Reader, Can You Spare a Dime?
I knew I could count on you
[If you don’t want to read this whole long thing, here’s the tl;dr version: This daily newsletter is “going paid,” in Substack’s parlance, and I hope you’ll help me out by buying a subscription.]
I’m at a crossroads here, friend.1 Career-wise, that is, if what I’ve been doing for most of my adult life can be called a career.
A little over 20(!) years ago, I started blogging after getting fired from my job editing computer books and video game guides when the dot-com bubble burst. I was struggling to get a freelance editing career started and had a lot of downtime, and everybody was talking about these newfangled “weblog” things. This was way back in the days before Twitter or Facebook or Instagram or germ theory or the wheel. So I started a blog. Some people seemed to enjoy my writing, the feedback was instant, and it didn’t cost me anything but time. I said whatever I wanted and people either liked it or didn’t, both of which were equally valid.
I spent about a decade click-clacking away on various blogs for little or no money, making a modest name2 for myself. In 2010, I finally started making a living at blogging, thanks to the whim of a dude named Tucker who liked my stuff and was starting a news site. It was never an enormous sum of money, but I was making enough to pay rent in Washington, DC even when I got crippled up. I was doing paying work I enjoyed, my bosses trusted me, and I tried to keep earning that trust. It felt good to be part of something that I helped build from the ground up.
By 2016 I was secure in my little niche, Obama was winding down his second miserable term in office, and things were going okay. The future seemed pretty bright.
Then You-Know-Who got elected.
Suddenly, nobody wanted to hear what I had to say anymore. They loved it when I mocked and criticized the narcissistic, lying sociopath in the White House, right up until the moment it was their narcissistic, lying sociopath in the White House. Speaking truth to power was suddenly bad, because it was their power. I refused to kiss the ring, and to a lot of readers, that made me an enemy. And without a lot of readers, a traditional media outlet can’t stay afloat.
So I jumped out of that situation as I was being pushed, and since then I’ve been scraping out a living on a freelance basis. I’ve never cared about getting rich or I wouldn’t have become an English major, but I do take pride in keeping creditors at bay with my keyboard.
But as the great Ian Faith would put it, my appeal is becoming more selective. I refuse to cheerlead Biden or Trump or any other powerful person who couldn’t care less whether I drop dead, so most of my audience has abandoned me. I try not to take their boos personally, though, because I’ve seen what makes them cheer.
You won’t see me groveling to the libs either, like Jennifer Rubin and Bill Kristol and the Lincoln Project and all those other amoral, money-grubbing grifters.3 I’m not about to pretend the Democrats are great just because the Republicans aren’t.
To paraphrase De La Soul: I kept touch with reality, and now my personality is an unwanted commodity. I won’t tell the lies I’m supposed to tell so people will like me, and I’ve managed to alienate pretty much everybody.
Except you! Yes, you, the tasteful, sophisticated, disarmingly attractive reader who hasn’t clicked away from this self-indulgent rant yet. You still like what I’m doing, right? Or else you hate it enough to enjoy trolling me. Either way, you have a strong opinion about my writing.
I’m good at this, and you agree or else you wouldn’t have scrolled down this far. Ha ha, gotcha!
Well, a lot of people are making a living on Substack these days, so why not give it a try? Starting today, I’m selling paid subscriptions to this daily newsletter.4
Five bucks a month or $50 a year.5
If you’ve got a few extra pennies to spare every month and you want me to keep typing words on the Internet for you, thank you in advance for your support.
This is just between the two of us, friend. I write it, you read it, and that’s it. We’re eliminating the middleman. There’s no SEO, no Google Analytics, no clickbait, no ads, no editors, no daily post quotas, no padding out a piece until it hits some arbitrary word count, no investors or political operatives to coddle, none of that stuff. If I don’t care about it, you won’t see it in this newsletter. All killer, no filler. Straight from my brain into your veins.
Right now the plan is to send this newsletter to your e-mail inbox every workday at noon sharp. So that’ll give you something to read while you’re eating lunch, or doing your Peloton, or waking up, or whatever. I also need a daily deadline to hit, or else I’ll never panic enough to get anything done.
I’m never going to have mass appeal, but you’ve stuck around and now I need your support. I try to live modestly, but “The Man” still makes me pay for electricity and Internet and food and whatnot. I would keep doing this for free indefinitely if I could, but I can’t.
And if you follow me on Twitter (@jtLOL) and enjoy my dumb tweets, this is a nice way to compensate me for that unpaid service.
Funny thing about that $5 price. I ran a poll about it the other day:
Most people chose the lowest price, which makes sense. I’m a cheap-ass and I can respect that. But more people chose the highest price than the middle price. I think that’s how Starbucks pricing works? They know some people are actually eager to pay more because it makes them feel important or something? But I’m going easy on you and only charging a fin.
If you just can’t spare $5 a month right now, don’t worry about it. The past year has been tough on everybody, and I’ve barely scraped by myself. At this point each day’s newsletter is still free to read, whether you choose to support me or not. I don’t know how long that’ll be viable if I don’t get enough subscribers to make a living, but I’ll give it a try. If this whole Substack thing works and I don’t fall flat on my face, eventually I’ll suss out which stuff should be for paid subscribers only.6 I’m figuring this out as I go along, as usual.
If you can afford to support what I’m doing, but you just don’t want to… well, bless your heart.7
For just pennies a day, you can make a difference in the life of an aging content-serf with a permanent limp and a fear of getting a real job. Won’t you please help? Operators are standing by.
I assume you’re my friend if you’re reading this, considering you specifically signed up for it or you followed a link I gave you. If you’re not my friend, well, that’s your problem.
If I had known this pseudonym would last 20+ years, I would’ve come up with a better one. It’s just a dumb message-board name that got way out of hand.
It cracks me up when Trump fans call me a grifter. Man, I must be the worst grifter in the history of the world, because I won’t say things I don’t believe and now I’m going broke. If there’s some powerful “Trump Stinks But He’s Not Hitler” lobby out there, they forgot to throw any money at me. If you think I’m an idiot, then please accept that I’m not smart enough to grab the easy cash. The very stubbornness that makes you hate me also prevents me from becoming a hack for either side.
Which isn’t exactly a blog. I think? It’s all just words on a screen to me, but I’m told there’s a difference.
A fiver a month or one Grant per year seems reasonable for something I’m writing for you every day, right? If you pay annually, assuming I put in 50 work weeks a year, that’s 20 cents a day. If you pay month to month, $60 per year is still less than 25 cents a day. You give me a quarter and I give you back a penny. Come on, that’s a bargain for all this tasty, ad-free goodness you’ll be getting. You’re welcome, buddy!
One big change right up front: Only paid subscribers can leave comments. If you want to scream at me in my own house, pony up the admission fee first. You gotta pay the troll toll if you wanna get into this boy’s soul.
Plus, today is my birthday. Are you really gonna leave me hangin’ on my birthday?