first part of end-of-year activities
You are spot on about the reasons why people are subscribing. I too hate the ironic distance, the cloying “lol, lmao” style of brainworms and writing that Twitter has made mainstream.
The reason I subscribe to you and TK news on Substack is because the left press has turned into dogshit as well. I am a former subscriber to the Nation, Current Affairs, In These Times, and The New Republic, and have let my subscriptions to all of these lapse because of their rapid decline and embrace of woke maximalism. Rather than providing alternative viewpoints, they have all turned into cheerleaders for grad school leftism. The catastrophic defeat, preceded by breathless triumphalism, for the India Walton campaign in particular must have come as a shock to these readers, and real reporting might have inspired the campaign to broaden its outreach. Not only is the echo chamber deathly dull, it is actively harmful.
I appreciate your constant challenging of my views, it shows respect to me as a reader, and it makes me think. It provides color to my life, and provides welcome stimulation during dull days. Keep it up!
Since you take the risk of putting yourself out there in all kinds of vulnerable writing I guess I’ll take the risk of putting myself out there and telling you how much your writing means to me. Mostly because I have a deep appreciation for good prose, but also there’s just some core worldview in it that I relate to. I know of few other writers with both the quality and the ability to talk about things like body image, mental illness, literature and music, in an earnest and sincere way that doesn’t feel formulaic and expected. It’s strange that people call you a grifter because the lack of pretense is what I like about it. I don’t know if this is a post that got high engagement or not, but the post that made me subscribe as a paid subscriber was the one with book recommendations for middle schoolers. Something about the seriousness of the post and the importance of books for that age group spoke to me. So many of the books that shaped me most and that I remember most clearly were ones I read between the ages of 10 and 13.
I am so happy the Susbtack is working out and that you plan to continue after your contract expires. Your writing makes a positive difference for me that is hard to explain, some combination of rejecting toxic politics (if only in my own head) and engaging with art and ideas in a space where we don’t have to call everything good or bad. It makes me feel more grounded as a human and more compassionate toward others—and giving myself permission to be this way is a huge relief, just letting go of some of the stress caused by the constant judgment all around us. I don’t know if any of that makes sense.
I’m excited that book club will continue in 2022. It has to be the fastest response to reader feedback in the history of Substack. Lasagna suggested it in the comments, and two days later we had a book club. (Meanwhile I suggested T-shirts months ago and nothing…)
I’m also happy we’ll have more illustrations next year. They’ve been great.
"The conversations, while sometimes whacky and occasionally offensive to me and often devolving into increasingly inane argumentative threads"
Hey everyone, what do you think of masks and trans issues? (kidding, please don't)
What I find funny is that there are what, 50ish consistent commenters here and over 3,000 paid subscribers. It's safe to say that that commenters don't represent the majority viewpoint. I wouldn't be shocked if the majority of readers are Obama-supporting liberals who just want another perspective, but that's straight from my ass.
Another good reason to stick with Substack even if you could theoretically make a few extra bucks elsewhere is that it's a company that's firmly committed to free speech - if you read interviews with the CEO it's clear he has strong views on the subject. So I think it's not just a good platform, it's a platform-that-is-good and we should root for its general success as a company. There is also a network effect here, and while I wouldn't say 'I wouldn't pay for your writing elsewhere', I enjoy having all my content in a clean reader feed (brings google reader nostalgia.)
The news that commenting is restricted to paid subscribers solves the mystery of why Substack comments sections (not just yours) are some of the more interesting, polite and refreshing social media spaces on the Internet.
You express a lot of wonder and curiosity about what this or that metric means, and how the needle can be moved. Isn't there some sooper seekrit Substack contributors' forum where you can explore questions like these with fellow Substackers? If there isn't, there probably should be.
"What readers say they want and what they read and share and favorite are very different."
I'm in manufacturing. It's no different in my business. At the end of the day, all that matters is where customers put their money. But in my business, I often have to spend $100,000 or more just to get to that point; and sometimes you find out, yep, those perfidious customers lied again.
Thank you for sharing this. I hope you also do a look back at some of your favorite pieces (I'm particularly interested by which ones, like Monday's, you love and do no traffic). Some unstructured thoughts that, if tl;dr, are just about how much I like this place:
- I understand the Twitter thing is big, but I feel like you probably get enough other people buzzing you it pays off. I learned about this from Greenwald. It's not why I stuck around but it's why I first clicked. I've seen a lot of these posts "go viral" so perhaps there's something in being a modern day Terrance Mann (incredibly prolific but not on Twitter so a ghost).
- I think in the end I stick around not because of your writing talent (as I assumed) but because you fill the role of a public intellectual. There's other writers just as skilled whose Substacks I canceled but I stay on this one because I like that it's a little bit of everything, always well thought out. I find a lot of writers I enjoy I feel like I'm reading the same thing over and over. Even if I agree with it that gets boring. I disagree with 90% of the stuff you write but I think about it which is valuable.
- Did not know I could subscribe for more. I will do so next time.
- The comments are great and it can't be overstated enough. I think the constant authorial engagement helps. There's numerous times - including yesterday - where I want to just tear someone apart. Then I think "This is Freddie's house, show some respect" and I don't. Guessing I'm not alone in that, and it would be different if there was an absentee homeowner.
