A Little Update From TSF

(By the way, it's now TSF)

A couple of quick housekeeping notes, party people.

First, I’ve changed the name from the uber-generic “Steve’s Newsletter” to “The Skojec File.” I also put together a quick little logo, like I do:

No, I don’t know if I like either the name or the logo. But you know what they say about longest journeys and single steps. I’m a guy who notoriously gets lost in the weeds and then never gets started, so I decided to just pick something and start running, knowing it can be changed later. If you’ve got better suggestions, feel free to leave a comment, reply to this email, or hit my contact form.

The second thing I wanted to tell you is that I’ve enabled pay subscription options for this Substack.

Why, you ask?

Because, frankly, I want to transition as much of my business as possible to the work I’ll be doing here and at my forthcoming new podcast, which is still a work in progress.

As my focus has shifted away from the red meat my 1P5 audience hungers for, and more towards general questions about life, the universe, and everything, there’s natural attrition that goes along with that. 1P5 will continue to hum along, but it’ll be smaller, with fewer readers and donors.

And the donation-based business model is, frankly, a rollercoaster. Imagine making a widget and giving it away for free every day, hoping people will leave enough tips in your jar that you can put food on the table. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t, but there’s a disconnect between work in and revenue out, and after 7 years of that, I’d really prefer something more stable.

For the time being, my Substack pay-to-play option is (if I’ve set it up correctly; here’s hoping!) fully voluntary. I don’t intend to paywall content right now as I build this audience, and if I can turn this into something that pays the bills without having to, I’ll keep doing that. So this is really just about whether it’s worth it to you to pay $5 a month (or less, if you do the annual option) to support my work. If so, I’d be much obliged. You can do that by subscribing (or updating your subscription options) right here:

My commitment for the time being is to send something out to you at least weekly, but more if the muses whisper in my ear. And the one thing I will keep asking you to do is to share this with your family and friends if you think they’d enjoy it. I’ve even got another button for that!

Share The Skojec File

Before I let you go, a word from me on Substack itself.

This is not my typical jam. For over a decade, I’ve done everything myself, on my own domains, using Wordpress. All my personal sites run on that platform, as does 1P5. There are multiple advantages to this, not least of which are owning the domain name and all the organic SEO that gets built up over time. If someone searches for keywords that should send them to my site, I’m not in love with sending them to Substack instead. It’s bad business, and it limits opportunities for conversion. None of us works for free, if we’re doing it right, and getting paid is a pretty important part of every business, including the content mines.

But I’ve hit a wall when it comes to administering my own platforms. I have neither the time nor the inclination to handle the backend, deal with whatever techy things that break, etc. I certainly don’t want to have to worry about managing the payment gateway. What I want to do at this point in my career is focus on what I’m best at - writing. I want to pound away at the keyboard for as long as it takes and hit send. If there’s a problem, I want someone else doing tech support. If that means paying 10% to a platform that does it for me, I’m willing to do that for now.

But that’s not to say that in this era of targeted cancel culture and deplatforming that this is a forever choice. Substack is already being targeted by mainstream journalists who are jealous that guys like Glenn Greenwald are raking in 7 figures doing the same kind of journalism he got peanuts for when he was working for a publication. As Freddie deBoer wrote at his own Substack, on the question of media displacement:

Life in the “content” industry already sucks. A small handful of people make bank while the vast majority hustle relentlessly just to hold on to the meager pay they already receive. There are staff writers at big-name publications who produce thousands of words every week and who make less than $40,000 a year for their trouble. There are permanent employees of highly prestigious newspapers and magazines who don’t receive health insurance. Venuescloseallthetime. Mourning another huge round of layoffs is a regular bonding experience for people in the industry. Writers have to constantly job hop just to try and grind out an extra $1,500 a year, making their whole lives permanent job interviews where they can’t risk offending their potential bosses and peers. Many of them dream of selling that book to save themselves financially, not seeming to understand that book advances have fallen 40% in 10 years - median figure now $6,080 - and that the odds of actually making back even that meager advance are slim, meaning most authors are making less than minimum wage from their books when you do the math. They have to tweet constantly for the good of their careers, or so they believe, which amounts to hundreds of hours of unpaid work a year. Their publications increasingly strong arm them into churning out pathetic pop-culture ephemera like listicles about the outfits on Wandavision. They live in fear of being the one to lose out when the next layoffs come and the game of media musical chairs spins up once again. They have to pretend to like ghouls like Ezra Klein and Jonah Peretti and make believe that there’s such a thing as “the Daily Beast reputation for excellence.”

I have always felt bad for them, despite our differences, because of these conditions. And they have a right to be angry. But they don’t have much in the way of self-awareness about where their anger really lies. A newsletter company hosting Bari Weiss is why you can’t pay your student loans? You sure?

But it’s not all roses, even for the guys giving Substack a go. DeBoer continues:

You think the writers complaining in that piece I linked to at the top wanted to be here, at this place in their career, after all those years of hustling? You think decades into their media career, the writers who decamped to Substack said to themselves “you know, I’d really like to be in my 40s and having to hope that enough people will pitch in $5 a month so I can pay my mortgage”? 

I feel that. When I was asked an openly partisan political question in my last normal, 9-5 job interview — and was later told if I had answered it differently I wouldn’t have gotten the job — I had a “come to Jesus moment.” It didn’t matter that it was illegal — was I really going to go to court over that, when I’d passed the test? It mattered that I realized this was what was going on, and an online writing habit stretching back to very nearly the turn of the century meant I was fair game for subtle woke screenings I’d never even know about. I could either go all in, or shut my big mouth.

I went all in.

But having done so, in the words of Duane “The Rock” Johnson, “my back is against the motherf***in’ wall.” I chose the road less traveled, but there are no U-turns allowed. I’m a forever entrepreneur now, by necessity. Writing and podcasting is what I’m best at, so if I want to feed the 9 people who depend on me, I have to keep doing it, and doing it profitably.

I’m grateful for opportunities like this, even if it’s sketchy to have to try to pay the mortgage in my 40s via a platform that might give me the boot tomorrow if the woke get wild. But in the event that day comes, I may have to pull up stakes and go elsewhere where I have more control, outsourcing the stuff I’m not best at be damned. If that day comes, I hope you’ll come with me. Until then, I hope you enjoy the ride.

Thanks for being here, and for those of you who I know will sign up for a paid membership to get this bad boy off the ground. You’re the absolute best.