A newsletter that turned into something more personal.
About 18 months ago, I started a newsletter, because email seemed (and unfortunately, it still does) like the only un-intermediated, widely used one-to-many communication channel available. I don't want to rely on the Facebooks and Twitters and their algorithms and their corporate priorities and strategies to reach people that are interested in what I have to say.
So I started by sending a weekly email update with links and short comments on what I did online: links to my blog posts, but also links to conversations that took place on Twitter or Facebook, and so on.
I'm not a professional content creator. I don't rely on creating and sharing content online to make a living —I don't even have ads on my blogs, with the exception of my recently added "Services and products I use" page which is a way for me to pay less for some of the services I use. I do it for fun, to express myself, to share ideas and tips that my help others.
So, as "The Letter" (that's how I call my newsletter) went on, I let it take its course, without feeling the urge to stick to the original plan.
The Letter became quite irregular. At times, it would be months before I sent the next one, then a would send a couple of them in a few days, then they would be silent for weeks again.
Most important, its content changed too. I started by writing a short, one or two-lines intro about my life followed by a list of links, just like I initially promised. But Letter after Letter, the intro grew larger and the links section smaller. Little by little, The Letter became more like a letter to friends and less like a digest of my online activity and findings.
When I started blogging in 2003, my blog was closer to a dairy than it is today. I would write much more about my life that I do now, probably feeling safe that very few people read it. The Internet has changed since then, almost everyone is online, and I've changed too. The thing is, I don't feel comfortable blogging about my personal life, on a medium accessible to anyone now and in the future, where everything I write is archived on a number of third party services and indexed by search engines.
I realised I feel much more comfortable writing about my personal life to the small number of people that have expressed their interest in advance, by subscribing to my newsletter. I even went to my Mailchimp "publicity settings" and disabled the online archives page, and also made my campaigns "not public" (they will not be discoverable). In short, if someone wants to read one of my Letters, she will have to be on the recipients list before I sent it.
I know, an email sent to 100+ people is by no means private. That's not about privacy, and I wouldn't send anything I would be scared to see published in plain sight. But there is a difference between speaking to your house guests (even if it's a big party) and shouting in the middle of a crowded square.
Even the difficulty of overcoming email clutter and spam filters works in favour of this kind of communication: If my recipients are really interested in reading what I have to say, they will make sure my Letters are not lost in their spam folder, they will mark them as important in Gmail, they will treat them in the same way as they treat their friends emails. If not, well, that's a good way to organically filter out recipients that shouldn't have subscribed in the first place.
I think I like what "The Letter" has become, but only time will tell.