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by Jacob O'Bryant

Newsletter directories, subscriber import integrations, and you

Programming announcement! This is the latest of the weekly publisher report announcements which I send out to everyone who has submitted a newsletter to The Sample. As I discuss near the end, I've decided to merge my weekly announcements with this Tools for Online Speech newsletter after all. Going forward, this newsletter will contain stuff like:

  • What I worked on in the past week, whether that's The Sample or a different project
  • What I'm planning to work on in the next week or two
  • Random TFOS-related thoughts or curated articles if I have any to share
  • Infrequent think pieces like the original TFOS announcement

In other words, I'm still figuring out the right format for this newsletter 🙂. Thanks for reading.

Updates from last week:

  • Finished merging the newsletter directory into The Sample. The publisher console now has a "Directory" tab, and as you can see I've added a "Directory" section to these emails.
  • Added/improved some integrations for importing 1-click subscribers: there are new integrations for Zapier and Beehiiv, and I made the custom webhook integration more flexible.
  • I have increased the payment threshold for paid forwards, in order to save a tiny bit on transaction fees. Now I'll usually wait until your balance is at least $30 before charging (previously the threshold was $15).
  • And finally, I have updated the Posts page so that you can see which posts have been approved or hidden, and override if necessary.

Some background explanation on that "approved or hidden" thing: we try to filter out emails that shouldn't be forwarded to our subscribers (for example: welcome emails, paywalled posts, Substack's "This person recommended that person" emails, and promotional emailswe only want to forward emails that work as an introduction to your newsletter for people who aren't already subscribers). For a long time I did this manually once per day by skimming over the subject lines for all emails we received that day. Two or three weeks ago I finally got around to automating this. We use some simple rules which should catch most things. It's kind of like a spam filter. And like a spam filter, it won't catch everything! So if you send out a post that you don't want to get forwarded to people on The Sample, I'd recommend that you go to the Posts page on the publisher console and click "hide."

There were a few other things that I'd like to do, like some more behind-the-scenes automation for payments, and some miscellaneous publisher console improvements. However I've decided that the most important things are already finished, and I'd rather put the time into other projects and come back to The Sample later.

I think I mentioned last week, or perhaps the week before, that I was planning to do a 2-or-3 month "sprint" and work on a reader app idea, as a complementary product to The Sample (and one that would possibly have stronger business metrics!). As I was doing my planning and prioritization I realized... there is just so much random stuff across my different projects/project ideas that I want to work on. I'd rather follow my gut and work on whatever feels most useful in the moment rather than stick with one project in the hope of turning it into a successful business in the short term.

So! Until my second daughter is born in October, I'm basically just going to be super indulgent. I'll continue to passively look for short-term consulting gigs, but it's not a huge priority. Once I finish my forced paternity leave (I'm guessing that the second baby's birth will be as hectic as the first 😬), then it may be time to regroup. If we're lucky maybe my product(s) will be mature enough to justify continued full-time work; otherwise I'll have to... figure something out I guess! I'm >95% confident that within the next 5 years I'll be able to support my family with my own products, and if in the mean time I end up having to spend a majority of my time working for other people I guess it wouldn't be the end of the world.

Anyway. This week I'll work on Platypub, my personal publishing platform. It still has a long way to go before it's ready for a public release, but I'd like to get it one step closer in that direction. I'll also do some reorganizing of my own websites. I want to move The Sample's blog over to a new domain ( I also need to migrate my personal site into Platypub. And I've got to do a big restructuring of the Biff site.

After that, I'll finally start working on the reader app. I've been wanting to build it for months. Months, I say! That one will be easier to release publicly, so anyone who wants to join a public beta for it is welcome. I already have several potential domains for it. I wanted to get "" because then we could have the logo be a radish reading a book or something. Sadly it was already taken, and I'm not about to spend $2k on a domain. So I bought instead. And then several days later, I got a notification that my domain was going to renew. I forgot I even had that one! "Infovore" is possibly a more descriptive name than "Yak Read."

After Infovore (or whatever I call it) is in a good state, who knows what'll happen next. Maybe I'll clean up some more issues in The Sample, or maybe I'll make a self-serve ad booking tool for the newsletter directory, or work some more on Platypub, or build a forum/chat app, or... 🤷‍♂️. Whatever I work on, I'll keep posting weekly updates about it in these emails, even though it may not be strictly related to The Sample.

Speaking of that, I mentioned a while ago that I was going to expand these weekly announcements into a more general "Tools for Online Speech" newsletter which would be open for anyone to subscribe to, not just people who submit their newsletters to The Sample. And then two weeks later I said "haha nevermind, I've decided it makes more sense to keep them separate." Well, I'm reneging on my renege: I'm gonna combine this with the Tools for Online Speech newsletter after all. It'll be basically the same as I've done every week for the past year; I'll just write about stuff I'm building. It's just that the thing I'm building in a particular week won't always be The Sample. Maybe I'll start throwing in random thoughts and pontifications and stuff, like this dank tweet I dropped last week (it got four likes!):

An interesting side effect of Substack's new weekly emails--where they show you a list of newsletters that have been recommended by writers you're subscribed to--is that now they have a direct channel to readers, even those who haven't installed the app.

it wouldn't be hard for them to gradually start inserting more stuff into those emails, like product announcements, staff recommendations, advertisements for their app, etc

In any case, I'll probably need to add some kind of warning label to this Announcements section so that newcomers aren't super confused ("what the hell is 'Platypub'?").

Published 1 Aug 2022

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