Once upon a time—about five or ten times actually—I had a blog.
One of those efforts included six different blogs because the platform I was using didn’t have labels or tags yet, meaning there was no way to categorize your posts. So I made a blog for every major topic category and that was nuts to maintain.
Clunky HTML static pages, Blogger, WordPress, Medium, TinyLetter, back to Blogger, and now Substack. The Lone Prairie Blog has left a trail of blogging tech artifacts, if nothing else. I left Blogger because Google is kind of evil, but also for a few other reasons I’ll probably talk about later, one of which tangentially involves a photo of a cockroach.
Substack is a kind of blogging/email newsletter/podcasting platform in which the content creators can receive payment for those who want to read their work. This means there are some very serious journalists and thinkers on here, so I’m incredibly out of place.
I signed up anyway.
I’ve always blogged for free. It didn’t make sense to do anything else. I mean, in one of my early blog posts I wrote four paragraphs about a dead duck I walked past out on the gravel road in front of the farm. No one pays for that kind of information.
Blogging was something people did outside of their day jobs, part of the early thrill of the internet where everyone could write something and people all around the world could read it with just one click of the publish button. You’d read blogs a little bit but you still read your magazines and newspapers.
Yes, there was a tip jar. I had one guy use it about ten years ago.
Over the years I’ve had a reader, now and then, send a check (Hi Jim!) or anonymously send a $20 bill with a note thanking me for writing, which has always been pleasantly surprising. Another person sent me a brand new bath towel because I had blogged about the see-through nature of the towels on the farm, pointing out that thread count was a moot point (much to my mother’s chagrin).
With Substack, any reader can freely access content that is public, but paid subscribers can also access content that is behind a paywall, as well as leave comments or do other things. (Legal and well-behaved things, I hope.) Every time I write you get an email if you’re a subscriber (free and paid). I’m following one fellow here on Substack and one day he wrote about eight times. That was a lot of email. I will not be doing that.
I’m not exactly sure how I’ll use that pay feature.
“Is this post really worthy of being behind a paywall?” I can imagine myself saying. “Have I created enough content to make it worth $5/month?”
I drink about $5 every time I go through the Caribou Coffee drive-through, where they mess up my hot chocolate order 2.3% of the time based on two months’ calculations.
On the other hand, I’ve had some hardcore trolls over the years. One emailed me upset that he simultaneously hated my politics but liked my art, and concluded that my blog was the seventh or eighth dark corner of the internet (there are many more dark corners today, I am certain). If they want to pay $5 to leave a nasty comment and then cancel once the deed is done, I will take their $5 and sweetly pray for them while drinking that Caribou hot chocolate with its 98% satisfaction rate.
[I put a bunch of numbers in here because a lot of the writers on Substack are doing real journalism with all kinds of data and I just want to belong.]
You’ll see the same kind of writing you’ve seen over the 20+ years, on the same topics (Christian faith! Jerks on the internet! The jerks on the internet who are ruining my Christian faith! My family does hilarious things which they are serious about! I tried this recipe and we are not dead but probably should be! I can’t remember if this is now considered offensive to say! Current events! Etc.!) I may be sharing content from books, cartoons, and other things I’ve done over the years, but those will be behind the paywall most likely. Classic popular blog posts from yesteryear will be free. New content will be a mix of free or paid, based on I don’t know yet.
I imported the subscribers I had from an earlier email list. If you were one and you don’t want to get these emails, feel free to unsubscribe. I won’t mind at all. But also feel free to share this with others if you think they’d like it.
Or, if you are of a different nature, share it with friends/family who would hate it and you don’t want to spend the holidays with them anymore. As I used to post every December, back when I was on Facebook: “I just saved a ton of money on Christmas presents by discussing politics on Facebook.”
It could work for you.