I Was Really Tempted to Give This One a Bad Campaign Fundraising Email Subject Line

Casey is COUNTING on your support!

My friend Casey was laid off today (along with a number of other talented people, including other friends and former colleagues of mine) in one of digital media's ritual purges, usually carried out to make numbers in a spreadsheet look good so that a few people who "got in early" can cash out. She has a Substack and you should check it out.

I also think you should check out the paid newsletters of all my other friends, former colleagues, and also the writers I just like. And, obviously, you should also subscribe to The AP (Alex Pareene) Newsletter, which is this newsletter. Boy, all of that is starting to add up, to read a lot of writers whose work used to be advertiser-subsidized, instead of you-subsidized!

The AP (Alex Pareene) Newsletter is an independent, reader-supported newsletter, and this is where I (Alex Pareene) decided to put the first subscribe button in this email.

Apologies for the late hour of this post (letter?), though I'm currently on the West Coast so I promise it's not weird that I'm up this late not-blogging. At the beach this afternoon I was thinking about the oddity of a bunch of friends subscribing to each other's newsletters, which is basically like everyone in the group passing around the same $50-$70 dollars. Except Substack and Stripe get a cut of it! Surely my friend Libby (author of Sick Note, which you should subscribe to) would be better off just Venmoing Casey for advice on getting swole. At least when we all took turns picking up the tab for layoff drinks we got some karaoke out of it.

It occurred to me (not for the first time, I do not think this is an original observation) how profoundly anti-solidaristic this model is. In the abstract, it costs me nothing to tell you to subscribe to my friend Casey's newsletter, but of course Casey gaining subscribers does not help me, nor does my gaining subscribers help my friend Ashley (whose Substack you should definitely subscribe to!). We're chasing the exact same dollars. (Yours.) The logic of this platform encourages an author not just to differentiate themself from others but, for those wishing to follow that logic to its ruthless and inevitable end, to make those others into antagonists. A group of like-minded people can join together to promote one another, with a few of the positive network effects of the old-fashioned publication (the more-read or more-established introducing their audience to the less-read or less-established), but any attempt to make it easier for the consumer to read all of them—like, for example, with discounts—would just cannibalize the potential income of each individual member of the collective. My friends (I have so many!) at the employee-run Traditional Website Defector (you should subscribe!) don't need to worry that subscribing to read Laura Wagner means you’re less likely to also pay for Tom Ley, or that offering a Drew-and-Bert package means Drew and Bert each make less than they would on their own. Under the newsletter model, the most profitable thing Ley could do would probably be to turn on all his Defector colleagues and write a lot of posts (letters?) about how they are traitors to the cause of writing good sports blogs.

Anyway, what I'm getting at is that the Fed should give every American a newsletter stipend, not simply because it would help all the unemployed and underemployed writers, but because direct government subsidies would discourage the worst behaviors this platform currently practically demands. Maybe next week I will pitch this idea to Adam Tooze, who is not a friend but whose newsletter you should subscribe to.

Finally, on a completely unrelated note, The AP (Alex Pareene) Newsletter is the newest member of Discontents, the left-wing Substack collective. You should subscribe to the weekly newsletter! 


Note: My posts (letters?) will basically always be professionally edited, but even though I promise it’s not weird that I’m still up, it is still pretty late, and I didn't want to bug Tommy.

Update: This went out to the email subscribers with an extraneous word in the very first sentence so next time I will just bug Tommy.