiv because I was on Twitter, and I saw you guys have really good customer support. You guys were responding to everyone. I'm like, ‘These guys seem awesome.’ So I just got started.”
Rapid Growth: 4 Months to 200,000+ Subscribers & Followers
In an incredibly short period of time, Rowan’s idea to become a creator in the space transformed into a full-time income with hundreds of thousands of followers and subscribers.
He shared, “I started the newsletter in January 2023. I had zero subscribers back then, and my Twitter account also only had like a thousand followers. It was just some friends or people I followed that followed me back.”
“Today, three months later, I'm at 86,000 subscribers on the newsletter, and I'm growing at nearly 2,500 new subscribers a day.”
**As of May 2023, Rowan has over 150,000 newsletter subscribers and 235,000 Twitter followers.**
Engagement Is Rising Despite a Growing Audience
What makes Rowan’s story even more impressive is the fact that he’s getting incredible engagement from his audience. It’s perfectly normal—and expected—that as your audience grows beyond 25,000, to 50,000, and to 100,000 subscribers, your engagement starts to dip.
But, Rowan’s story is different. He’s seeing his engagement increase as his audience gets bigger.
“My open rate is like 42% now, and it's going up. My average click rate is 13.8%. My Twitter account—I'm over 100,000 followers now. Like I said, three months ago I was at a thousand. So, it’s been a crazy ride. But, to be honest, I feel like I'm just getting started.”
Two-Pronged Approach to Content: Newsletter & Twitter
Rowan started his content journey by posting on Twitter. But, he quickly integrated his newsletter into the mix and began building both audiences at once. He figured if he was going to be serious as a creator, he knew that building an email list would be crucial. So, he started pitching his newsletter with a simple call to action at the bottom of his popular Twitter threads…
He shared, “The first 55,000 subscribers were all organic from Twitter, just viral Twitter threads. I started posting on Twitter and I added a call to action on every viral Twitter thread.”
Rowan’s content creation strategy is simple: find the latest developments, news, and insights on AI, simplify it, summarize it, and share it in an easily-digestible way that anyone can understand…