A newsletter about newsletters

Full Stack Creator - 011

Welcome to the 11th installment of Full Stack Creator. As always, thank you for your time and attention!

Newsletters are starting to really come into their own. Over recent years writers have started to move from social platforms, blogging sites, and other mediums to newsletters that are delivered right to a reader's email inbox. Obviously, I believe in the power of newsletters or you wouldn’t be reading this. But what caused this topic?

Casey Newton’s transition from his daily newsletter, currently distributed via The Verge, to his private publication The Platformer.

In this installment, we will go over Casey’s transition, what it means for him, and why I believe this shift matters.

I have been a follower of Casey’s for years. I have truly enjoyed and respected his writing, both in the form of his newsletter and his larger pieces. Over the years his focus has shifted and changed, but it has always revolved around democracy and social media. As of late, it has been the convergence of the two and how they affect our lives.

A great example of this is “Bodies in Seats”, an exposé about Facebook moderation and how it has affected employees and contractors.

Casey has always been directly affiliated with a publication. Most recently The Verge, but before that Recode and the San Francisco Chronicle. When being affiliated with a publication, like the aforementioned, you are held to a standard, regardless if that truly describes you or your work. These days, more than in recent years, lines are drawn harder in the sand. People are defined and killed for what they believe in.

I am not going to go into what The Platformer is, and why you should read or subscribe. Casey has an about page that will tell you everything. If you choose to, I doubt you’ll regret it.

So why am I honing in on this shift for Casey so much? Well, he is not the only one. There are dozens of well-known writers, filmmakers, artists, etc., that are leaving companies to make the content they believe in. By going out on their own, they are no longer held to the standard or bias that comes along with being associated with any publication/company. They are free to make and say what they choose and even change their opinion, fluidly, in these strange times.

Casey, like myself, chose to publish on Substack. I chose to use Substack because of their straightforward and no B.S. approach.

A place for independent writing

Start a newsletter. Build your community. Make money from subscriptions.

Publishing is free, with no limits. We only make money when you do.

I have published on tools like Medium and Mailchimp, but these tools have evolved into things I do not believe in. I thought about building a no-code solution of my own, funneling my reader list to my website directly, but that didn’t seem like a good approach for me. Substack is exactly what it is, it does it well, and it is transparent about everything. It provides me the ability to decide if something is paid, what the cost, and how I want to handle it. Yes, they take a cut, but that is perfectly acceptable in my book.

The idea of newsletters, regardless of the platform, has been blowing up in general. Not only to have control of your image and words but also to own your content directly. Using tools like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, you are controlled by their limits and restrictions. They own all the users and accounts. Even if Substack disappeared tomorrow, I could export my list and go to a competitor or just make something of my own. If Facebook got shut down by the government, all your “friends“ would disappear with it.

I chose to create this newsletter because I did not only want to own my list, but I also wanted to keep my following smaller and intentional. Following someone on social has become a passive action, you just do it if it doesn’t feel bad. Subscribing to a newsletter takes more time. There are confirmation screens, you have to type, yes, type your email. Also, there is usually that pesky confirmation email, which drives your decision home. I wanted that. I don’t want to be an afterthought, I want you to know what I bring to the table and have you choose to hear what I have to say. I know I am not alone in this. Obviously, Casey made his decision for this reason, along with others. Creators all over the world do the same.
My next question is, do you think it is worth the cost? I do, honestly. I don’t charge anything for this letter and I have no foreseeable reason to charge in the near future. I believe people that are good, even great, at something should be empowered to do it full time. They should have control of their income. People should not have to do some bullshit day job and hustle 24/7 just to make things they love. I have done this and still do here and there. I have slowed down a lot, which I might get into sometime, but no one should have to. Yes, I know there are ad-supported models, but those are all grimy in my opinion. If we are not willing to pay with our money, we are paying with our information and likely our privacy. I have talked about this in Full Stack Creator - 004, but I can go into more detail if you would like in a future installment. I also know that not everyone is privileged enough to pay for their content. Some people need to take the free stuff. I do think if the privileged pay for their content, publications and creators could provide their work for free to the people that cannot otherwise pay. Yes, this requires people to willingly pay rather than be forced, but if the business truly cared and fostered a culture around this, it could be done.
To wrap this all up, direct to consumer content is the way of the future and newsletters are just the beginning. When writers and creators like Casey decide to make these big shifts, that future is getting closer by the day.