pointerOn newsletters

Robin Rendle:

It bothers me that writers can’t create audiences on their own websites, with their own archives, and their own formats. And they certainly can’t get paid in the process. (Although yes, there are exceptions).

This. I love the newsletters I’ve subscribed to — but I love them because of their content, not their format. There is not a single one of them that I wouldn’t prefer as a blog. Blogs are better under every aspect — it just makes so much more sense to publish content in a way that’s reusable, searchable, linkable, and so on.

And I’ve come to the same conclusion as Robin, newsletters exist because they’re easy to subscribe to. It’s one click, two if they’re asking you to verify your email. How do you subscribe to a blog? RSS, right. I’m a big fan of RSS, but first you need to explain what it is, then how it works, then pick a reader — it’s just not as simple.

To me, newsletters look like an accident of the monopoly of a few platforms, in the sense that they provide a channel devoid of algorithmic sorting or filtering. But they aren’t better than the web. Were we to have built a subscription functionality in the browser (RSS but for everyone), they’d occupy a less central space.

But — here we are, in a world where to subscribe to content it either needs to belong to a network or else it will be delivered to me via email. Again, quoting Robin:

[W]riters choose a newsletter service like Substack because the business model is straightforward. I just sort of wish this infrastructure was built into websites themselves. […]

The web today is built for apps — and I think we need to take it back.

It’s gotten harder, rather than easier, to put something online without going through a platform.