Today, we welcome The Browser to Substack.
British journalist Robert Cottrell, a veteran of the Economist, the Financial Times, and the Independent, started The Browser in 2007 to provide a daily reading list for people who value their time and media consumption. Even before social media took our minds hostage, Cottrell noticed that attention was becoming an increasingly scarce resource. The Browser, which each day presents five pieces of reading that Cottrell thinks are of lasting value, is his gift to those of us who would rather not spend all our time chasing dopamine highs around the worldwide web.
The Browser’s arrival on Substack is big, exciting news for us not only because of Cottrell’s pedigree and the quality of the publication (“A truly wonderful site,” according to one Stephen Fry), but also because it was a pioneer in online subscription publishing. Cottrell dared to ask readers to pay for his curatorial service long before most publications were asking readers to pay for even online content. He has since amassed ten thousand subscribers, with two Nobel Prize winners and a couple of billionaires among them.
Cottrell sifts through hundreds of articles a day, abandoning most within a second or two in a never-ending search for superlative reads. “I contend that at 11.59 pm each night, having read all day, I am the best informed person on the surface the planet,” he says. “Then sleep cleanses my brain, and I awake next morning in a state of perfect ignorance, twitching to get to the RSS feeds once again.”
As much as we believe we can help The Browser delight new readers and grow its business, we hope to learn from Cottrell’s experience with this mode of publishing so that we can share the knowledge with the rest of the Substack community. One of the findings we have been especially gratified to discover is that the vast majority of The Browser’s audience now consume the publication via email, confirming our belief in the power of newsletters.
“You can think of us as the hidden heart of the internet,” says Uri Bram, The Browser’s CEO, who has worked alongside Cottrell for years. “A mention on The Browser is like a word in the ear of ten thousand readers across finance, government, journalism, and academia.”
Existing subscribers to The Browser won’t notice much of a change, beyond a slightly updated look. And for those who have not yet encountered Cottrell’s publication, there’s never been a better time to check it out. Just listen to the New Yorker’s Dexter Filkins. “In the ocean of noise that is the internet,” says Filkins, “The Browser is an island of wonders, filled with treasure and surprise. I make the journey every day.”
We are proud to add Robert Cottrell’s name to the list of wonderful writers paid directly by readers through Substack, including Nicole Cliffe, Daniel Ortberg, Judd Legum, Tressie McMillan Cottom, Jamelle Bouie, Matt Taibbi, Bill Bishop, Andrea Long Chu, Anthony Pompliano, Walter Hickey, Helena Fitzgerald, Mara Wilson, and many more.
Subscribe to The Browser at thebrowser.com.