Is there too much friction to creating a newsletter?

I’ve been dabbling with newsletters for years but I always find there’s too much friction for me to stick to it. I work across iOS and macOS and all the solutions seem to inherit the same issues

  • No native iOS app
  • They are web based creation and sending that don’t always work particularly well on iOS

It’s why I enjoy blogging, there’s an app on my Home Screen where I can write up a post (like this one) whenever an idea comes to mind.

I think until there’s a friction free way to share via a newsletter I’ll always be a blogger first and wonder why I’m doing a newsletter in the first place.

Unfortunately it seems newsletters have become a way to add something to a membership these days and whilst that may work for some it’s not something I want to do, I just don’t see the value in locking this kind of content behind a paywall.

So, I’m rambling a bit to say

  • There’s too much friction (for me) in creating newsletters across platforms
  • I’m still undecided on if I’ll keep a newsletter going
  • I prefer blogging

One recent development I spotted on The Dent was the Hey email service looking at creating this friction free process and it might be the time that I jump in but for now I’ll put my newsletter on hold until I figure out why it’ll be of use, I don’t want to waste anyone’s time.

Do you need to find your blogs niche?

Finding a niche is what you’re told when reading the “how to build a blog” type posts but for me I just write things I’m passionate about.

I feel that people read my stuff to follow me rather than a particular topic. One day it could be something like this or another day a review of the latest iPhone.

I think of my blog as my own little social media platform controlled by me. I like to share thoughts on whatever comes to mind and there’s nothing wrong with that.

If your only goal is to make money (this isn’t sensible with a blog in 2021 BTW) then being recommended to choose a niche might make sense, constantly re-blogging others articles and chucking ads everywhere but it’s not what being a blogger is about.

It’s up to you what you feel is right but if you’re in it for fun – write about what you want.

Take a breath before you post

Taking a breather before posting something to social media or my blog is something that I’m trying to do more of. I’m trying to be more positive on my outlook and this gives me a chance to ask myself if I really want to post this right now.

This is one of the reasons you maybe notice I’m quieter on Twitter these days but I’m just trying to step back a little so it’s almost read only and a messaging platform to me these days.

My thoughts go on my blog, somewhere that’s mine.

As an aside I’ve become very conscious of the hubris in some top Apple podcasts and dropping almost all Apple or tech focussed ones has helped, I’ll write more on this soon.

I digress, what I’m trying to share is before you post read it back and think about if it’s really what you want to say or are you being driven by an emotion, like I am sometimes. I’ve ranted a lot less lately I like to think and whilst there’s nothing wrong with having a moan sometimes it’s not the default I want.

Focussing (and keeping going) on your own projects

I’ve found over the years that I tend to look over at other creative projects wishing that I’d gained some of their success or comparing myself to others. This often leads me down a path of wondering why I’m bothering but as times gone on I’ve come to accept what I’m doing and looking at them for inspiration rather than making me feel down about my own endeavours.

I’m not sure if a lot of other creative people feel this way but for me it’s been too easy to look over and see what others are achieving whilst in my mind my projects are all failures.

I do my best to keep my head down, figure out which projects I enjoy and focus on those rather than try to emulate others or take on too much.

I think that’s why I settled on blogging after realising I just wasn’t that good at video or podcasting. The writing side comes more naturally to me and I feel pretty open about sharing my thoughts here.

If you know what you enjoy doing then stick to it, don’t worry too much about what others are doing and don’t compare yourself.

Purchasing a WordPress business account

I’ve decided to invest in a WordPress business plan, something that has been made possible thanks to donations to my blog (a massive thanks to everyone that has contributed).

As an independent writer trying to make something of myself I’ve learned as I went along to be honest but with this extra time I have I’ve decided to use it positively and build the blog up a bit more and take advantage of the features to learn about plugins and a bit more about SEO.

I’m not sure where this takes me at the moment but I wanted to share the latest on where my head is at regarding the site.

Starting a newsletter

As with most creators these days I’ve decided to start a newsletter via substack, you can find it here. I’m doing a lot of thinking about where I’m creating content and with the pressure of being unemployed I’m thinking about where best I can share what I’m up to, some free and if paid then affordable to me. I’m not sure where this will lead but being completely honest I’m starting to look at ways of making some income from my writing to help support me in this time, this is mainly going to be via freelance if I get taken on somewhere but may end up being a paid membership or newsletter type scenario. I don’t think I have enough of an audience to turn this into something that will help me pay the bills but I need to be positive and think it may be something that at least will keep the lights on for the blog. I’ve just started on this journey and am planning on what content goes where all of the time at the moment so watch this space. (thanks in advance to those that are subscribing and thanks to those that have already supported me, it’s really appreciated).

