Rebundling content, rebuilding connections

“It’s one thing to pay $40 or $50 for a single newsletter from a writer you adore. It’s quite another thing to suddenly be faced with a newsroom’s worth of them, all charging more than most of your Hearst or Condé Nast annual subscriptions.”

I strongly suspect 2021 will be a year in which we see the rebundling of independent-creator content and the rebuilding of connections between content creators, in the form of a return to blogging.

It’s one thing to pay $40 or $50 for a single newsletter from a writer you adore. It’s quite another thing to suddenly be faced with a newsroom’s worth of them, all charging more than most of your Hearst or Condé Nast annual subscriptions. In fact, so many newsletters were launched in 2020 that the cost problem has become a bit of a Twitter joke.

“Food: $200. Data: $150. Rent: $800. Substacks: $4,000. Utility: $150. Somebody who is good at the economy please help me budget this. My family is dying,” tweeted Bria Sanford, editorial director of the Sentinel publishing imprint, recently.

The rebundling will work in two ways. Newsletters will become more magazine-like as the most successful practitioners bring on interns, designers, and even staff writers or contributors, offering more than single-voice value to subscribers. And sites will work on ways to again distribute or display curated bundles of content from writers — though in a 2021 twist, the curator may be the subscriber rather than an editor on high — which people will read on either a website or through an app, not only in their inboxes.

The total pandemic-related collapse of normal in-person society has also transformed the desire for connection from a baseline attribute of being human into an acute unfilled need. So for as long as we lack Covid-19 vaccine herd immunity, digital spaces will continue to pick up the slack. Blogging was at its core about conversation, and as newsletters become more blog-like, we’ll see a return of the longer-form call-and-response digital media of yore amongst people who are looking to build distinctive, circumscribed audiences rather than make a mass media play.

Actual old-school blogging — because you have something to say and want to have a public voice at greater than Twitter length — is also ripe for a comeback in a world yearning for the informal, experimental, and quirkily original, especially after a decade that saw the absorption and professionalization of new media figures and techniques. And I for one can’t wait to read those new and old voices in conversation with each other again. Hopefully all on one page.

Garance Franke-Ruta is the executive editor of GEN, a Medium publication.

I strongly suspect 2021 will be a year in which we see the rebundling of independent-creator content and the rebuilding of connections between content creators, in the form of a return to blogging.

It’s one thing to pay $40 or $50 for a single newsletter from a writer you adore. It’s quite another thing to suddenly be faced with a newsroom’s worth of them, all charging more than most of your Hearst or Condé Nast annual subscriptions. In fact, so many newsletters were launched in 2020 that the cost problem has become a bit of a Twitter joke.

“Food: $200. Data: $150. Rent: $800. Substacks: $4,000. Utility: $150. Somebody who is good at the economy please help me budget this. My family is dying,” tweeted Bria Sanford, editorial director of the Sentinel publishing imprint, recently.

The rebundling will work in two ways. Newsletters will become more magazine-like as the most successful practitioners bring on interns, designers, and even staff writers or contributors, offering more than single-voice value to subscribers. And sites will work on ways to again distribute or display curated bundles of content from writers — though in a 2021 twist, the curator may be the subscriber rather than an editor on high — which people will read on either a website or through an app, not only in their inboxes.

The total pandemic-related collapse of normal in-person society has also transformed the desire for connection from a baseline attribute of being human into an acute unfilled need. So for as long as we lack Covid-19 vaccine herd immunity, digital spaces will continue to pick up the slack. Blogging was at its core about conversation, and as newsletters become more blog-like, we’ll see a return of the longer-form call-and-response digital media of yore amongst people who are looking to build distinctive, circumscribed audiences rather than make a mass media play.

Actual old-school blogging — because you have something to say and want to have a public voice at greater than Twitter length — is also ripe for a comeback in a world yearning for the informal, experimental, and quirkily original, especially after a decade that saw the absorption and professionalization of new media figures and techniques. And I for one can’t wait to read those new and old voices in conversation with each other again. Hopefully all on one page.

Garance Franke-Ruta is the executive editor of GEN, a Medium publication.

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