Birchtree

Talking tech since 2010
| 3 min read

Birch Bark has Moved to Substack

Check out the first issue over there (#46 total) and you can subscribe there if you have not already.

As a refresher for those who don't follow along, Birch Bark is a weekly newsletter (delivered every Friday morning), aimed at giving you my favorite things I found on the web that past week. It's broken down into my favorite:

  • Art and photography
  • Videos
  • Music
  • Links from around the web

It tends to be focused around tech stuff, but there is also a lot of general interest stuff that a wider audience should enjoy.

I've imported all my old emails over, so you can check them out here.

Why Move to Substack?

The thing that got me to pull the trigger was hitting a threshold of subscribers with Mailchimp that bumped me up to the next tier in pricing. Include my custom domain for the email address, and I was going to be paying about $30/month to run this newsletter, all with zero income. Needless to say, I was not thrilled about that.

Substack is free, and they only make money from me if I choose to monetize my newsletter through subscriptions. I'm not doing that today, but if I think of a way to do it well down the line then I'd love the option to do that easily.

Beyond cost, there is also the matter of web vs email, something I've mused about here and there over the past year. In short, I don't like the idea of my writing being only in email, and not discoverable/sharable on the web. My previous provider had a web version of every email, but no one ever shared those links and they never felt like an ideal way to read these posts.

Substack feels like a good mix of web and email. The primary method of consuming these posts is via email, but there is no reason you can't also read on the web. This is what my "home page" looks like at https://birchbark.substack.com

That looks an awful lot like a blog to me. And what about subscribing? I can subscribe to emails, of course, but what about RSS?

Yup, RSS works, so you can subscribe to https://birchbark.substack.com from your newsreader of choice, and the posts actually format well in RSS readers, unlike what I've experienced when trying to subscribe to newsletters from other providers.

I guess what I'm ultimately saying is that Substack makes me feel more like:

  1. I'm writing for the web and for email at the same time.
  2. People can subscribe via email or the web, whichever they prefer.
  3. The web posts don't feel like second class citizens to the emails.
  4. It's free.

What's Going to Change?

In the sort run, not much.

If you were already subscribed, you should have gotten a new email this morning, and it just would have looked a little different and come from a new email address.

If you would like to subsribe, then you can go to https://birchbark.substack.com and subscribe now, either via email or RSS, you choose.

The biggest change right now is that I went from zero analytics to some analytics. As far as I can tell, I have access to:

  • A list of email addresses (not names, though)
  • How many people opened each email
  • What links are most popular in each post

That's really it, and while it's technically more than I did before, I hope you aren't bothered by this. I don't expect to look at these metrics that often, and I'm most interested in seeing what links are most popular in each post to try and tune future posts towards what people are most interested in.

As always, I have zero intention of selling this email list or doing anything funky with your data. If I ever monetize the newsletter, I will either:

  1. Sell sponsored links, and simply tell the sponsor who many subscribers I have. They will not know the demographics (I don't have this info in the first place) or any specific emails.
  2. I add a subscription version of the newsletter that has additional posts. Again, this would just be a matter of checking a box in the Substack admin panel and letting you subscribe if you wish.

Going Forward

I'd like to make Birch Bark better than it's ever been in 2021, and I hope you'll come along for the ride! I've had a ton of fun making it, and it seems to be quite popular with the people who subscribe today (humble brag, I guees), so I think you'll enjoy it too.

You can check it out here, read old posts, and subscribe however you'd like.

Merry Christmas!

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