The Looking Glass Dispatch


Like many people, I decided to launch a newsletter. I read a lot about “best practices” and tried to follow advice in resources like the GNI Startups Playbook. The first thing to do, of course, was to figure out what the hell I was going to write about. After considering climate change (too much competition), I decided what the world really, really needed was a newsletter about the failures of the mental healthcare system. Obviously, I know how to have fun.

The next step was deciding on a platform. Do you think that was easy? No, that was not easy. There’s so many. Substack, Ghost, Beehiiv. Those are just a few. I could even use this platform for newsletters, I guess, but I really don’t know how to do that yet. Anyway, I started with Beehiiv, but all their good features cost dolares. So, no, I’m not going to take the risk. Substack, I decided, would be my platform. Which was all fine and good until it was revealed that Nazis were profiting off of it.

Thing is, I don’t know what upsets me more: That the fascists were able to monetize an audience and that I haven’t or that Substack was allowing this to happen. Of course, we all know batshit lunacy sells in the American marketplace of toxic ideas.

Eight months later, I’m still at it. The newsletter, if you want to subscribe, is called The Receptor. It’s kind of an experiment to see if I can learn how to build an audience. It’s also a way to keep doing some journalism. Maybe I’ll make a few bucks so that I can start a college fund for my daughters.

If I was smart, I would turn this into a how-to article about what to do to create a successful newsletter. But I have not yet created a successful newsletter. It’s not as easy as you might think! Also, everyone seems to want create a newsletter these days. It’s like blogging, except I get to send the blog posts to inboxes when I publish them. Yeah, it’s annoying. Because a gazillion other people are sending email newsletters to inboxes.

(And, yes, I realize that being on Substack may be seen some as an implicit endorsement of their platforming of unsavory characters, but it really is not. I just have not figured out which platform to switch to yet).

#newsletters #media #mentalhealth

Hundreds of journalists are now unemployed after eight-month-old media startup The Messenger folded yesterday. Staffers learned they didn’t have jobs from news reports, instead of from their managers. This is terrible, and my heart goes out to them and their families. Blame for this needs to be directed toward the startup’s founders, especially media entrepreneur Jimmy Finkelstein, who arrogantly believed that they could spend their way out of what was widely considered a stupid business strategy of a bygone era, as Nieman Lab highlighted in May 2023:

The Messenger thinks it will reach 100 million monthly uniques on the back of bland aggregation. (That’s only slightly smaller than The New York Times’ audience.) It thinks it can support a 550-person newsroom on programmatic advertising. The Messenger thinks the right pitch for a site funded by Republican megadonors and run by the guy who brought the world John Solomon is: “We’re the unbiased ones!”

The failure is already being seen as one of the most significant, rapid collapses in the history of news. It follows weeks of terrible news for media workers, including historic layoffs at The Los Angeles Times. Prominent journalists had been lured away by The Messenger from relatively secure jobs at other major news organizations to join the startup. The question now: What kind of industry is left to employ them?