News and views from the Substack team

The Substack Christmas Gift Guide

Did you know that a newsletter subscription makes the perfect gift? It’s personal, easy to deliver, and keeps on giving throughout the year. Here’s a selection of Substack newsletters that will give your friends and family the gift of a loving, trusting relationship with a writer. Just like they always wanted.

FOR THE LITERATI

The Browser. “A daily newsletter that recommends writing of lasting value, curated by Robert Cottrell.” $5/month, $49/year. | Top post: A New Theory of Life | gift link

The Shatner Chatner. “Daniel Ortberg presents upsetting absurdist lesbian House Hunters International fan fiction, commercials to be hated right now, and where Sam Neill falls on the Stanley Tucci Gently Avuncular Continuum.” $5/month, $50/year. | Top post: Powerful Medicines, Ranked | gift link

Book Post. “Bite-sized book reviews by distinguished and engaging writers, edited by Ann Kjellberg.” $5.99/month, $45/year. | Top post: Diary: Jamaica Kincaid, The Gardener that I Am Not | gift link

Griefbacon. “Love is the opposite of hygiene. Weekly-ish essays on crying in public and other stuff like that, by Helena Fitzgerald.” $5/month, $50/year. | Top post: Ghost Towns | gift link

FOR THE ICONOCLASTS

The First & 15th. “Culture. Smark. Life. By Tressie McMillan Cottom.” $7/month, $70/year. | Top post: A Bitch is Tired | gift link

Welcome to Hell World. “The world is a terrible place, we might as well watch it burn together. By Luke O’Neil.” $6.66/month, $69/year. | Top post: The Man Whole Bowled a Perfect Game on 9/11 | gift link

Little Throbs. “Irregular notes and almost essays from Australian writer Ellena Savage. Politics, nostalgia, and rude and inappropriate things about bodies and sex.” $5/month, $50/year. | Top post: Prime Real Estate | gift link

The Main Event. “Stacy-Marie Ishmael asks: What do we stand for? What do we decline to fall for?” $5/month, $50/year. | Top post: Go the Way Your Blood Beats | gift link

Documentally. “Thought provoking social commentary, stories and technological adventures, by Christian Payne.” $5/month, $50/year. | Top post: An Interest Driven Life | gift link

FOR POP VULTURES

Nicole Knows. “I just feel like I could help your whole deal be a little better. By Nicole Cliffe” $5/month, $50/year. | Top post: Post-Holiday Reddit | gift link

Two Bossy Dames. “In which Margaret & Sophie boss the internet with impeccable discernment and insouciant charm. Cultural recommendations and commentary every Friday evening.” $5/month, $50/year. | Top post: Shoe Bros, Rosé Petals, & Other Petite Joys | gift link

Numlock. “A morning brief that highlights cool numbers buried in the news and features stories you won’t otherwise find, by Walter Hickey.” $5/month, $50/year. | Top post: Numlock News: December 10, 2018 | gift link

Paper View. “Andrea Long Chu watches TV so you don’t have to.” $5/month, $50/year. | Top post: Jesse. It’s Time to Cuck | gift link

Shan’t We Tell the Vicar. “Thoughts, stories, and titles for imaginary BBC shows from Mara Wilson.” $5/week, $50/year. | Top post: Keep Burbank Weird | gift link

These Are the Best Things. “Popping culture so you don’t have to. Includes extensive recaps of The Bachelor franchise, by Jodi Walker.” $5/month, $50/year. | Top post:  On The Bachelor, If You’re Not First, You’re… Probably Living Happily Ever After | gift link

Dangerous Characters. “Sady Doyle recommends horror.” $5/month, $50/year. | Top post: The Woman in the Rocker with a Gun: Night of the Hunter | gift link

A Good Movie to Watch. “If you spend money and time on Netflix or Amazon Prime, this newsletter is for you. This is the comeback of nerds in an apocalyptic world ruled by the Algorithm Robots.” Twice a week. $5/month, $30/year. | Top post:  What to Watch This Weekend | gift link

FOR POLITICAL POLYGLOTS

Popular Information. “A four-times-weekly newsletter about politics for people who give a damn, by Judd Legum.” $6/month, $50/year. | Top post: Facebook’s Info War | gift link

The Taibbi Report. ”Home to two of Matt Taibbi’s serialized books, Hate Inc.: How, And Why, The Press Makes Us Hate One Another, and The Business Secrets of Drug Dealing: Adventures of the Unidentified Black Male”. $5/month, $40/year. | Top post: The Ten Rules of Hate | gift link

The Newsletter. “Jamelle Bouie delivers links, photos, recipes, and exclusive hot takes, every week.” $5/month, $50/year. | Top post: Hold On, Be Strong | gift link

Roy Edroso Breaks It Down. “Notorious gadfly (formerly of the Village Voice) nips at feebs, dweebs, and other enemies of the Republic.” $7/month, $70/year.| Top post: Art for Fart’s Sake | gift link

(De)regulation Nation. “Journalist and editor Emily J. Gertz tracks environmental news in the Trump era.” $5/month, $50/year. | Top post: The Farm Bill Could Roll Back Federal Forest Protections | gift link

FOR THE GEOPOLITICAL JUNKIES

Sinocism. “The Presidential Daily Brief for China hands, by Bill Bishop.” $15/month, $168/year. | Top post: Huawei CFO Arrested, Expect Trade Talks to Continue as US-China Tech Strains Intensify | gift link

SupChina. “China in 2 minutes a day, edited by Jeremy Goldkorn.” $8.88/month, $88/year. | Top post:The Canary in the Belt and Road Coal Mine” | gift link

