Mark Stenberg is a media reporter for AdWeek and the author of the Medialyte newsletter. He offers insightful analysis of media companies, publishing trends, platform shifts, and the way digital media shapes our lives. Here, he shares his experience building a little media empire of his own.
What was the first version of your newsletter like? How is it different today?
"I first started Medialyte in the early days of the pandemic, when I had nothing but time on my hands and half-baked thoughts in my head. So, initially, I published three times a week, and the pieces were far more superficial than they are today. Now I publish only once a week, but because I spend all day covering the media (for my real job), I get to bring some of those insights into my newsletter, which I think makes it a little more compelling. The early newsletter was also far more personal because I had fewer subscribers, and you know what they say: With great subscribers comes great responsibility to stop writing about your upcoming weekend plans! At 1,400 subscribers, Medialyte is still pretty small, but I understand that its intended audience is niche and my publishing cadence is light. I view it more as a sandbox for kicking around ideas that are too small, too opinionated or too stupid for Adweek."
Have you considered any monetization strategies?
"Since the dawn of humankind, the best minds of each generation have mulled over the various strategies for monetizing their hobbyist newsletters. My current employer told me to ixnay on the advertising-ay for fear of creating conflicts of interest, and I publish too infrequently to put up a paywall. So no, alas, I have not yet monetized. I have no problem writing for free though, because the main objective of Medialyte is to spur new ideas, build industry clout and rack up email addresses. However, the gratis nature of my newsletter does pose a serious limitation: it keeps me chained to free platforms. One potential solution I have recently considered exploring is to include either a Buy Me a Coffee, Venmo or CashApp link at the top of my newsletter, with a polite yet impassioned and desperate plea for money. Stay tuned to see whether or not I follow through on this idea."
What is the best writing advice you've ever been given?
"A really wise person whose writing I really respect (me) once gave me some great advice. At the start, if I feel overwhelmed by the scope of my ideas, I always just say to myself, 'Okay, just make this a 200-word piece. Convey the crux of this idea, apologize for its brevity and move on.' Then, without fail, the piece ends up unfurling in front of my eyes. Something about reverse-psychologizing my brain –– going from 'It's impossibly long' to 'Write it impossibly short then!' –– unclogs whatever brain build-up was holding me back in the first place. Feel free to use this advice as long as you cite me."
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