State of Boss Barista 2022
A look back at the podcast and newsletter by the numbers
I really wish I had a clever name for this wrap-up.
But 2022 was a big one for this little newsletter. I've been writing about coffee since 2013, started the newsletter in 2019, and fully committed to a regular cadence and schedule in 2021. 2022 felt like the first time I saw some of my efforts in the newsletter pay off.
Let's talk about what happened this year.
📊 Boss Barista By The Numbers 📊
As most of you know, Spotify does a thing called Spotify Wrapped, giving listeners a fun and comprehensive look at everything they enjoyed throughout the year. As a podcaster, Spotify also gives creators a look back, breaking down listening stats and demographic info. Here are the highlights:
Boss Barista released 20 new episodes and 846 minutes of content: that's 14.1 hours of podcast interviews — enough content to listen to as you drive from where I am in Madison, Wisconsin, to Philadelphia!
The most listened-to interview of the year? Strangely enough, it was a 2020 interview with James Hoffmann, the YouTube coffee star I wrote about for TASTE in January of 2022. The most popular new interview of the year was with Morgan Eckroth, the 2022 United States Barista Champion (I included Morgan's interview as part of my December Rewind series, where I revisit some of my favorite interviews of the year).
Boss Barista was listened to in 62 countries. When listeners were broken down by country, #1 was the United States, but #2 was Germany. The top five list continues with Canada, the United Kingdom, and Mexico in that order.
28% of listeners follow the podcast, which Spotify says puts Boss Barista in the top 5% of most followed podcasts. This was a number I didn't really understand, but I think it's something like this: you can listen to an episode of a podcast (or a lot of episodes of a podcast) without subscribing to the show. So that means (within the confines of Spotify listeners) about one in every four people that listens to an episode is a subscriber. Is this good? I guess! Spotify specifically made this a metric, so I'm inclined to believe it means something.
Spotify describes Boss Barista listeners as enthusiasts or folks likely to share and listen to every episode.
95% of listeners discovered the show in 2022! Wow!
Boss Barista was:
A top 10 podcast for 932 listeners
A top 5 podcast for 551 people
The top podcast for 92 folks
🗞️ In terms of written content (this is a newsletter, after all):
33 publications recommend Boss Barista as a newsletter you should subscribe to.
"The Fourth Wave of Coffee Is...Not Coming" was the most-read article of 2022 (by A LOT — almost 10,000 people read this one).
"How the Pizza Party Became the Symbol of Bad Bosses Everywhere" was the second most-read piece.
"The Consolidation of Coffee" was the most commented-on article.
"A Small Gesture of Kindness" was the most-liked.
On January 1, 2022, the newsletter had 950 subscribers. Today, December 28, 2022, the newsletter has 2,248. Here’s a chart outlining the growth of subscribers since I started the newsletter in 2019:
The biggest spikes in subscribers happened in early April when Substack announced the winners of their Food Writers Intensive program. Substack (the platform that hosts my newsletter) called food writers to participate in an educational program to help people grow and make their publications more sustainable through monetizing. Initially, I wasn't sure if I would apply, but a Substack employee reached out to me and encouraged me to throw Boss Barista in the ring.
As part of the program, I received a $10,000 grant and was part of a cohort of fellow food writers. I got to meet prominent authors, carve out time to focus on my newsletter, and realign the focus a bit more. Winning this grant also gave me a confidence boost I didn't know I needed.
Boss Barista also saw a spike in subscribers in October — I think a hard push on Twitter fueled this spike, and a few folks picked up my tweets and reshared them. But Twitter is in the trashcan, so who knows if that'll ever be a viable way to get more people to read my articles.
I initially set a goal to get 2,000 subscribers to the newsletter by the end of summer (September 21), but I didn't get to that benchmark until October 7.
Boss Barista has always been free and will continue to be free, but I turned on the paid subscriber option this year in April. Right now, there are 88 paid subscribers.
🥅 Boss Barista Goals For 2023 🥅
Interview 20 new people: I thought about increasing this number since this is the number of interviews I released in 2022, but tbh even that was a lot of work! I'm also more adept at editing (thanks, Descript!), so episodes take much longer to create and transcribe.
Get to 4,000 subscribers: Is this possible? Is this too outlandish? We will see!
Have 150 paid subscribers: One of my biggest goals for Boss Barista is to make it more sustainable and viable. Right now, between the 88 paid subscribers, I make about $6,000 a year. 10% goes to Substack, and I pay an editor $400 per month to revise posts, so this newsletter is about at a breakeven point. I'd love to get to a point where my time is being accounted for.
Celebrate six years of doing this thing with a bang: Boss Barista began as just a little ol' podcast on February 1, 2017. Last year, the fifth anniversary came and went, so I'd like to really ham it up in 2023.
Write articles that resonate: This is kind of a forever goal, so please let me know what you'd like to see in 2023!
Thanks for coming along with me this year, and I'll see you in 2023!
Photo by Sydney Moore
Ashley, I hope you know by now from my comments on your newsletter posts, how much I value your work - and as I think you also know, this is with me not even being a coffee drinker... like almost never, save for maybe no more than a couple espressos per year.
(Ok, full disclosure: my wife of many decades is a passionate coffee drinker, and it through her that I vicariously experience all coffee things, although I have more recently turned her toward my passion, tea.)
And so what really excites me about your newsletter and interviews is your perspective on and careful analysis of the socioeconomic realities of coffee: as an agricultural product that is commonly grown and harvested by artisanal farmers as well as a extremely popular developed world consumable with a conflicted cultural aurora (lots of consumer passion... and also much workplace exploitation of a folks that have become a kind of cultural icon: baristas), purchased at hugely popular chains (Starbucks of course, and here out west, Peets) as well as small (artisanal?) neighborhood businesses. The labor issues and unionization drives that you have so brilliantly described and analysed have been central then.
It is these very features of the coffee world that has so many parallels with other wordly goods/products (seafood being my fave example) that makes your newsletter, its great interviews, and the podcasts so interesting and valuable... even to someone who really does not much like to drink coffee lol.
Thx for everything, and best wishes for you much more success in 2023!