I’d like to begin by saying thank you for having me.
2022 was a year of unprecedented growth for The David Charles Newsletter — there are 67 percent more of you here today than there were on this day a year ago.
For this humble director of a one-person media empire, that’s pretty exciting.
Before we go any further, I’d like to acknowledge that a whole blob of you found my work via Mike Sowden’s Everything Is Amazing. What’s amazing me right now is that most of you have stuck around. HONOURED.
For elsewho that stumbled across my pages elsewhence, please do inspect Mike’s stories. They really are very good.
A Short Tour Of The Forgotten Elses
elsehow (obsolete exc. dialect): In some, or any, other way.
elsewards (rare): In the direction of, towards some other place.
elsewhat (obsolete): Something or anything else.
elsewhen (obsolete): At another time, at other times.
elsewhence (archaic): From some other place or quarter.
elsewither (somewhat archaic): To some other place, in some other direction
elsewho (obsolete): Anyone else
elsewise (in current use — really?!): In some other manner; in other circumstances, otherwise.
Back in the hushed corridors of TDCN HQ, it’s been another busy year of publication, with 48 editions bringing us up to 342 since we first opened our doors in whenever it was. Wow.
This is also our third year publishing on Substack and I’d like to pause here for a short round of applause for our paying subscribers —
Andy, Claire, Tudor, John, Harri, Becky, Illia, Joanna, Maryla, Cass, Georgie, James, Joe, Libby, David, Tessa, JMJ and Geoff. And shout out to those of you who have paid in the past — I haven’t forgotten you 💚
(Director yelling over thunderous applause) Thank you, thank you! (Pumps chest and points out to individual members of the cheering audience, now all on their feet) Okay, okay, settle down, settle down — thank you!
If you’d like to join this merry band of paying pranksters, please come on in:
So now onto the hard numbers. What have our analysts learned from a stocktake of deliverables this year?
It comes as no surprise that the most opened email of 2022 was Man Sloth Mode, which was also the story that reached furthest outside this little bubble, with most shares, and the one that drove the highest number of new readers — welcome, friends!
Here’s a snippet to remind you…
For about a year, I did nothing.
From November 2016 until October 2017, I was in what I have learned to call man sloth mode.
Honestly, apart from writing the first radio series of Foiled (which I never would have done without the impetus of Beth Granville), I can’t remember a single thing I did in that entire year.
This was also the post that I had most engagement with and it’s one that I’m proud to say still starts conversations today, nine months after publication.
Thanks to everyone who contributed and who is contributing still. And props to those people who have triggered a positive change in themselves and their communities.
(Ironically, the email that had the least reach outside this little bubble was the follow-up story: The Man Sloth Diaries. It’s still totally worth a read, IMHO.)
An honourable mention goes to 27 Things I Used To Believe And Now Completely Don’t, which came second in both furthest reach and most new readers categories.
- Morally and ethically, there is such a thing as Right and Wrong.
- There is only one type of intelligence — the one that I’m good at.
- When people let me down, turn me down or do me down, it’s probably because I’m in some way an awful person.
And finally the most liked post this year was my birthday story, Responsibility Is Not Heavy:
If responsibility were a force (metaphorically speaking), then it wouldn’t be gravity.
Most of the time, responsibility is empowering: it gives us the energy and motivation we need to achieve cool things.
I’m sure you can think of many times in the past when someone handed over responsibility to you — and it made you feel lighter, stronger, faster, energised, electrified and empowered.
Going a little deeper, average open rate over the year was 46 percent, but with very little deviation to my untrained eye.
What might be useful is to compare the three most opened email titles with the three least opened. See if you can spot which list is which:
Were these three most opened?
- The Talented Mr Whippy
- Bytes in Bitcoin
- Progress Through Process
Or were these?
- Room Service & The End Of The End Of History
- The Cataclysmic Event Hypothesis
- Unlocking Your Anxiety Archive
Now, personally, this director thinks that, as a title, The Talented Mr Whippy is a nuanced gem of inspired genius, but it seems that you luddites prefer a blunt instrument.
So expect more of that kind of cheap journalistic chicanery in 2023.
Actually, as we’re on the subject, what should you expect from TDCN in 2023?
It feels as if we are at something of a crossroads.
Although newsletter growth has been mightily encouraging, a quick run of the numbers suggests it would take another ten years of similar growth before I could draw reasonable remuneration for my work.
Woah, hold on, hold on. Put your fistycuffs away. Right up front I should say that I get far too much out of writing for you folks to boil it down to something as cheap as money.
But still… My writing hours do feel constrained by the economic imperative.
Helping to organise Thighs of Steel, which miraculously qualifies as a Proper Job, rightly demands much of my week-to-week brainpower, not to mention a large slice of the summer pie.
My scriptwriting work at Chalk & Charms Productions is also a priority and, after a year off post-BBC, already going places in 2023.
At the same time as that, writing these stories is still a generative process for me. At its finest, it manifests the abstract and brings into being new ways of seeing the world.
It is worth doing for its own sake, let alone for yours. (Although without you, TDCN is nothing.)
But at the same time as thaat (I told you it was a crossroads — how rare it is that people use all four exits when operationalising that metaphor), writing TDCN can feel directionless.
There is no unifying signpost propping up this newsletter and there is nothing to hold onto when the wind blows hard.
Perhaps that is why I am writing this as an imaginary shareholder review.
But perhaps it’s not an imaginary shareholder review.
Perhaps this is exactly it: perhaps YOU are the unifying signpost.
Successful newsletter writer Max Read has the following advice about what makes a successful newsletter:
Write about stuff you’re obsessed with and make your readers not wish they were dead.
So here are four things that I’m obsessed with, which I’m thinking of doing in 2023. Let me know if any of them make you wish you were dead:
- Start a PAID newsletter called Round Britain Twice* about cycling (and other stuff) around Britain twice. It’ll have a bunch of free content, but the big idea is that, in a couple of years, all the paying subscribers will have effectively crowdfunded the writing and publication of a shiny book. TDCN would still exist, but it’d play second fiddle to this more focussed operation.
- Do the same as above, but with my unpublished 2016 popular science-y memoir You Are What You Don’t. This has the added attraction (to me) of having two years worth of unpublished content just waiting to be edited and uploaded. The work is (90 percent) done.
- Transition TDCN into a season format, like what you get on TV, with a proper publication schedule that includes breaks. Say eight weeks of newsletters followed by two weeks off to recharge and rewrite myself. These eight-week blocks could have recurring themes within them, such as Days of Adventure, that would serve as mini signposts along the way.
- Do what much cleverer and more successful writers have been telling me to do for YEARS. Hammer a bold signpost into the TDCN soil: pick a niche and write into it, hard. Here are four ideas that wouldn’t make me want to kill myself:
- Connectivism: a newsletter about all the ways we connect (or don’t). With ourselves, with each other, with our screens, with nature. With the COSMOS. (I also like that the ‘-ivism’ chimes with ‘activism’.)
- 100 Days of Adventure: a newsletter about transformation through whatever it is we call adventure.
- You Are What You Don’t: a newsletter about what we learn through contrarianism and swimming against the current (not literally — I’m a bad swimmer).
- Man Sloth Mode: a newsletter about the fight against male apathy in the home, the heart and the (w)hole wide world. (Yeah, I need a word that means ‘society’, but begins with ‘h’…)
So, my fellow shareholders. What do you think? What direction should we take in 2023?