37 Matching Annotations
  1. Aug 2021
  2. Jul 2021
    1. The financial promise of email newsletters

      the financial side is certainly subtext, but this piece doesn't play into the underlying structure of this story. Makes this a bit of clickbait within the title.

    2. What motivated my newsletter reading habits normally? In large part, affection and light voyeurism. I subscribed to the newsletters of people I knew, who treated the form the way they had once treated personal blogs. I skimmed the dadlike suggestions of Sam Sifton in the New York Times’ Cooking newsletter (skillet chicken and Lana Del Rey’s “Chemtrails Over the Country Club” — sure, okay). I subscribed briefly to Alison Roman’s recipe newsletter before deciding that the ratio of Alison Roman to recipes was much too high. On a colleague’s recommendation, I subscribed to Emily Atkin’s climate newsletter and soon felt guilty because it was so long and came so often that I let it pile up unread. But in order to write about newsletters, I binged. I went about subscribing in a way no sentient reader was likely to do — omnivorously, promiscuously, heedless of redundancy, completely open to hate-reading. I had not expected to like everything I received. Still, as the flood continued, I experienced a response I did not expect. I was bored.

      The question of motivation about newsletter subscriptions is an important one. Some of the thoughts here mirror some of my feelings about social media in general.

      Why?

    3. “Substack is longform media Twitter, for good and for ill,” wrote Ashley Feinberg in the first installment of her Substack.

      Definitely a hot take, but a truthful sounding one.

    4. How can writers bridge the gap between what they want to say and what someone else understands? Eleven months later, a line from Anne Helen Petersen’s announcement of her Substack newsletter haunts me still: Writing a newsletter, Petersen wrote, meant she could publish “pieces that take ten paragraphs to get to the nut graf, if there’s one at all.”

      There's something in this quote that sounds more like old school blogging to me. Putting ideas out there and allowing the community to react and respond as a means of honing an idea can be useful and powerful. However, are writers actually doing this meaningfully over time? Are they objectively doing this and providing thoughtful updates over time?

    5. The baroque goofiness of Blackbird Spyplane’s house style can be something of a test for readers of the newsletter (the “sletter,” in Blackbird Spyplane parlance). “X out of ten people are going to show up and read that and just be like, This is impenetrable, I’m out,” Weiner told one interviewer. “But for the people who stick around, I think that it adds to a sense of, Oh, this is like an in-joke that I’m in on.” And better (at least to this reader) that clubbiness take a niche form — it is less claustrophobia-inducing than the many newsletters that seem to insist we are all wearily following the same disputes on Twitter, all inevitably watching the same shows on Netflix. Such newsletters wind up feeling like crowded rooms with too few windows on the world beyond.

      This is a great description which is roughly how I feel about the awesome uniqueness that is https://www.kickscondor.com/.

    6. Earlier this year, a group of writers with popular tech and culture newsletters expanded upon this premise; they joined together to launch a Discord server called Sidechannel where all their subscribers could meet and chat. (“So it’s just people paying for internet friends?” asked one woman I know when this arrangement was described to her. Yes, and currently Sidechannel has some 5,000 members, several hundred of whom may be active at a given time.)

      There's something a bit depressing about the idea of paying for online friends. Though creating, managing, and tummeling these sorts of community is definitely a form of social and creative "work".

      How much work do these creators do on this front? How much is the writing and creating versus the management and community building? What else goes into it all?

      Compare and contrast the work done by individuals in the IndieWeb community.

    7. Early on, circa 2015, there was a while when every first-person writer who might once have written a Tumblr began writing a TinyLetter. At the time, the writer Lyz Lenz observed that newsletters seemed to create a new kind of safe space. A newsletter’s self-selecting audience was part of its appeal, especially for women writers who had experienced harassment elsewhere online.

