Where I hope to go (just NOT with SubStack)
Uncomfortable center, yes. Substack and friends, no.
A couple of months ago, NiemanLab republished what Casey Newton learned from a year on Substack, that is plenty of details and tips about leaving a media company and start your own publication. The excerpts below show some of the reasons why I aim to do something similar here, what I do NOT want to do like Newton, and why this may be relevant for everybody.
What is good in being (for lack of a better term…) an independent essayst
“A job that feels more durable, and sustainable, than any other employment I’ve had. In the past, to lose my job might require only a bad quarter in the ad market, the loss of an ally in upper management, or the takeover of my company by some indifferent telecom company. Today, I can really only lose my job if thousands of people decide independently to “fire” me.”
How to be an independent essayst that MATTERS
“The best shot at retaining real independence is to position myself at the uncomfortable center of [many different] groups.”
Two points where I differ from Newton
One is just due to a difference in skills. My own goal is to provide time-insensitive, always valid food for thought, instead of “breaking news [that] capture the moment”. Not just because that, not news, is what I really care about, but also because I know I could not do that undefinitely. Stealing Newton’s own words, “every minute I spend reporting is a minute I’m not writing”, and by now I know that my own brain handles reporting much worst than writing, no matter how hard I try.
But the really important difference, the one that everybody should be aware of, is in where to do the writing. I do it here, on a website I run myself without any external pressure or control on visitors, without any risk that Substack, or anybody else, may cancel it at any time, or make of it an environment that I myself would want to leave as quickly as possible. All the reasons why I do not write on anything like SubStack become every year more valid
Image source: Hieronymus Bosch, as found in “Why Substack sucks”, March 2021.