• beehiiv Blog
  • Posts
  • How The Neuron Attracted 10,000 Subscribers in Its First Month

How The Neuron Attracted 10,000 Subscribers in Its First Month

A Psych-based Content Strategy is Driving Growth for This AI Newsletter

This creator spotlight has been reposted from creatorspotlight.com

The Neuron’s creator describes how he attracted 10,000 readers to his AI newsletter in its first month.

The Neuron, a daily newsletter about the AI space, has amassed a list of 10,000 subscribers in its first month using an unusual strategy: targeting readers by understanding their psychology instead of their demographic data.

How The Neuron Attracted 10,000 Subscribers in Its First Month

The Neuron’s creator, Pete Huang, who goes by “nonmayorpete” on Twitter, describes the newsletter by saying, “The Neuron is meant to help the modern business professional keep up with what’s happening in the field. That’s everything from new tools they should be aware of to recent research breakthroughs to the dynamics of the business and how AI is intersecting with the political world. The intention is to highlight all the top AI stories of the day and give a fun twist to it.”

He and his content partner Noah Edelman use this frame to guide the newsletter’s content.

Creating a Brand

At first, Pete says, he was reluctant to convert his social media presence into a newsletter format. “The newsletter is actually an evolution. I’d been writing online for the previous year or so, and was very explicit about not doing a newsletter. I didn’t see any point in running a newsletter or owning the emails.”

So what changed his mind? ”Certainly, there are some business goals around it. Like, you can start monetizing around it, and you have a lot more control when sending out your product versus relying on social platforms. So that’s one side of it. But I think it’s [also] about brand building in a different way.”

“It’s different when you’re putting your name and face on your profile, and a lot of the value accrues to your name,” he explains. “Here, I wanted to test whether I could build a separate brand and have people know that name over time. Certainly, we’ve seen many examples of this exercise in the past few years.”

Pete cites Milk Road as one inspiration. “The Milk Road journey was such a tentpole version of that. It was a lightning rod for many people to gravitate toward that idea.”

How The Neuron Attracted 10,000 Subscribers in Its First Month

And he’s not alone - several creators cite Milk Road as inspiration. For Pete, it was about more than just great content.

“For me personally, I thought it would be cool not only to nail down the content but to learn how to build a brand and develop loyalty around that. It’s something you can’t really do if you’re just relying on social platforms. So that’s why I started to look into the idea of starting a separate newsletter.”

A Cat-Themed AI Newsletter

How The Neuron Attracted 10,000 Subscribers in Its First Month

Pete has found some creative freedom in having a separate brand name that’s not tied to his name. “I think one consequence of posting on Twitter or LinkedIn under your name is that there’s a bit of pressure. Your friends see this; your potential future employers see this.”

The personal visibility was holding Pete back from expressing himself. “So that made me feel like I need to skew more analytical, or more crisp in my thinking, and I can’t be funny or make posts that are purely about keeping things light-hearted. So there’s a bit more gravity associated with it. But developing a separate brand, you can choose the tone and the angle.”

“The AI category right now is quite broad. There are a lot of folks trying to write content for it, and each person, each team, has decided on a completely different lens. Some folks are very analytical, very deep, and really want to dig into topics. What we’re trying to do is a bit more lighthearted and friendly.”

That light-hearted feeling extends into the theme and logo of The Neuron. “Our design is cat-themed — the idea is that if AI takes over the world, at least we still have our pets, right? So that’s been fun so far, having more latitude to play with this creative idea that you may not be afforded if you were just sticking with your personal name.”

Why a cat theme? Pete mentions Milk Road as an inspiration again. “One of the things they did was to pick a seemingly random concept, this milk concept, and then just go with it. Firmly commit and see what happens. [It shows] you can create a brand around pretty much anything.”

Pete says he saw a lot of other AI newsletters using robot themes and thought, “What’s the exact opposite of that? What is the simplest that will have nothing to do with AI, but that is fun and still human at the end of the day? Our attachment to our pets is a big thing.”

How The Neuron Attracted 10,000 Subscribers in Its First Month

“There’s something emotional about having a pet,” Pete says.” It’s just a very human experience. The world is accelerating, but we have these natural and instinctual things that we return to as humans. So I decided to put a cat at the center of things. I don’t expect readers to go that deep, but it’s a very lighthearted way to play this particular topic. ”

Psychology vs. Demographics

When it comes to aiming his cat-themed AI content toward an audience, Pete doesn’t focus on a target market beyond basic demographics like ‘ages 25-40, living in the US, Canada, and Western Europe.” Instead, he says, he focuses on what drives people to the subject matter.

He sees the underlying consumer psychology as being composed of two questions. “One is that people have been blown away by ChatGPT and they just wonder, ‘How can I learn about all the cool stuff that’s happening?”

“But there’s another thought that’s not talked about actively, but is in the back of everyone’s brain: Where is this headed? Where is society going in the next five or ten years? And when do I lose my job?”

How The Neuron Attracted 10,000 Subscribers in Its First Month

Pete laughs nervously, but he knows the question is serious. “There’s this sort of fear that you can’t really control, that is just funny to everyone. Everyone shares [the concern], which is, well, I’m gonna lose my job at some point, right? Like, when do the robots take over?”

“So what I focus on is how to tackle those two things. I don’t necessarily focus demographics-wise, like who is being targeted on that front, but I feel like those two questions are pretty cross-cutting. So that’s what I focused on at the outset.”

Explosive Growth

How The Neuron Attracted 10,000 Subscribers in Its First Month

People are giving The Neuron’s approach a very warm welcome. Just one month after launching the newsletter, its audience had already exploded to nearly 10,000 subscribers.

Pete is blown away by the rapid growth. “Honestly, it’s going a lot better than I was anticipating. Frankly, I was expecting this sort of number three, four, or five months in.”

He cites several factors he thinks are driving The Neuron’s popularity. “First, obviously, it’s a very exciting time for the space. A lot of people are interested in building a newsletter in this topic, and for good reason — simply because there are that many people paying attention to it. So, that’s one thing. It’s just good timing.”

“The second thing is being active on socials. I’ve been spending a lot of time on LinkedIn and was able to use that momentum to start sharing the newsletter and AI content that has contributed pretty significantly toward this number.”

“And also Twitter. I wasn’t very active on Twitter in this way before, but simply having a presence there — as part of your newsletter, you’re covering headlines. So you’re sourcing stories and topics to write about.”

How does he use Twitter to promote the newsletter?


Join the conversation

or to participate.