About Daily Publishing

I used to run a 9-month group program that began with a 3-month daily publishing challenge. I don’t run that program anymore, but I sometimes coach clients through a process that rhymes with the daily publishing challenge. In putting together some support materials for a new client, I came across the following, which I wrote in late 2021.

You folks know I almost never brag about my own work other than in an occasional tongue-in-cheek way, but I gotta say, this piece has an incandescent level of clarity about the challenge of daily publishing. It’s really good.

The piece is always available here: https://opportunitylabs.io/lead-generation-documentation/daily-publishing/about-daily-publishing/ And it’s reproduced in this email below. I hope you enjoy.

About Daily Publishing

The goal of daily publishing is this: every day you work, you publish something worth reading to your email list. I can not over-stress that if you do this simple mechanical publishing thing, what you actually want (expertise, POV) will happen eventually as a natural by-product. In other words, you are not trying to cultivate or clarify expertise or create a distinct point of view. Instead, if you just try to create a little piece of email-shaped value every day you work, those things will happen inevitably. Not immediately, of course, but eventually.

I describe publishing as a simple, mechanical act. Of course, there's a bit more to it than that. 😃 For example, you have to type words that are about something, and the question of what your emails are about is a relevant question, and it sometimes can cause a feeling of writer's block or analysis paralysis. That's why I want to make sure this guide includes a list of ideas of what your emails could be about. Hopefully you won't need this, but don't feel bad at all if you do!

Start With A Fear Inventory

Whether you feel stuck or not, I recommend you start with a "fear inventory". To be clear, you don't publish this. You don't have to share it with anyone unless sharing it makes it more useful for you.

The fear inventory is simply a list of every fear you feel about publishing daily. No matter how small or big the fears are, write them down. Writing them down has the effect of helping you see them more clearly and, sometimes, that makes the fears smaller or less powerful.

The common fears about daily publishing include:

  • Fear of criticism

  • Fearing loss of status

  • Fear of conflict

  • Disappointment at unsubscribes generally

  • Disappointment at particular unsubscribes (a certain person unsubscribes from your list)

  • Fear of failure

Don't limit your fear inventory to just these common fears. 😃 Explore your own fears in full detail.


Publishing to an email list automatically causes most of us to care about subscriber value. This means we want to publish stuff that most or all of our subscribers find valuable, meaning it's worth the time and effort it takes them to read it.

I'm sorry, but you probably don't know what will create subscriber value. Most of us don't know this when we start publishing to an email list, and even after publishing frequently to an email list for years we have only an imperfect thesis about what creates subscriber value.

You probably have some un-helpful ideas about what could create subscriber value. Most of us have had an earlier formative experience where we encounter something that someone else has published to an email list and that thing created massive subscriber value for us. We often spend time trying to create value for our list using the style and form particulars of that formative experience. Those style and form particulars may not be a good fit for us, and may actually prevent us from creating subscriber value.

You probably also have assumptions about what won't create subscriber value. You probably think some things are off limits for an email list that's supposed to somehow be about your expertise.

You probably have some un-helpful heuristics in place, like longer = more valuable, or more complex = more valuable.

All of the above will prevent you from creating subscriber value, because in a crowded information landscape, the best way to create subscriber value is often not:

  • Content that imitates what is already doing well

  • Content that prioritizes a pursuit of more length, depth, complexity, or nuance

  • Content that reverts to the mean in terms of style or form

I'm so sorry, but the only way to know what creates subscriber value for you and your email list is to experiment freely and frequently. I say I'm sorry because I actually think the ability to do this kind of experimentation is a wonderful opportunity, but I know it can be intimidating and bring up fear.

I'm sorry because the path to knowing involves experimentation and guaranteed failure and I can't walk that path for you ; you have to discover how to create subscriber value yourself.

It's fine to start the daily publication challenge with a rough thesis about what you think will create subscriber value for your list, because having a thesis frees you up to do the work of thinking and writing, but you must hold to that thesis incredibly loosely, and as soon as you can, take some risks by experimenting with topic choice, length of your emails, and the tone/style of your writing.

