I agree that this isn’t the focus of the blog, but I was interested to pursue this post from a purely technical standpoint. I have verified my stance against the idea of a “newsletter”. They are projecting outliers- a few individuals who rake in more money than others combined and showing a path to profitability.
I have been upfront about why I keep the blog- it is to align the mental Lego blocks to create something different. We are often tied to the ideas of originality, but I prefer to highlight specific portions and then attribute it to the source. It helps to keep the narrative flowing.
So, when Twitter acquired Revue, it was not surprising. I refrain from making any political statements here (publicly at least),but the idea of concentration of power (and ability to shape opinions) is extremely disturbing. We have these inflection points and free speech means the ability to accept a differing opinion.
The newsletter “revolution” is nothing but a system to push out the “blogs” into content consumption through the inbox (because that’s the users are familiar with). However, I tried searching again for an option and realised that existing platforms are inept for my specific needs. Infrastructure costs are minimal, as it doesn’t need much resources to set it up. I went with WordPress here because I can port out my data and pay for the privilege of customer support (if the things go down). Besides, it takes away the hassle of finding the right host and a unified billing. I don’t even keep the infrastructure for the email delivery because it is too tedious.
Yet, when you are trying to set up a new business, unless you own the infrastructure, it is not worth it. The key insights on customer acquisition stay with the platforms hosting your newsletter while the marketing emphasises that you could “design beautiful newsletters” with some fancy typography.
I don’t know how long will an acquired company stays “independent”. My concern is the promises made to the prospective readers for a “gainful and wholesome experience” and drive strategies for gaining paid subscribers- content be damned. The algorithms have messed up with the reading experience on the social media sites and remains an extreme example of how machine learning shouldn’t be deployed. There are pressing concerns during the pandemic with some layoffs etc and many journalists were forced to look in the options for paid newsletters. However, these would fall at the mercy of algorithms- and further solidifying the echo chambers.
My experience in supporting “independent journalism” has been a mixed bag- while I will put up with a differing political ideology, the lack of course correction or a platform to air in my dissenting views doesn’t bode well for the growth of a platform. You might choose to complain to the editor about the misreporting but the publications are “usually” agenda driven, which is dictated by the investor dollars. I find it odd that “independent journalism” can survive free of the investor diligence because media houses have the power to shape opinions. It represents a further polarisation because most readers have lost the idea of “truth”. That’s why we need independent blogs to challenge the hegemonies. It is a slow curation process, but the choices are tough to make. It is easier to be part of the system (algorithmic mess) when you have a family to feed and therefore you make only salutatory noises towards the “ethics”.
Aligning with the big tech for “news” is a bad idea because they are part of the problem. If your product manager emphasises “cost per impression” and “views” as the metric and a constant badgering of “tweets and re-tweets”, there is something wrong. The algorithms have a slant of picking up the “sensational stories” and randomly chosen “trends”. If these are becoming the mainstream for those who write for a living, they should pause and think.
Digital medium has become “ephemeral” without a semblance of “constancy”. There is no single source of truth now and we are amid complex transitions shaped by a chosen few. The democratic ideals are under a constant erosion and the world is changing subtly because most users refuse to get out of the “social media bubble”.