      What sort of spaces do newsletters create based upon their modes of delivery? What makes them "safer" for marginalized groups? Is there a mitigation of algorithmic speed and reach that helps? Is it a more tacit building of community and conversation? How can these benefits be built into an IndieWeb space?

      How can a platform provide "reach" while simultaneously creating negative feedback for trolls and bad actors?

    8. The contemporary email newsletter is not a novel form; often it amounts to a new delivery system for the same sorts of content — essays, explainers, Q&As, news roundups, advice, and lists — that have long been staples of online media. (Subscribe to enough newsletters and sort them the right way, and it’s possible to re-create something like an RSS-feed reader.)

      Email delivery apparently isn't much different than RSS. What sorts of functionality do RSS readers provide over email in terms of search, filtering, and presentation? Surely RSS is more powerful at slicing and dicing one's reader data.

      How do all these different forms of content fit into the greater set of genres in Western culture?

    9. You’re sliding into their inbox every morning or every week, and your subscribers can just hit RESPOND and tell you what they think.

      There is something to be said about the potential forms of response that newsletters can have. Some have online versions where users can respond and be a direct part of the public conversation, but many also have the ability to reply directly and privately to the author.

      How common is this private reply and conversation? Does it contribute to the ecosystem significantly? This article indicates that it's possible and I've heard one or two people mention that it happens. I've yet to see data to indicate that it's a frequent thing though.

    10. Personas are still crafted, events exhaustively narrated, just now at industrial scale. The newsletters of today can be professional editorial operations, like Politico’s Playbook (which casts its readers as fellow Beltway insiders) or The Skimm (which casts them as brunch-drunk sorority sisters). They can also be scrappier, more idiosyncratic missives akin to personal blogs. Newsletters can be like newspaper columns, cut loose from institutional authority. They can be like podcasts that you cannot absorb while running errands, like zines without the photocopy static, like Instagram with the lifestyle recommendations rendered as text instead of subtext. Many newsletters partake in the limitlessly available navel-gazing of online media commentary. Newsletter writers describe the process of writing a newsletter; creators who monetize their personalities through their newsletters report on the ways that other creators are monetizing theirs.

      This seems a reasonable description of the depth and diversity of the newsletter idea.

    11. These are emails composed for an audience not of one friend but of many fans. These emails are newsletters.

      Indication of the morphing of long emails into newsletters.

      How does blogging fit into this space and continuum? Blogging as the expansion of ideas to test them out, garner feedback and evolve ideas over time?

    12. This article was featured in One Great Story, New York’s reading recommendation newsletter. Sign up here to get it nightly.

      How meta embedded in an article about newsletters...

  3. Apr 2021
    1. I have a feeling some of the money framing in the newsletter space is overblown. Some bigger names with pre-existing platforms (and by this I mean exposure, popularity, voices, and other possible media outlets already) have some serious upside to creating paid newsletters. Many of these platforms are trying to not only capture a slice of these pies, they're trying to leverage those same big names to actively make it seem to the average person that they too could have a paid newsletter (see how easy it is...). The reality is that many of these others are going to spend a lot of time and effort to try to garner pennies on the dollar or ultimately fail. This sort of game works much better in the YouTube space where self-hosting the video and doing distribution is a much higher bar. The VC space for newsletters is going to have a dreadful crash when folks realize that there's more competition in the space than they bargained for.

    2. And it’s easy to leave. Unlike on Facebook or Twitter, Substack writers can simply take their email lists and direct connections to their readers with them.

      Owning your audience is key here.

    3. Jessica Lessin, the founder and editor in chief of The Information, a newsletter-centric Silicon Valley subscription publication, said part of its edge was “sophisticated marketing around acquiring and retaining subscribers.”

      Knowing market efficiencies can significantly help some platforms. Not all platforms have this value built in. Many writers are unlikely to see this sort of value in places like Substack which are trying to buy in bulk while they're experimenting. What happens to well-paid writers a year from now when the experimentation ends or dies completely? Where do they take their business then?

