Newsletter Development: 2
This bit is more about background and setup than development.
“Newsletters” is just the term. They’re often anything but, and to sustain themselves over months and years, need to be anything but.
I use the term “Republic of Newsletters” to evoke the Republic of Letters. From Wikipedia, because why not, I’m busy:
The Republic of Letters emerged in the 17th century as a self-proclaimed community of scholars and literary figures that stretched across national boundaries but respected differences in language and culture. These communities that transcended national boundaries formed the basis of a metaphysical Republic.
The first known occurrence of the term in its Latin form (Respublica literaria) is in a letter by Francesco Barbaro to Poggio Bracciolini dated July 6, 1417; it was used increasingly in the 16th and 17th, so that by the end of that century it featured in the titles of several important journals. Currently, the consensus is that Pierre Bayle first translated the term in his journal Nouvelles de la République des Lettres in 1684. But there are some historians who disagree and some have gone so far as to say that its origin dates back to Plato’s Republic. Part of the difficulty in determining its origin is that, unlike an academy or literary society, it existed only in the minds of its members.
It existed only in the minds of its members. That’s me, right there. That’s us.
They are, most often, just letters.
(I could also invoke Alastair Cook’s London Letter and Letter From America here. Which were short radio broadcasts, not letters, but still in the zone.)
I said the other day that “thinking of them as “newsletters” is usually bad and wrong. It’s just the term we’ve got. It’s not the model.” The model is the letter. Never forget that you’re writing to someone. It’s a letter from home, a letter from the road or from HQ or from out here on the Thames Delta. But it’s still a letter. (Never use the personalisation system some pro newsletter operations offer — so many people do not plug their actual names into the system that your friendly “Hi, ($name)! becomes “Hi (quite a lot of space here, or even just NAME) !” which just creates weird distance between you and your reader and makes you look like a robot scam artist.
Oh. Speaking of not a robot. When I was setting up Orbital Operations, many years ago, the system told me it would send a note to subscribers to let them know their subscription had worked, and what would I like it to say? Very late at night when I’m doing this. Very tired. So I just typed something like “yes that worked but unfortunately i know where you live now sorry.”
Funny joke about surveillance culture and internets yes, not a robot at all, absolutely dated dad-humour human here, press save. What the fuck ever, it was the middle of the night and I got it done. And never ever thought about it again, because of course I don’t get those emails. Until a couple of months ago, when a female friend emailed to tell me that a female friend of hers signed up and got that email and was instantly nooooooope fuck that, that is creepy and wrong. Which, obviously, it can absolutely present as. So I listened and went straight into the system and spent twenty minutes trying to find the fucking setting and then fixed it. I’m an idiot.
You’re writing a letter. Be human. Be welcoming. Do not set this shit up when you’re tired and just trying to get it done. Double-check every line and intent when you’re setting up. And don’t make stupid fucking jokes about knowing where people live and then forget all about it thirty minutes later and leave it there for several years ffs