The Economist used to boast about its limited circulation.
Major newspapers touted their mass readership and did everything to attract more. The Economist bragged it was “not read by millions of people”.
While print media circulations have collapsed this century, The Economist has grown their audience considerably. They did this without clickbait, SEO hacks, advertorials, and any tactic which would irritate their audience.
You don’t need to be bigger than any other community. Being small is a weapon. Being able to slice off a segment of the audience and cater exclusively to their needs is a weapon. Focusing on being better instead of bigger is a weapon.
Being patient is also a weapon. It’s always tempting to replicate engagement hacks you see elsewhere – especially when they seem successful. But it’s a fool’s game. You attract the audiences you don’t want at the expense of the audience you already have.
Far better to be a lighthouse of quality in a sea of mediocrity. Light a beacon to attract exactly the audience you want and no more. A beacon that shows your values, your focus, and your commitment to supporting your members in the best way possible.
The irony, of course, is The Economist today has grown their audience to the millions.