Newsletter Development: 1

Which needs a better title, but this is a blogchain (thanks again for that term/process, Venkatesh) about developing out Orbital Operations and adding new things to it.

I have just starting batching newsletter production, setting four editions in motion at once. This is a worrying turn towards “professionalism,” for something that is often slapped together at the last minute because, hey, it’s 10pm on a Saturday night and oh shit I haven’t started Sunday’s newsletter yet OH SHIT OH SHIT

Which happens, well, since this is me we’re talking about here, about as often as you’d expect.

Anyway. I’ve started the next four. For reasons.

I have always done newsletters, since I discovered the technology in the 1990s. They’ve gone through various names and iterations over the years. For the last several years, it has been Orbital Operations, always going out on a Sunday. I’ve had to schedule in skip weeks and the very occasional skip month, before, but it always comes out when I’ve said it’s coming out. As of right now, it has 21,783 subscribers. The tracker logs its open rate at around 60%, but testing indicates that the open rate is far higher and that readers defeat the tracker in various ways.

It costs me two hundred quid a month to run, plus the hosting for the most basic landing page in human history.

I happened to follow a link to something today and ran into myself. “This newsletter is the creation of graphic novelist and writer Warren Ellis and it’s likely the most unique newsletter on this list. It’s a direct feed into the brain of a really smart, really interesting guy.”

So that’s ne. It’s not a vast GOOP-scale audience, but it’s also not a newsletter that just links out to blog posts. I think it’s probably a confusing read for many, who come to me as comics readers or book readers or Netflix watchers or saw me speak somewhere or read an essay or saw my robots clicking on Twitter or whatever. I’m interested in a lot of different things, I do a lot of different things, and the foci of the newsletter are kind of tidal. And 21K people have hung on throughout all my meandering bullshit, so I think I can accept now that Orbital Operations is its own thing with its own life.

I need to get my thinking out in front of me now so I can see it. I need to think about what kind of thing it is, and how I should develop it going forward. It needs different voices in it — I’ve tested that in the past with good effects — and it needs to be a bit less work for me, and it would be nice if it at least paid for itself but let’s not go nuts Warren.

This, then, is me thinking about newsletters, and Orbital Operations, and considering its next steps. Maybe it’ll be useful to someone else, and that would be nice, but it mostly needs to be useful to me. We will see, reader, we will see.

A thought about newsletters in general: thinking of them as “newsletters” is usually bad and wrong. It’s just the term we’ve got. It’s not the model.

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