What I've learned from 4 years of this newsletter
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Woke up in Stockholm to news that some people I’ve met won Grammy Awards, which were hosted by Trevor Noah (seen here at 2018 Global Teacher Prize in Dubai). Clockwise from upper left: Jon Batiste (at 2018 Pulitzer Prizes Centennial party); Ricky Kej (at 2019 Asia Initiatives Gala); Falu Shah (my friend of two decades); Tony Bennett (with Chris Gorman at the Met in 2015). Just call me Forrest Gump, grateful to be in the presence of shining lights.
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IT’S BEEN FOUR YEARS OF WRITING THIS NEWSLETTER and I’m grateful to all of you for your support - whether you’ve been reading for four years or this is your first issue.
In Feb. 2018, I got an email from Zach Peterson, a pal of Chris Gorman (my former Met Museum colleague and now Deputy Director of the American Folk Art Museum). He offered to help me produce a newsletter that was a cross between some of his favorites: Politico Playbook; Quartz Obsession and The Media Nut.
From that vision has come a remarkable partnership — and friendship. Zach, based in Prague, taught me so much about the world of newsletters, and we have gotten to work on a variety of Digimentors consulting projects. We launched on MailChimp for two years before moving to Substack early in the pandemic. We added a weekly tech tip by my friend of two decades, Robert Anthony, and now are all learning from one of the best tech journalists of our time.
It’s an interesting endeavor to try to come up with something to care enough about every week that it commands thousands of words and hours of effort.
At first, I tried to sort of “stay in my lane” and stick to digital media, journalism, and general digital media things, but the shift to more political coverage basically had to happen. The gruesomeness of the Trump years were simply too much to bear witness to and stay silent. Talking about the news and digital media, politics inevitably comes up anyway, but the intersection of mass, largely-free media and well-funded disinformation campaigns has become the story of a generation — or, rather, a confluence of generations.
I am happy to report that our broad editorial spectrum has yielded a very engaged, and steadily-growing audience. We started with roughly 4,000 of my personal contacts, built up over years of tweets, handshakes, conferences and more. We’ve never paid for a contact, and we haven’t spent a dime on paid promotion. Still, we’ve doubled our subscriber list, and see open rates consistently above 40%. We also now post our newsletter on LinkedIn (thanks to Paula Kiger), with 5,500 subscribers there.
Of course, we get our share of hate mail, too — and there are some real characters out there who are more than happy to just send you a very mean email from their personal email accounts that are basically FirstName.LastName@gmail.com. There’s not a shred of anonymity there (nothing I have to deal with comes close to what women journalists experience every day on social media).
I’m happy to say that for every one of those, I receive 25 instances of support for what we’re trying to do here. Sometimes it’s praise, sometimes it’s remarkably thoughtful emails, sometimes it’s just a simple retweet.
Our readership has gone up during the six weeks of Russia’s barbaric war on Ukraine, but I thought I’d end this essay with our three most popular non-Ukraine newsletters:
Share with care (first newsletter about the pandemic).
That last item, on March 29, 2020, featured the meme below. Of course, we did end up screwing it up on a global scale, with some worthy exceptions. We are proud to have covered both these last two years and aren’t going to take our eyes off the pandemic even if most Americans have.
PS: I thanked our readers and our team, but I also need to thank another set of folks who made this possible: Our sponsors. More than 15 companies and nonprofits have sponsored us over the last four years. An especially big shoutout to Armory Square Ventures for their year-long sponsorship for 2022. If you’d like to join them for a single newsletter or something more often, here’s our sponsorship kit.
A Message from Armory Square Ventures About Mini Books
Every so often we come across an entrepreneur that stands apart either for seizing upon a cool idea or for making an impact with the idea.
Today, Anthony has published 7 Mini Books that feature thoughtful and delightful stories about Kobe Bryant, Stephon Marbury, Becky Hammon and Virgil Abloh. Most are reprints of pieces that ran in the New Yorker and the series include two published by Atul Gawande and Malcolm Gladwell.
The virtue of reading a mini-book is having the chance to learn pithy, digestible life lessons that you can hang on to, read and reread as and when you like, whenever you find you have some time.
We love all book-related things at Armory Square Ventures and feel fortunate to have the chance to commend Anthony's efforts and progress! He is also passionate about fundraising for small, minority-owned businesses and has published a book of his own on the subject.
Until next time & to enterprising entrepreneurs everywhere — Stay smart, stay strong,
— Your friends at ASV
Tech Tip w/ @newyorkbob: Tech Me Out to the Ballgame!
By Robert S. Anthony
Each week, veteran tech journalist Bob Anthony shares a tech tip you don’t want to miss. Follow him @newyorkbob
Hope springs eternal, even for the worst baseball teams, but this spring seems even more hopeful since it marks the end of a long stay-at-home pandemic winter. In addition to getting used to new players and managers, some fans will find their ballparks a little more high-tech than they left them last season.
For example, the New York Mets have partnered with Samsung to perform a major technology upgrade to Citi Field, including new scoreboards and LED displays and 1,300 LCD screens. Fans at the April 15 home opener will notice new ribbon screens across the facings of the seating decks and new screens directing them to the concession stands with shortest lines.
The ballpark will also have three times as many video cameras as last season—all of which will come in handy for those tie-goes-to-the-runner debates. A new, larger center field scoreboard with an ultra-sharp 4K video screen is planned for next season.
After a successful experiment, the Mets are expanding the use of a face-authentication system which lets fans enter the stadium without showing a ticket. Once their images and ticket accounts are registered in the Mets Entry Express system powered by Wicket, fans literally just have to show their faces to a standing scanner to verify their identities and confirm they’ve purchased a ticket.
The minor-league Worcester Red Sox recently trumpeted that they had installed “baseball’s first autonomous retail experience” in the WooSox Market of Polar Park. Fans with the Standard Checkout app by Standard Cognition check into the store by tapping their Apple or Android smartphones on a small NFC (near-field communication) receiver. Multiple cameras and machine-learning technology detect what they’ve picked up and charge the merchandise to the payment method registered in the app as they leave.
Many ballparks now have 5G cell towers from AT&T, Verizon or T-Mobile inside or nearby. Not only does this mean better data speeds for those with 5G phones, but also more reliable connections since 5G technology handles high demand from large, dense crowds far better than older cell technologies.
But while you’re absorbing all the new tech at the ballpark, don’t forget: There’s a game down there on the field. Sit back, put the phone away and enjoy it.
I’m sure there are countless stories like this from the war in Ukraine, and I hope we are able to see and hear every one of them. It’s truly atrocious what Russian forces are doing to Ukrainian civilians.