📬 Newsletters, mailing lists 🧾

Friday, March 27, 2020 :: Tagged under: blurb pablolife culture. ⏰ 4 minutes.

Hey! Thanks for reading! Just a reminder that I wrote this some years ago, and may have much more complicated feelings about this topic than I did when I wrote it. Happy to elaborate, feel free to reach out to me! 😄

🎵 The song for this post is Short Skirt Long Jacket, by Cake. 🎵

Harry Potter and the Dursleys, covered in envelopes.

My word, mailing list software! We have a lot of it! Off the top of my head, I can name:

How about you WRITE BLOGS, PEOPLE?!

Okay lol, there are good reasons to not write blogs. This is… more trouble than I think most people are willing to put into it. There's a lot to unpack: why newsletters are a thing again for the authors, why they're a thing for the reader, and why they're getting bigger now. I think they fulfill a lot of what's great about blogs and social media while avoiding some of the major disadvantages of either.

Let's do a bit of an Internet publishing recap: first, there were blogs, which was a great way to get one's message out without a middleman. Blogs eventually became saturated, spammy, and institutionalized in their own ways, but the ecosystem worked well enough for the predominant Internet audience at the time.

Then four things happened from about 2007-2012:

With this, it got harder to be a blog, and we had the era of feeds. From a publisher/subscriber standpoint, this changed a lot of dynamics; one of my favorite explainers is this favorite is this old Veritasium video:

tl;dr you have to pay Facebook to reach the people who have explicitly asked to receive your content. And, worse, it won't even do it that well. Also, piracy: people posting videos from one platform and re-posting it to the other let other people profit off your work. Creators… hate this.

But readers? A lot say they hate it, but it is really hard to move people away from feeds. Attention is finite, and it's nice to have a curated list of things to look at that is reasonably good at being interesting. While the ads suck, and you may miss some updates you would have liked to see, I strongly believe they prefer this over having to hunt or manage content themselves. You'd know this if you've ever watched most Internet users manage an RSS reader: they panic at unread counts, realize a lot of what most people post is boring, and have no way to feel communal engagement with the content (they leave comments for authors, or share with friends to put on their feeds).

So to go back to mailing lists, creators like them because:

Readers like them, too:

I think they're fun, and subscribe to a few. I've thought of building my own (I own mcfeely.app, after Mr. McFeely from Mister Roger's Neighborhood) and might still. Email is the cockroach of internet freedom: while Google will probably make plays to centralize over time, it's one of the few surviving, successful protocols left. We don't build API's or protocols like we used to (the Internet getting Clear Channel-ed), so let's bunker down in the one we've got. It's another reason I like the SourceHut focus on email over pull requests.

Additional links:

Mike Isaac on "the new social network that isn't new at all."

Substack receiving $15.3m in funding. I was initially baffled by this, but now think it's one of two things:

Thanks for the read! Disagreed? Violent agreement!? Feel free to drop me a line at , or leave a comment below! I'd love to hear from you 😄