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All the News(letters) that’s fit to print

An intriguing recent trend in online publishing is based on an old stand-by in the print business: newsletters. These new online newsletters are published for exactly the same reason as the old newsletters….because there’s just too much information out there and we need somebody to curate the information, squeeze it into a digestible format and send it to me where I live. Only now, we live online.Even a monkey can do it....

The trend started several years ago with a software/subscription service called “Substack.” Substack allowed users to create quick and dirty newsletters about anything and send them off to people who wanted to read what the authors had to say. The basic service was free. Of course, if you wanted the bells and whistles you could subscribe for a monthly fee. And best of all – with the paid version – you could start charging people to read your stuff.

Substack was supposed to be the next big thing (see Second Life, pet rocks, Pokemon Go and Theranos). Journalists and authors were flocking to the platform because, reportedly, vast sums of money could be made for struggling writers by charging subscription fees to the great unwashed and uninformed.

Then, word leaked that Substack was paying high-ish profile authors to be on the platform and promoting all the money they made….in order to draw lesser-ish authors and their monthly subscription fees. Again, not necessarily illegal but decidedly unethical.

On the plus side, I subscribe to several newsletters that are, actually, very helpful. I don’t know if they are on the Substack platform or on one of their competitors but here’s a sampling:

  • The Chronicle of Higher Education newsletter is a quick, daily peek at the woes of higher ed.
  • The NY Times newsletter does a daily round-up of newsworthy items and, usually does a deep dive on one particular subject like mask mandates, supreme court decisions or QAnon. (You also get access to the daily “Spelling Bee” and “Mini-Crossword” woo-hoo!)
  • Muck Rack – This is an interesting newsletter from an online public relations firm that surveys the news of the day and highlights the journalist or publication responsible. Most of the news items, lately, are very depressing: elections, conspiracies, natural disasters, government coups, etc. Occasionally a nice story is featured – for comic relief – and there is always a question of the day that ranges from serious to silly. It’s a nice mid-day read. For instance:  

“Yesterday we asked: What actor used to register at hotels using the name “Lord Greystoke”?

Answer: That was Marlon Brando. Supposedly, his favorite fictional character was Tarzan, aka Greystoke.”

Who knew?

So, I invite you to investigate the new/old medium of newsletters at substack. You just might find something interesting.

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