The most important factor when I’m choosing a blogging platform

As I’m reviewing my creative projects versus what I can actually afford to keep going right now my blogging one stands out as a monthly outgoing I may need to divert elsewhere. I’m looking at free or cheaper alternatives to WordPress but one thing stands out to me – where do you write from the most?

For me that’s my iPhone, 90% of posts are written straight on my smartphone these days. I no longer really use an iPad for writing and my MacBook is mainly used for job seeking. My iPhone has become my most used device, which I wouldn’t have thought would be the case as we are at home so much but that’s where it’s landed for me.

So, my number one requirement when looking to make a move is how good is the mobile experience. This is everything from the editor to posting images.

I think you first have to look at which platform are you using the most and pick a system that offers as least resistance as possible.

Writing what you want and when you feel like it

As you may have figured I’ve been slowly coming to terms with not being able to make a living out of this project to support me in these times but it has an advantage – I can write about what I want, when I want.

I’ve had a tag line of sharing my passions here and for me that covers Apple, apps, productivity, movies (Star Wars), watches, Lego and collectibles.

Not having an agenda or pushing paid content lets me relax a bit and write a post just like this one. I have the WordPress app on my Home Screen, I fire it up and just write. In fact I don’t even keep a task list really of posts I want to write, well I do but never reference it. It mostly comes from out of my head into a blog post.

I don’t do outlines or big planning I just write.

Why I can’t recommend using Medium for your writing

I’ve been trying Medium for a day and I think I’m already done with it. I signed up for a free trial and wrote a few posts but I think it’s already giving me anxiety.

Let’s get the good stuff out of the way. The writing experience is very good, I like the clean editor and there’s no friction to publish.

Now onto the negatives…

Get rich quick

My timeline was full of “how I make $5,000 a day writing” or “3 ways that I’m better than you” posts – nothing good for my self esteem. In fact I could see no way to properly curate what you see in your timeline reading view. I simply can’t stand not being able to manage this, it’s one of reasons I never used the official Twitter app.

My writing isn’t suitable

The only articles that seem to get traction are like those above. The sorts of stuff I write isn’t going to be read. There’s so much content and you need to seem to be part of one of the publishing partners to “make it” on Medium. If you’re a small fry like me writing your daily thoughts then don’t bother, Medium isn’t for you.

Supporting creators

If you can afford it at £4.95 a month it seems a good idea to help support writers but only the top 5% probably get anything worthy out of it. If you want to support someone then support them directly via their own Patreon or Ko-Fi etc.

As a creator

If you’re a creator hoping to make money then it’ll be a long slog and remember you’ll be investing £4.95 a month too so that needs to offset what you’re making. Be prepared to spend £100’s to even get noticed. I’d rather put £10’s into my blog each year.

Wrap up

It takes a particular type of writing and personality to write on Medium I feel. Self improvement gurus and make money quick schemes are not what I’m about so it’s not for me – simple as that. I also want to calm the inputs in my technology life and Medium isn’t great at helping that. The app is more reader than writing and curating what you see seems pretty much impossible. If you’re like me on a traditional blog, writing a broad range of topics and thoughts as you get them don’t move to Medium.

My ultimate recommendation is stick to your own blog or start a new one, don’t start on Medium.

Is blogging in decline?

I still write here on my blog because I want to get things out of my head and into a form that I enjoy but I see a lot of others taking the move into video, podcasts or dropping their blog completely.

I’ve tried video back in 2008 and whilst I gained some small successes I ultimately found it wasn’t a platform I was comfortable with. I don’t like YouTube particularly and their algorithms I feel are responsible for some of where we are today.

I also found that I’m not comfortable being on video, know your weaknesses right? I hated reading the comments and unless you have the cash to make great content there’s likely 100’s of people who have already done a video on it.

Anyway, I digress, back to blogging.

Maybe blogging isn’t going away but the traditional days of having your own blog is going away in favour of something like Medium, a newsletter or social media.

For me I believe that you shouldn’t build your content completely on someone else’s platform. Having your own place on the internet is a good thing to do if you can afford to run it. I’m thankful I’ve have support to keep the lights on a little longer but I am looking long term and feeling a little concerned about its future.

After building up my little blog and ultimately not being able to turn it into something that helps me keep the lights on I have to admit I’m also looking to places like Medium to help fund me going forward. I’m actually going to cross post this to Medium as an experiment to see what happens.

I guess this is a bit of ramble to say I really have no idea where to go but I don’t think blogging is going away but it’s definitely evolving into something new.