One year on Substack 🎉

Blogging is an essential part of my mental and digital workflow — thank you for being part of it

Friends,

I started blogging about polls and electoral politics 4 years ago while I was still in college. Back then, I posted updates in a maze of stripped-bare HTML pages and tried my hand at statistics and computer programming to predict the 2016 Democratic primary. Things went well. Then I tried to predict the 2016 presidential election. Things went less well, but I learned some valuable skills along the way.

I learned then that blogging is an essential part of my workflow. It helps me formulate, reconsider and refine my ideas. I also like to think I know things worth sharing with other people. Evidently some of y’all agree!

Since I’m a conversational thinker living in a digital world, a newsletter was the logical next step for my blogging. I tried a few different strategies both for post cadence and newsletter platforms and started distributing letters in earnest in the spring of 2018. Back then, I cross-posted updates between my website and a customized HTML template for emails. It was formatted horribly. I apologize to anyone who had to read it. Though on the other hand, my forecasting model for the 2018 House elections was pretty good, so hey, maybe you learned something.

Writing a newsletter when you have a full-time job is a whole different ballgame, though. Since joining The Economist as a staff writer in the fall of 2018 I have adopted a more conversational tone, spun off many letters from surface-level Twitter #hottakes and offered more niche takes on politics—things to differentiate my writing here with my actual job. I turned to Substack in the summer of 2019 because it provided a more clear and accessible way to market that niche to subscribers. (I had also just moved to London and wanted to find another way to spend my time/fund my beer and book habits.)

I’m thrilled now with the engagement I get from y’all. Despite being an old medium, I think newsletters are the Next Big Thing TM for journalism, not least because they let journalists like me form relationships with readers like you. I think this is a very rewarding way to write and I’m happy that so many of you all have entered into this partnership with me.

2020 is shaping up to be another big year for this newsletter. The total ranks of subscribers has grown 25% since January, and the number of paying subscribers has grown 60%. Rest assured I aim to continue sending out that 1-2x weekly paid content for the foreseeable future.

Thanks for signing up to receive this newsletter. I hope you learned something. I especially appreciate the many readers who send their thoughts along to me on a regular basis. You are all good reminders that there’s someone else on the other end of this keyboard.

So, finally, a belated happy one year anniversary to this blog being on Substack! 🎉

And here’s to many more: 🎉

Elliott