Goodbye/hello, a new chapter for this newsletter, and owning your platform
Now that my website migration is finally complete, I'm shutting this newsletter down. Here's what you need to do!
I’ve been teasing this change for a while, but the day has finally come: I am merging the Substack newsletter you’re reading now, The Pinnacle, with my new (and once again fully functioning) website.
TL;DR: This newsletter is going to be shut down, so please subscribe to my new site in order to continue receiving my updates! I’ll be posting more frequently, and hopefully a broader range of interesting stuff, including the updates I used to post on here. You can sign up to receive my updates via email here.
The long version: It’s taken months of effort, but the process of migrating from WordPress to Ghost is finally complete, which means that I’m now in the final stages of Getting My Act Together (in terms of my online writing spaces, anyway). I’m pleased with the new site – and actually having a functioning blog for the first time in months is making me excited about the opportunities. I’ve done my best to muddle along with a mixture of Instagram and this newsletter, but it just isn’t the same.
Please read my latest blog post for a deeper dive into the whys and wherefores. I hope you understand my rationale for switching from a blog plus newsletter to a blog that can act as a newsletter for the readers who choose to receive it that way. To be honest, I need simplicity. I need one place where I can publish my thoughts; I don’t need to be asking myself what is appropriate to put on the blog and what is best for the newsletter, because this just results in indecision (and, all too often, publishing nothing at all). Life is busy these days and I need to remove any barriers.
Because the new arrangement is different to the old one, I can’t in good conscience simply import my list of newsletter subscribers over to the blog and call it a day. I don’t believe that would be compliant with GDPR, and it certainly doesn’t sit right with me. Therefore, I am asking you to subscribe to my blog if you wish to continue receiving my updates.
If you do this, you will receive not only the kind of updates I have always posted on here, but also regular blog posts as they are published: articles, musings, and everything else. I will almost certainly begin publishing some material only visible to site members, but I don’t have any specific plans for this just yet. All material will remain free. It may take some trial and error before I arrive on a new format that really works on the new site.
I appreciate that this new arrangement won’t suit everyone, and I apologise if that’s the case for you. I understand that I always posted different material here – that it was a slightly more intimate space, a testing ground for different ideas. I’m proud of how this newsletter has helped to move my writing forward over the last four years, and I’m proud of the modest community I’ve built here. And I am extremely grateful to each of you for trusting me with a semi-regular spot in your inbox.
Although this will be the final update, I will not be deleting this newsletter. The archive will remain in place for anyone to read.
The recent trouble with Twitter (yes, I have deleted my account at long last, and will be posting more about this on my blog soon), and my dissatisfaction with using Instagram as an ersatz blogging platform these last few months, has had me thinking about the value of open platforms again. When I started out as an outdoor writer, blogging was absolutely crucial. If you didn’t have a blog, you had no chance of getting anywhere – it was a place to hone your craft, network with others, showcase your work. Social media was considered purely a vehicle for getting your blog posts out there. Over the last few years, social media has eroded blogs bit by bit until many people, even successful writers and other creators, do well without them. You can build an audience on Instagram by posting pictures with captions that approach the length of a short blog post. It’s the same thing, right?
No, I don’t think it is. Instagram’s great, and it has its place, but always you are at the mercy of two things: your landlord (Mark Zuckerberg), and the algorithm. You don’t own anything on Instagram. You are renting a place that could vanish into a black hole in the ground at any time. Right now, Twitter is at serious risk of disappearing – I give it 50:50 odds of still being in existence a month from now. The same could theoretically happen to Instagram, taking all your work and all your followers with it. Additionally, if the algorithm decides that your latest post isn’t on brand enough, it just won’t pop up into people’s feeds. You have no control over this – other than to attempt to pander to the algorithm. The result is a homogenising process by which everything becomes just a bit blander, safer, more on brand, less experimental.
Sometimes the old ways are just better. A blog is a miraculous thing. It is a thing that you control and own, and although that is no longer a fashionable idea in the world of software, it has enduring value. You can set up a blog on your own server using open-source software. Even if the hosting company goes bust you can transfer it somewhere else. There is no algorithm dictating what is or is not appropriate. Nothing standing between you and your readers. You still need to reach those readers, but I am a great believer in the idea that good work will find its audience – if it is allowed to do so.
Own your platform. Don’t be at the total mercy of tech giants and their volatile economic and strategic shifts. There is something to be said for stability, for time-honoured craft, rather than chasing convenience at all costs.
I have a bad habit of forgetting lessons that I think are deeply ingrained. I have been through all this before more than once. I wrote an entire book about my troubled relationship with social media. I won’t stop using Instagram (and I’ve recently been really enjoying Mastodon) but I’m going to fight for my little corner of the open web, and renew my efforts to write and publish more – and not just the stuff I’m paid to write. Blogging makes writers better writers. Blogs are oases of calm and reason in an increasingly chaotic and fragile web.
I guess this is it. I hope that you’ll consider joining me on the new blog, and thanks, as ever, for reading. Here’s a handy link once again in case you’d like to sign up.
See you on the new site!