- The "why would you pay for this asshole" discourse is, easily, my least favorite discourse. With the exception of Greenwald (who's a legit celebrity) none of the people involved in these online fights are anyone I'd heard of before I went down this rabbit hole during the pandemic. I don't mean to be dismissive about the profession I once wanted to go into, but no one fucking cares. I guarantee more people can name the backup QB for the Packers than a single Atlantic writer. More people on this planet can name a BTS member than a single NYT writer. I don't care if I'm not supposed to like someone and, the good news is, literally no one gives a shit what I think so I can do whatever. I can walk down Congress Ave screaming "I subscribe to Freddie de Boer's Substack" and I'll be indistinguishable from the crazed homeless guys. People need to get a grip. We get a tiny amount of time on this planet, why do people want to use it so stupidly?
- The entire story of how this happened is really quite beautiful. When I work with college kids who feel their dreams are being dashes I always remind them that progress is not a linear path. But in my own life I forget it constantly. So it really means a lot to me personally to see stories like this. You seem like a good dude and I'm happy for you.
- The new stuff seems exciting but as long as the train keeps rolling I'm looking forward to the ride.
Your writing has meant a lot to me and my mental health, and this newsletter may be my single favorite discovery in 2021. Nobody breaks down the sheer unpleasantness of Woke politics and Twitter culture better than you. Nobody. And unlike so many, you're able to make these critiques while remaining true to your values and your political project. Keep it up. I'm proud to be a paid subscriber.
The big mystery to me is why such a small fraction of subscribers (and, presumably therefore, readers) ever click the "like" button. Not just Freddie, it's true across substack. I just do it reflexively if I like the post, and I like about 90% of posts on substacks that I pay for; if I didn't like them, I wouldn't pay for them!
Is this just an old-person thing? I don't do any social media, but I thought the "like" button on FB was some sort of big deal or something ...
"What readers say they want and what they read and share and favorite are very different. This is human nature, not poor character. But a) it’s very easy for a small group of people vocally requesting a post on a certain topic to mislead me about how many people would be interested in the topic generally, and b) what people say they’ll read is not the same as what they’ll actually read."
The Nielsen effect! Everyone loves nature documentaries, not those tacky sitcoms. Just like everyone loves bipartisanship and wonky policy details and not tribalism.
Keep up the great work regardless.
"Either way, though, I think people will have to eventually grapple with the fact that there are writers they don’t like that are nonetheless market successes."
They are furious because they were winning for ten years before Substack came along. As the Atlantic got wokier, the high-upvote Diqus comments were the voice of sanity. So of course they eliminated them. Eliminated the comments sections everywhere. Can't have the plebes talking back. Bullied everyone else in the industry into compliance and/or silence, with rare exceptions (the people whose Substacks are crushing now, mostly). They were winning so long they forgot they were in an echo chamber of their own construction. Then Substack came along and screwed it all up.
Congratulations on your success so far Freddie! You deserve it. This is actually one of the Sub stacks I plan to resubscribe to when the date for renewal comes up early next year.
Man, I remember finding out about you through a link from Glenn Greenwald maybe 7-8 years ago. You had posted something interesting (if a little inflammatory to some) on your little blog and the rest is history.
I've recommended your book about education research to a few people this year that I randomly met at different events. I always love seeing some people's mind explode when I point out some of the common fallacies about reality of education attainment for some students and where we throw all our money at to solve this issue.
I would love to see an 'End of Year' or maybe '1 Year of Substack' retroactive look on your article metrics. Like what was the most viewed articles/liked article/most commented article.
What were the top liked comments, or comment that led to the biggest thread of discussion responses?
Anyway, have a Happy Holidays!
Hi, Freddie. First comment. Subscribed because you write well no matter the subject.
I'm not in the woke wars, being 81, and non-cancellable or fireable. Living however, in Richmond, CA, which has a severely woke City Commission fighting daily with a sane and very competent Mayor, Tom Butt. Even suing him. Good luck with that.
Your end of year thingy impresses, as did your meditation on weightlifting, which corresponds closely with my views, which come from endurance lifting in high school combined with several hard work occupations: logging, fishing, Hobie Cat instruction, heavy equipment repair. It's been a blessing to have strength, even as my body never seems to wear down. Big tendons, strong circ system, etc. Still mowing lawns, building sheds, e-biking.
Keep up the good work. See ya!
Love the content, would happily pay 60$/year if you ever upped the price. Feels like a bargain, really.
Don't know where I fall into your general readership. I probably disagree with you on, like 60% of your core beliefs. (I believe in capitalism! I think Marxism is demonstrably wrong!) But I still admire your writing and always look forward to reading your work. Probably it comes down to the fact that you write in good faith. You aren't trying to cherry-pick facts that will support some thesis you were injected with in grad school; you genuinely engage with the world as you find it. Like all of us, your life's experiences have caused you to evolve a certain working socio-political philosophy--"How the World Is and How We Can Improve It"--but you haven't, as far as I can tell, shut the door to the idea that philosophy could change. That's the kind of writer I always to read. Sadly they're increasingly hard to find in the modern media landscape.
Dunno if it would be something you're interested in, but it'd be cool if you did a Spaces/Twitch call in kinda show with subscribers
Also, dunno if this sounds patronizing, but I'm super glad the Substack stuff is working out for you. I think I originally subscribed after someone linked your original posts about your treatment, and knowing the hell that is mental healthcare and the high costs of getting treatment, it's awesome that you can actually make a decent living out of writing.
Ironically, I actually disgree with you on most of your education and general political takes, but I'd say everything you post at least makes me think, and I love the side tangents on lifting and baseball.
It’s very, very good to have your voice back in my reading mix. Even when, perhaps especially when, I have disagreed with what you’ve had to say over the years, your sheer talent as a writer has made it enjoyable and educational to read, and I am honestly thrilled about the Substack success.