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If you’re looking for the model of the modern, successful creative, Greg Pak is a good start. Multimedia (from making films to making comics), multi revenue stream – writing a lot of Marvel comics is fine, but running multiple successful Kickstarters is fine too – and if you read his Twitter, he can even make a meal from odds and ends in the fridge.

In a new blog post, Pak is one of many creators who advocates for a return to email and the newsletter platform for creators to reach supporters. The reason: too many of the larger social media platforms are unstable:

As the years passed, I sent out fewer and fewer newsletters and spent more and more time on social media. Social media was easier, and let’s be honest — it was more fun. At first it seemed like we were all just goofing around on Twitter, telling ourselves it was good publicity but mostly just cracking jokes. But Twitter proved its enormous value when I started doing Kickstarters. Without Twitter, we’d have been hard pressed to drum up the kind of support we did for Code Monkey Save World, The Princess Who Saved Herself, ABC Disgusting, and Kickstarter Secrets.

But with each passing day, the culture and administration of Twitter seems to get more overwhelmed with negativity and harassment. Something’s going to break. And when it does, where does that leave all of the creatives and freelancers who have put so much of their outreach efforts into the site?

Pak also points out the recent, disastrous missteps of Patreon.

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Pak thinks it through and has decided that the old fashioned one to one of newsletter to email is more likely to survive the changes of social media platforms. After picking the WordPress Plugin MailPoet for various reasons, he’s back to building up his own database of fans.

Most importantly, I’m building a list that will survive the collapse of any individual social network or internet service. I’m not at all planning to abandon all the other services I use overnight. Any tool that still works is a tool I’m going to use. But there was a point not too long ago when I was concerned with making sure I was pushing people who had subscribed to my email newsletter to follow me on Twitter. Now I’m realizing I got that exactly backward. I’m going to use all of these tools, but I’m going to use them all to grow my email list. Because as long as email endures, this list will endure, and I’ll have a way to reach my readers.

Warren Ellis, the pioneer of using the internet to build a fanbase, has a successful newsletter (18,000+ subscribers) and has also been pondering the state of internet outreach lately in his missives.

In the coming week, I plan to make an actual list of all the newsletters I get, and run that list for you with the appropriate links, because the Republic Of Newsletters is still more interesting than social media.  From the venerable Recomendo to the deep space-wonk of Moon Village Association. If you’ve thought about starting your own, use Tinyletter - it’s really easy and your first 5000 subscribers are free.  Join us.

And if you’re already doing a newsletter?  You should probably email and tell me.

It’s all going to be Facebook now, people. The apps I like/use the most, Instagram and WhatsApp, are owned by Facebook.  Not enough of my friends and comrades have migrated to Signal. Snapchat’s going to die. Tumblr’s going to die or go into a LiveJournal-like half-supported half-life somewhere. Twitter’s poisoned.  Facebook survives by strength of numbers alone, despite being horrible and ugly and poorly-functional and generally damaging to health. Being the only option left does not and will not make it a good choice.

Zig when they zag. Build something else. It’s not always reactionary to dig up an old tool and use it for alternative communications. Sometimes it’s a little bit seditionary. Sometimes it’s just the warm smile of receiving a letter that isn’t a bill.

One thing about the newsletter format though: it’s one way, without lessened ability for dialog with reader. On social media, the idea of creators as accessible started out awesome, but then led to toxic twitter wars where a few creators treated fans like shit, and fans and comics twitter reacted with anger and suspicion. In other words: a toxic stew where no one is safe.

I’ve long (long) been thinking about platforms and internet media and my observation has been this:

• Own your content*** and keep it on a platform that YOU can control. Think about who is making money off your content and how and make decisions accordingly. I.e. Facebook is datamining your grief over your father’s death and will never make a decision that chooses compassion over money.

• Stick with your best languages. I’ll never be a master of video or Snapchat, so I’ll stick with writing words in paragraphs and fashioning them into essays. That’s what I do best, and my efforts in other media will always be second rate.

High on the to do list for the Beat 4.0 is….a newsletter! We’ll probably use MailPoet since it syncs with WP so well.

With the whole world reduced to the comments section, we’re going to see a lot more one way communication from creators. Just a hunch.

***Until you don’t, of course, but get the going rate for it.

5 COMMENTS

  1. It’s been dismaying to watch, these past few years, as users have *voluntarily* abandoned the open web in favor of proprietary, closed networks. It seems like we just got away from AOL, and now everybody’s joining up with AOL 2.0. On purpose.

    The internet is built on open platforms, protocols, and software. People are surrendering all those benefits to private companies that don’t have their best interests in mind, solely because everybody else is doing it.

    On the plus side, at least it gives them a place to send all their stupid chain emails other than my inbox.

  2. update: it does work, kinda. Initially it tells you the email address you entered isn’t valid. Then 20 mins later something shows up in your inbox asking you to confirm your subscription. That’s a really poor user experience.

    I’m going to disagree with Greg Pak’s DIY philosophy here. That WP plugin might be cool but its obviously buggy, which will turn off a lot of people. Go with one of the bigger services that specializes in this stuff, to be sure they’re on top of the small things and you’ll look like you’re on the cutting edge of coolness. If they ever close down, you’ll have lead time to find a new solution. I get what he’s saying about protecting yourself from corporate tech, but going pure DIY with web stuff often makes you look sloppy and small-time IMO unless you’re a super pro developer.

    That all being said, love the idea of newsletters coming back. I subscribe to a few and they’re fun as long as they stay interesting. I don’t know if a lot of creators can pull that off weekly, but its a cool avenue.

  3. Start at MailChimp (free for smaller lists). If your list gets really big, move to one of the more professional ones where you can split your list up, create funnels, create freebies to get more subscribers, etc. Digital Marketing 101.

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