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Move over podcasts, everyone has their own newsletter now

substack newsletter

I haven't been excited about emails since 2008 when I first signed up to Hotmail. Back then my inbox stored chainmail, the vaguely terrifying kind promising death by Bloody Mary if I didn't forward to at least twelve people, and earnest love letters from my childhood crush. Now, when I look at my inbox I wish the chainmail threats were real – do me a favour Ms. Mary.

That jolt of excitement has crept back in recent years, though, thanks to the rise of Substack and ultimately the humble newsletter. Although Substack was founded in 2017, the format took off in late 2020 when journalists, writers and freelancers flocked to the platform after the pandemic rocked the media landscape, with layoffs at major publications from Buzzfeed to Vice. Now, almost three years later, it seems like everyone is scheduling a weekly Substack.

The allure is simple. A space for writers to voice their thoughts, unsullied by SEO strategies, stakeholders or a specific tone. The best part? The subscription model means there's no scrounging around for money, like Patreon or OnlyFans it's built into the system. On the surface, the ascent of Substack is reminiscent of Blogspot in the 2010s; over a decade ago Liana Satenstein's Neverworns would've definitely been a style blog.

I am currently signed up to eight newsletters, although full disclosure, I'm lucky to get through one a week. Last month, a fashion editor told me about her rule where if she skips a newsletter twice she has to unsubscribe. This is far more realistic than hoarding unopened emails for some non-specified later date. On the other hand, for Joss Peter, the Australian writer behind sent from my iPhone with love, "it's all eat, sleep, newsletter, repeat for me," she tells RUSSH. "I'm clicking that shit everyday."

What I like about newsletters is the way the format toes the line between journalism and journaling. If podcasts simulate the feeling of juicy conversation over drinks, newsletters evoke intimate correspondence with a friend. It is geared towards individual voices, and exists as a place for the personalities of Instagram and the internet to hand over a piece of their mind, instead of just their moodboard.

Some use it to curate, others use it to critique. This is certainly true of the popular fashion newsletter; think Taylore Scarabelli's Meaningless Fashion or Haley Nahman's Maybe BabyIn 2020, when The High Low podcast ended (not be confused with Emily Ratajkowski's identically named podcast) I missed the book recommendations of its' hosts. Now I receive them through Pandora Sykes' Books + Bits along with some inspiration from Bri Lee's News & Reviews.

But perhaps my favourite kind of newsletters are the ones that act as capsules of tastes. Perfectly Imperfect comes to mind, a Substack that profiles downtown New York on their habits, thoughts and recommendations, featuring everyone from Ayo Edebiri and Chloe Cherry to Caroline Calloway and Anna Delvey. As does the aforementioned sent from my iPhone with lovewhich reaches out to personalities from Sydney, Melbourne and beyond, requesting their "online" and "IRL" recommendations.

Peter's idea for her newsletter came from a Google Doc she'd tended to for three or so years, which held links to all of articles she'd enjoyed reading. "I wanted to share all the fun stuff I’d consumed with my friends, and in turn, allow them to share their taste with me," she says.

"The appeal of newsletters are their rudimentary, web 1 vibes," Peter messages me. "It's charming to use something with such a poor interface when everything is so 3D-chrome-lettered out the wazoo. It’s lawless. There’s no editors making sure the hook is interesting or relevant enough. It’s 2010s blogging, except instead of exploiting your early sexual experiences and emotions, the cool thing to do is intellectualise dumb shit that’s happening in the zeitgeist. Hannah Horvath would soooo have a substack," she concludes.

Peter's top Substack picks? After Perfectly Imperfect, there's Internet PrincessNectarine News and Very Fine DayTime to clog your inbox with some new voices. Pip pip!

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