If you were a chef cooking a meal for 100 people, you would never expect all 100 people to think your meal was the best meal of their entire life, no matter how good the meal actually was. Likewise, no matter how good you get at creating subscriber value, you will never create perfect subscriber value for every member of your email list every time you publish. It's simply not possible. We will all disappoint someone eventually, no matter how good our work actually is, no matter how deeply we care about creating value, and no matter how hard we work. I hope that realizing this gives you a feeling of fellowship with those writers you admire.

Ideas Of What Your Emails Could Be About

Here are 6 ways you can generate topic ideas, and if you don't immediately have an idea what you should publish about, take some time to go through these idea-generation methods:

  • Write up a list of every question you've heard from your clients. Add to it all the questions they should have asked but didn't. Respond to these questions in your emails. It takes me about 1,000 to 1,500 words to thoroughly respond to a good question. That much writing output will kill you if you try for that every day, so give yourself a word budget of 200 to 400 words per email and split your answers across multiple emails if you need to.

  • Write the world's sloppiest "playbook" for how you run your client projects. Here's an example of a nearly-perfect playbook: https://playbook.hanno.co You are not going for perfection here; you are trying to write about something that is easy for you to explain so you build up momentum that carries you into more challenging topics/questions.

  • List out all the things you wish you understood better or had more certainty about. Title the list "Questions I'm Working On". Start publishing your description of each problem/question, and then see if you naturally start writing about potential solutions/answers.

  • Brainstorm a list of things you used to be wrong about. Publish short explanations of what you used to be wrong about, why, and how you see things now.

  • Brainstorm a list of things you've changed your mind about, and publish short explanations of these items.

  • Write up a list of terminology and ideas that are relevant to your client work and publish one definition of each term/idea.

I hope that if you're feeling stuck in terms of what to write about, this list helps you get un-stuck.

Style Ideas

I hesitate a bit to share the following, because I don't want you to get too much into your head about the publishing. It's an experiential learning process, and so the most valuable insights come from you doing the work of thinking, writing, and publishing.

That said, I hope the following expands your thinking a bit and helps you think about what might seem like unconventional ways to create subscriber value for your email list.

The following things can create subscriber value. I know this because I have received replies from my email list telling me so, and as a subscriber to other people's email lists these things have created subscriber value for me.

  • Teaching/Informing/Explaining: This is often what we assume email lists are best used for, and that's true but incomplete. Email lists can create value in other ways too.

  • Inspiring: What might your audience find inspiring?

  • Humor: We often assume that humor and business are mutually exclusive, or in some kind of opposing relationship. I don't think so. Humor can be used to create an open-minded atmosphere that can lead to all sorts of good things.

  • Light entertainment/distraction: Public speakers are advised to modulate their tone. Writers are advised to vary sentence length. For the same reason, daily emailers should consider blending in moments of levity.

  • Surprise/Discovery/Wonder/Delight: No explanation needed, I hope 😃

  • Reassurance/Solidarity: Does your list sometimes need to hear this from you? "Yes, you're right to see things this way. Here's why."

  • Challenging reader viewpoint: Does your list sometimes need to have their assumptions challenged? Could this help them somehow?

  • Comforting/De-escalating anxiety: Do your clients/audience sometimes worry about the wrong things?

Final Thoughts

Let me conclude with a few thoughts:

The most important part of the daily publishing challenge is publishing daily. Don't let anything stop you from publishing daily, and lower the bar as much as you need to.

Uninterrupted streaks of good things are cool, but what is way more important is the willingness to begin again. To give yourself a hug and say, "let's try to publish something worth reading today!", no matter what happened yesterday or the days before.

It sounds like LinkedIn broetry, but the best way to get average results is to do average things. Commit to experimenting with what you send your email list, and be OK with the surprises that lie well below and above the mean.

Do not be afraid to repeat yourself or build on what others are saying. Both of these can feel like cheating but they play a surprisingly important role in thought leadership.

Motion generates information. Most of your daily publishing problems and blocks will be solved by publishing something, no matter how bad or low-value it may seem in the moment.

You don't have all the answers. You never will. The next email you send doesn't need to have all the answers either. Sometimes a question is better than an answer anyway.

Very often, less is more. (This does not apply to publishing frequency; you still should publish every day you work!)

Narrow focus is a powerful business strategy. And yet, you contain multitudes. It's OK for your publishing to reflect this duality.

Remember to periodically thank your email list for finding your emails worthy of their attention.