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Control shift: why newspaper hacks are switching to Substack | John Naughton

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December 26, 2020 at 04:00PM

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An online platform where journalists sell content directly to subscribers is luring eminent voices away from traditional media

Way back in March, at the beginning of the first lockdown, I fell to wondering what a columnist, academic and blogger under house arrest might usefully do for the duration of his imprisonment. My eye fell on my blog, Memex 1.1, which has been a harmless presence on the web since the mid-1990s and a source of puzzlement to journalistic and academic colleagues alike. The hacks unanimously shared Dr Johnson’s view that “No man but a blockhead ever wrote except for money”, while my academic colleagues thought it peculiar to waste one’s energy writing anything that would not figure in scholarly citation indices. The idea that one might maintain a blog simply because one enjoyed doing it never crossed their minds.

So there it was, with a modest readership, which occasionally spiked as it caught some brief wave of attention. Given that many people were going to be locked down like me, I wondered if the regularity of receiving the blog as an email every morning might be welcome. The thought came from observing how Dave Winer’s wonderful blog, Scripting News, drew an even wider readership after he offered it as a daily email to subscribers. So I began looking for an easy way of doing something similar.

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