Dari Mulut ke Mulut. “A weekly round-up of the biggest stories, best coverage and vital analysis from across Southeast Asia, by Erin Cook.” $5/month, $50/year. | Top post: Oh, Najib. How the Mighty Fall! | gift link

African Arguments. “Stay up to date on politics and elections across Africa.” $10/month, $100/year. | Top post: The Insider’s Newsletter #8 | gift link

Syria in Context. “Cross-cutting analysis on the Syrian war and its fallout, by Tobias Schneider and Emma Beals.” $15/month. | Top post: Syria in Context Launch Announcement | gift link

FOR SPORTERS

The Racquet. “Concise and non-clickbait tennis news, stats and analysis (and gifs), by Matt Willis.” $5/month. | Top post: TL;DR Recap: Davis Cup Final | gift link

Half Marathons. “Discover races and places you’ll love running.” $5/month, $50/year. | Top post: The Power of Little Moments When You’re Training | gift link

The Second Arrangement. “Kelly Dwyer covers the NBA, alongside musical bits and comedy numbers.” $5/month, $50/year. | Top post: When Denver Lost Dikembe | gift link

FOR PEOPLE WHO LIKE RANDOM SELECTION

Bad Astronomy. “The entire Universe – or at least parts of it – as interpreted through the brain of Phil Plait: astronomer, science communicator, and goat herder.” $5/month, $50/year. | Top post: Supporting Science, Haboob Redux, Cruising Star Trek | gift link

Signal Problems. “A newsletter about what the hell is going on with the New York subway.” $5/month, $50/year. | Top post: Is the Subway Getting Better? | gift link

Petition. “Petition provides analysis and commentary about restructuring and bankruptcy. We discuss disruption, from the vantage point of the disrupted.” $299/year. | Top post: Casual Dining Continues to = a Hot Mess | gift link

The Dry Down. “Heart notes about perfume from Rachel Syme and Helena Fitzgerald.” $5/month, $50/year. | Top post: The Dry Down Six: Aquatics | gift link

FOR THE CRYPTO CONSCIOUS

Off the Chain. “Daily analysis of crypto markets and news by Anthony Pompliano.” $30/month, $300/year. | Top post: Bitcoin’s Fundamentals are Strengthening Despite Price Decline | gift link

Messari’s Unqualified Opinions. “Crypto musings, research, and insights from Messari.” $30/month, $200/year. | Top post: Insights from the ‘States of Crypto’ | gift link

CoinSheet. “Commentary on critical crypto events.” $10/month, $100/year. | Top post: Happy Turkey Day | gift link

The Substack Christmas Gift Guide for 2018 is hereby concluded. Thank you for your attention.

The independent power of Judd Legum’s Popular Information

Four months ago, Judd Legum quit his job as editor-in-chief of ThinkProgress, where he oversaw a staff of 40, to go all-in on a Substack newsletter, Popular Information. He might well have felt that he was risking some of the influence that comes with a platform like ThinkProgress, which reaches millions of readers every week. He soon laid those concerns to rest.

In the week before the midterm elections, Judd used Popular Information as the launchpad for a campaign to expose corporations that had given financial support to Republican Congressman Steve King, an outspoken white nationalist. Intel, Purina, Land O’Lakes, and AT&T were among those that withdrew their funding as a result of Judd’s work.

This week, Judd has been at it again, this time turning his focus on Cindy Hyde-Smith, who is running in a Mississippi by-election for a US Senate seat and made an insensitive joke at a small campaign event. “If he invited me to a public hanging," Hyde-Smith, a Republican, said of one of her supporters, “I'd be on the front row.” Given Mississippi’s history of lynchings, and that Hyde-Smith is running against a black man, many people found the comment objectionable.

Again, Judd used Popular Information and his Twitter account, where has 300,000 followers, to apply pressure to corporations that funded Hyde-Smith. Walmart, Union Pacific, and Boston Scientific, among others, have asked the Hyde-Smith’s campaign refund their money, resulting in widespread media coverage.

All because of one man and his newsletter.

“I was a little nervous about leaving a salaried position,” says Judd, reflecting on his decision to go out on his own. “But ultimately my excitement about the possibilities of a newsletter was more powerful than the fear of failure.” It didn’t take long for his excitement to be justified. The independence he has gained through the newsletter means he is beholden to no one. “I didn’t have to worry about alienating advertisers or donors,” Judd says about his recent campaigns. “Instead, I was able to stay completely focused on the truth and serving my readers.”

One thing we’re trying to do with Substack is unleash writers’ full potential. Even writers with great jobs face constraints that prevent them doing their best work. There are editorial agendas to abide by, bosses to suck up to, and business realities – manifested in things like traffic goals – that are sometimes difficult to avoid. By going independent with a paid newsletter, writers can do the work they most care about.

We’re seeing this, for instance, with Daniel Ortberg’s irreverent The Shatner Chatner, featuring difficult-to-commission pieces like “I Have Added A Soupçon of Water To Your Dishwashing Soap” and “People’s Sexiest Man Alive: Idris Alba,” in which Ortberg appears to imagine Alba as the hero of a Victorian novel. Tressie Macmillan Cottom is using her newsletter, The First and 15th, to similar effect, publishing the sort of work that wouldn’t often appear in a mainstream outlet. “A Bitch is Tired,” Cottom declared in one of her typically straight-talking posts.

For his part, Judd loves being a “Professional Newsletter Writer.” There’s a strong alignment between the type of work he wants to do and what makes the newsletter successful. “It's about creating a lot of value for the reader,” he says. “The entire proposition is very transparent and honest. It feels good.”

Cindy Hyde-Smith might not share the enthusiasm for Judd’s new enterprise. But that’s the point.

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