      I don't see this ending well for most.

    4. (Substack has courted a number of Times writers. I turned down an offer of an advance well above my Times salary, in part because of the editing and the platform The Times gives me, and in part because I didn’t think I’d make it back — media types often overvalue media writers.)

      This is an important data point. Almost no one is putting any value on editing and other institutional support that outlets provide. Some writers can see at least a little bit of the future.

    5. Though Substack paid advances to a few dozen writers, most are simply making money from readers. That includes most of the top figures on the platform, who make seven-figure sums from more than 10,000 paying subscribers — among them Mr. Sullivan, the liberal historian Heather Cox Richardson, and the confrontational libertarian Glenn Greenwald.

      I keep hearing the same "top names" who are making seven figure sums. Where are the middling names and what are they making?

      Why is everyone touting the top and ignoring the snake oil being sold to those at the bottom who think this is going to pan out the same way for them?

    6. This new direct-to-consumer media also means that battles over the boundaries of acceptable views and the ensuing arguments about “cancel culture” — for instance, in New York Magazine’s firing of Andrew Sullivan — are no longer the kind of devastating career blows they once were. (Only Twitter retains that power.) Big media cancellation is often an offramp to a bigger income
  4. Mar 2021
    1. Ownership is the critical point here. Ownership in email in the same way we own a paperback: We recognize that we (largely) control the email subscriber lists, they are portable, they are not governed by unknowable algorithmic timelines.3 And this isn’t ownership yoked to a company or piece of software operating on quarterly horizon, or even multi-year horizon, but rather to a half-century horizon. Email is a (the only?) networked publishing technology with both widespread, near universal adoption,4 and history. It is, as they say, proven.

      This is very IndieWeb in flavor.

      It reminds me of Stanley Meyer who would read newspapers and magazines every day and cut out articles which he put into envelopes for his friends and children and mailed out every couple of weeks. Essentially his own newsletter, but by snail mail.

    1. I just wanted a way to send out my irregularly-updated newsletter to a couple thousand subscribers without getting caught in a spam filter.

      This is the short version of what Substack is and why people want to use it.

    2. Substack is taking an editorial stance, paying writers who fit that stance, and refusing to be transparent about who those people are.
  5. Feb 2021
  6. Dec 2020
    1. Newsletters still miss the networked conversations on the topics, which we know from social networks and forums. I expect that all systems will continue to develop well in the near future, which may include an optional conversation layer about the information.

      Frank, a networked newsletter will have the backlinks, but why not do the notifications and display of them using Webmention as a layer on top? Why not let a reader reply to the newsletter via email and then take that content and attach it to the newsletter like a comments section?

      Why not have all the things?

    2. Individuals and companies are discovering that direct contact with the reader via the mailbox is a lot easier and more interesting than the black holes of the social networks dictated by algorithms.
  7. Oct 2020
    1. Newport is an academic — he makes his primary living teaching computer science at a university, so he already has a built-in network and a self-contained world with clear moves towards achievement.

      This is one of the key reasons people look to social media--for the connections and the network they don't have via non-digital means. Most of the people I've seen with large blogs or well-traveled websites have simply done a much better job of connecting and interacting with their audience and personal networks. To a great extent this is because they've built up a large email list to send people content directly. Those people then read their material and comment on their blogs.

      This is something the IndieWeb can help people work toward in a better fashion, particularly with better independent functioning feed readers.

  8. Nov 2019
    1. In a world of publishing platforms that are dominated by venture capital-backed operations, (even the newsletter platform Substack has raised $17.5m in VC funding) this is a refreshing state-of-affairs. The Ghost Foundation has an annual run rate of $1.73m (and posts this publicly) — and hasn't taken VC money. Ghost was actually launched as a Kickstarter, which long-term readers might remember…  

      Something to watch with respect to this is Jonah Goldberg and Steven Hayes who are working with Substack to put out a membership driven news website.