In the past year I’ve launched a twice-weekly national podcast, been diagnosed with ADHD, written a bunch of cool features for premium outlets, and done a host of interviews on radio/audio/video shows.
But it seems like no more than 72 of my 10,000-plus Twitter followers ever found out about any of those things. For a professional creative who’s spent over a decade building his Twitter account as his main self-promotional tool, this is a problem.
About four years ago, I thought making a newsletter might be the only way writers could build an audience without being beholden to the whims of vulture capitalists. I thought it…but I didn’t do it.
Each time I saw another writer launch another newsletter, I winced; I knew I was missing the early-adoption window. Then, heavy hitters from traditional platforms started getting six- and seven-figure checks to dominate everyone’s inboxes. Finally, the Substack Bro backlash made it obvious that newsletters had become just like Twitter accounts and small fortunes: grown only by starting with a larger one.
Yet, the newsletters that have taken root feel very much like the old-school blogosphere: small, personal, sown by hand and watered with love. It’s that same fertile soil in which writers grew until 2013, when Google salted the earth.
Donald Trump’s ascent, election and administration juiced Twitter’s engagement numbers with high-octane rageohol–and they restructured the entire platform to burn hate-fuel with maximum efficiency. But now that the 24/7 outrage flames are cooling, it’s clear the right-wing wingnuts who complained about being “shadowbanned” a couple years ago weren’t completely wrong.
Turns out we’re all being shadowbanned.
Twitter now suppresses off-site links–not only depriving writers, artists, podcasters and streamers of the attention their followers signed up to give, but depriving readers and watchers of all the content they signed up to get. Though I’ve always lost followers who wanted me to “stick to sports” (or whichever topic they first followed me for), I thought those who stayed would be true fans, willing to follow wherever my passions led me.
The lack of engagement lately made me wonder if the people who hadn’t unfollowed yet were actually the ones who cared the least about whether I was in their timelines or not.
How could I reconnect with the people who like me and my work?
This summer, I’ve taken a hard look at every available digital-media platform and how I engage with it. I’ll be launching all kinds of new content ventures in a bid to see where people like me and where people don’t. I’ve got a couple of upcoming debut bylines I’m really excited about, and I’d love for those pieces to be seen and shared.
Hence: “Gimme Schalter.” Kids, ask your grandparents.
So besides my weekly ruminations on media, sports, politics, tech, beer or whatever’s itching its way out of my fingers, I’ll also be linking to cool stuff I’m doing everywhere else online. Inspired by my friend Aidan Moher’s Astrolabe, I’ll also be including behind-the-scenes bits on some of that work - complete interviews that were only quoted in the finished work, the research that inspired the charts and graphs, and all kinds of other bonus content. There’ll also be wholly original, newsletter-only stuff like reviews of shows, games, and books (There’s an ARC heading my way right now that’s going to touch all the bases, I’m sure of it).
Of course, I’ll also be offering personal recommendations on posts, pods, and VODs that delighted or inspired me in the previous week. Kinda like this:
Having been half-raised in Evangelical culture, I know well that a factual retelling of the origins and history of the movement would be the very last thing they’d want to read. This does everything a review should: Gets to the heart of the work, adds a layer of opinion and evaluation, and leaves you wanting to experience the work for yourself. My journey away from that culture and back to Christianity shares similarities with Jennifer’s, and her The Dirtbag Christian newsletter is a great place for more insightful soul-baring on matters of the soul.
Almost a quarter of a million words and Lord knows how many hours later, Football Perspective’s Bryan Frye has compiled a list of the 1,000 best players in pro football history. It represents what he described as “a pretty well-reasoned and informed opinion,” and going through his arguments and methodologies it’s quite well-reasoned and informed. I also fully endorse his choice for No. 1.
Smart, funny conversation on all kind of culture and topics, and the most recent episode’s discussion around Juvenile’s ‘Vax That Thang Up’ laid me out. Panelist John Brown II is a fellow soccer guy, stringed-instrument enthusiast, creative, and Michigander.
Bummed about the horrific labor abuses at Frito-Lay’s Topeka, KS plant? Wanna support the striking workers’ union and their call for a boycott? Try Michigan’s own spectacular Better Made chips, and then tell Frito-Lay you’re supporting the boycott. The worker who took my call was VERY glad to hear from me. Oh, and yeah, I know that direct order link goes to Amazon, but hey–there is no ethical consumption under capitalism.
Speaking of capitalism, here’s where I’m supposed to ask you for money. I’m not going to, at least not any time soon. But I promise you’ll get your non-money’s worth: If you dig anything I do, or you dig anything I dig, you’ll dig having this in your inbox.
Some of the content will be mirrored to my Dot-Com, or my Medium site, or vice versa. I’ve also created a new digital hub at Spore, where all my various articles, videos, posts, podcast episodes, Tweets, ‘grams, 'Toks, etc. will be there for the clicking.
But at least for now, Gimme Schalter will be a totally free way to not only get my longer-form takes on everything, but keep up with everything I’m putting out there right now–and everything I’ve got in the works, from writing novels to streaming video games.
As I kid, I always knew I could write. At 27, I set out to prove it. Now, I’m just a few months shy of 40–and while I long ago proved I can turn a phrase, land a pitch and hit a deadline, my passions to find the truth and tell the story burn hotter than ever.
So believe me when I say that from the bottom of my heart, I do and will treasure every single person who reads this post, clicks any of these links, or (golly) subscribes.