Monday, January 20, 2020


JHC, I dunno if Colberg started it or if he was just following along, but in the wake of his idiotic "beyond social media" post apparently everyone in "photoland" is starting a newsletter. All ten of them.

I have to admit that I am deeply, deeply, allergic to anything that shoves content at me. I go to where the content is, on my schedule, it does not come to me. As far as I can, I adhere to the rule that if you're not interesting enough for me to go to the trouble to come to you, then you're not worth my time. No offense.

Anyways, there are many bits that are fun here. The first is that the overall conceit is that they're reverting to the Olden Dayes of the web, at precisely the moment that there are like a half-dozen venture-funded shithead firms building platforms for newsletters. It must be a coincidence.

Next up, newsletters are all about freeing ourselves from The Algorithm. This is a way of saying I'm not getting enough attention on my instagram or blog or whatever, and I think it's someone's fault. The great thing is that they're all using one of the venture-funded platforms, which will track their subscribers to within an inch of their lives, and attempt to monetize this a bunch of ways. It may not be The Algorithm, but it's jolly well Another Algorithm.

These platforms will track, at least: your subscription itself, when you open a newsletter, when you click a link in the newsletter, and where you are located, roughly, for every one of those events. This will all be squirrelled away, with context. They will know what your interests are, and how interested you are in them. Do you like Roland Barthes, or nudes? How much? All this will be associated with your email address and at some point in the future (when google buys them, or hackers steal their database, or some shit) that profile of you will be attached, by way of your email address, to some larger profile of you.

The fact that you're interested in Roland Barthes at work during the day, but mysteriously become interested in nude photos when on holiday, or after 2am, will eventually become known by someone you'd prefer not know that.

Perhaps when you unsubscribe all these data will be deleted. Or, perhaps not. Guess! Ha ha! Of course it will never, ever, be deleted. That data is money.

All this is doubly hilarious because every email application ever made has had some ability to send email to some sort of list of email addresses. You don't need to sign up with substack or buttondown, you can just figure out how aliases work in gmail. Then you.. just send email. And it goes out to everyone on the list. This probably stops working at a couple hundred addresses, but let's get real here.

Finally, nobody involved has an actual plan. Are they going to ditch the blog to focus on the newletter, or are they going to half-ass both of them, going forward? Is the blog going to drive traffic to the newsletter? Is the instagram going to drive traffic to the blog, and then to the newsletter? Where, exactly, do I go to find your fucking jewels of wisdom? Why are they all over the goddamned place? Oh look, here's your blog. DING! I have mail! Look, a newsletter. With a link to your instagram! You're like a damned one man Facebook, sucking my time and my life force! Well, you would be except you're boring and I stop pretty fast, unlike Facebook which uses a battalion of dudes with PhDs in holding my interest to, you know, hold my interest.

This is basic social media marketing: all your social media effort, whatever it is, pushes people to one (1) place, and that is where you put the good stuff. It doesn't matter if you're selling jet airplanes, yoga lessons, or just your own ego. A newsletter is either 1. The actual thing you do, 2. A device for directing people to the actual thing you do, or 3. A distraction. Usually, it is a distraction.

I predict that Jörg and a few others who are seen as influential will get a little wad of subscribers who will read the first couple. Then the newsletter writers will watch sadly as the beautifully rendered graph of "opens" in their Dashboard page on droops lower and lower. Nobody will unsub, because they hope Jörg is going to get them a book deal which will cost them $20,000 and gain them nothing. The non-influential people will get a dozen subscribers who will also not read the newsletters.

Generally speaking, of course. There might be a couple of these folks who really start pulling something together. They'll dump their blog, if they have one, and use instagram and TikTok or whateverthefuck to direct people to their newsletters, and if they have really interesting and compelling content they will gain a loyal band of readers. That'll be cool. It'll be like a blog, except with much more thorough tracking of the readers, less convenient to read, and thrust upon the readers periodically rather than waiting patiently for them to come back.

I might subscribe to a couple. I have a couple burner emails lying around.


  1. "a battalion of dudes with PhDs"

    Actually they're Stanford dropouts, tech bros in Zuckerberg's frat. They get drunk, stay drunk, paw female interns, and lose shitloads of money in bitcoin and lawsuits.

    1. Well, ok. But they've still got enough scale to do A/B testing and repidly/continuously evolve their platforms to mind-numbing additions. I suppose newsletter platforms will start to offer A/B testing too, but when you're doing something twice a month with 17 subscribers, it's a lot harder to get anywhere with it.

  2. Until these technodweebs learn how to roll their own (and it's not that hard, FFS), they'll always be stuck using somebody else's shitass 'platform.' Sad!

  3. Maybe you could do a post on who is "everyone in photoland" blog-wise, from your point of view. It would be interesting to know also, what other blogs your readers find worth following. I like your blog for the way you address the broader social and cultural dimensions of photography.