Is ItSeemstoMe Worth a $1-a-Month to You?
I’ve wanted to be a writer ever since I was a kid, which is when people who loved me began urging me to pursue almost any other careers because there just wasn’t any money in it.
And they were right about the money. This fact has created a quandary throughout most of my life. I’ve struggled between work that is lucrative and works that I love.
I was a newspaper reporter for seven years starting when I was in college. I loved the work, but it required a vow of poverty. At one point, I dated a woman who was in PR making twice my salary. Just when I thought we were getting serious, she ditched me because she was embarrassed to be seen in my shabby car or to stay in my even shabbier apartment.
I moved to California where I wrote for San Francisco magazine, making barely enough money to pay rent in a storefront behind a stained-glass studio. I got assigned to cover young Steve Jobs, who inspired me with talk about machines that would change the way we work, learn, and communicate. I approached him and asked if I could somehow work for him as a writer.
He referred me to his PR firm, where I was hired as a writer, but was immediately reassigned to be an Account Executive. My boss said, I was lucky. The agency paid account people far more than they did writers, and we got to sit in nicer cubicles.
I made a career of it, eventually starting, operating, growing, and managing my own PR firm for 17 years. Each year I found myself spending more time managing and marketing and less time writing.
During that time, I met Paula, the right woman for me, and we have been living happily ever after, most of the time. But there was an extended period where my simmering frustration with not writing made me less than lovable.
One night, my escalating kvetching overtook Paula’s tolerance level. I remember her precise words: “Quit your bitching and start writing!”
So, I did.
A few months later, I co-founded a newsletter called Conferenza Premium Reports with Gary Bolles, a former Ziff Davis editor and now a fellow author. Conferenza reviewed executive tech conferences. Gary and I took turns attending expensive venues for free. Our subscribers were mostly venture capitalists, and we soon learned they were a frugal bunch. One VC would subscribe and then send copies to other firm members in violation of subscription agreements, but we knew how unwise to take them on for the money and we were happy because we were gaining influence.
While we loved our work, we soon also understood it was not a sustainable business and it would not provide us with comfort in our old age.
This became my pattern. I left good-paying positions for writing where I was happier until was unable to sustain my relatively modest lifestyle. I received praise but had already learned praise doesn’t pay the rent.
But Hell, I was having fun and my wife still believed in me.
Most of Conferenza reports ran around 10,000 words and took about a week- to produce. This was as fast as the trade publications we competed with could publish as well.
Something Happening. What is it?
Then something important happened that didn’t change everything, but it changed a whole lot.
In October 2001, I attended my first PopTech in Camden, Me. , which immediately became my favorite conference. It was there I heard and met speakers like Malcolm Gladwell, Ray Kurzweil, John Naisbitt, Paul Stookey and others who provided attendees with high-quality brainfood and relaxed conversations between presentations.
But at this, my very first PopTech, there was mysterious activity involving about a dozen attendees who seemed to be surrounding me. I felt like the Mr. Jones that Bob Dylan sang about. Something was happening and I didn’t know what it was.
These guys were all around me, typing frantically, chatting with each other. At session intervals other attendees were rushing to congratulate them on doing “an amazing job.”
I was clueless. I recognized a few of these guys. They were tech writers and authors. I was told they were bloggers someone told me, which confused me even more. The word was new to me, and I suspected it had something to do with either sex or drugs.
I would soon learn otherwise, and I would soon become one of them as would many millions of others. That decision redirected the course of my life and is responsible for the newsletter you are now reading.
It Seemed to Me …
I posted my first blog almost exactly 20 years ago. My first words were “Here I am! Now, what do? ” Surprisingly, more readers had answers to my question than had responded to all my Conferenza newsletters. I immediately learned that a dialog is far better than a monolog for writers because we all crave recognition.
Social media changed my life and work. As a journalist and even as a PR writer, others decided what I would write about and very often determined the perspective and voice for me to use.
But back in 2002, having conversations with other bloggers and readers was fundamentally transformational. And there was a new, exhilarating sense of freedom. Blogging allowed me to write in my own voice about anything that I felt was useful, interesting, or even humorous. But mostly I would write about the business of transformational technologies.
I declared that in my second blog post and accordingly, I named ItSeemstoMe (ISTM), and it put my life on a new and improved trajectory. That blog became my passion, and I posted several times on most days. It raised my public profile by orders of magnitude.
But once again, there was that nagging little problem. Revenue from blogging was zero—even worse than revenue from Conferenza. Once again, I started dreaming my impossible dream of having my name on the cover of books and blogging enabled that dream to become a reality.
Into the Nets
In 2006, I wrote Naked Conversations, the first book to argue the business case for what would soon be called social media. The book was well-received and generated many paid speaking gigs. I kept blogging and writing books, right up until 2016 when I wrote the first business book about immersive technologies (now called the Metaverse by some).
But during that period—I think around 2010—blogs became yesterday’s news and social networks such as Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn eclipsed blogging. I chose to follow my audiences into these new platforms and will remain on Facebook and Twitter today until something better comes along, and my audience migrates to it or them.
But very often, when there is change, something gets left behind, and in my case, that was my beloved ISTM. In 2012, I put it on hold for nearly a decade.
A few years ago, I decided to stop writing my own books and to start ghostwriting tech-business books, presentations, and guest articles. (There were many reasons, which I may share in a future post.)
As a ghostwriter, I need to promote myself, which has never been my favorite activity, but more than that, to sell my writing services it has become necessary to show my writing quality, and of course, ISTM is a good way for me to demonstrate it—or so it seems to me.
So, in 2020, without saying much about its history, I resurrected ISTM. Since blogs have gone out of fashion, I called it a newsletter/blog. Although there had been thousands of ISTM blog posts, I started the new version as #1 and as you can see, I have published 43 issues of the new version.
Once again it has been well-received. But unlike blogs, the new ISTM is written in (Paula MR) professional quality. It requires many hours of my time and I have Paula run a Wife Test to ensure I say nothing stupid or tasteless I also have a paid assistant who proofreads, link checks and lays out the formats for mailings and my website. I also have a mail list of nearly 18,000 subscribers and it cost money to maintain the list, and have it kept current.
I love to write ISTM in its new form, but just like so many of the cases I have just shared, there is no money in it and there are limitations on my time. So, I am looking for generosity from readers like you, some of whom have been enjoying my writing for years.
A Dollar a Month for Now
I am changing ISTM to a paid subscription model. Starting March 1, the fee will be $5 a month or $60 a year. As a special introductory offer, you can subscribe now for $1 a month or $10 for you first year.
Under this new plan, I commit to writing one long post such as this one. If I succeed enough with paid subscriptions, then I will start adding in interview and company profiles. I plan to put a lot of attention on AI and immersive technologies.
Over time, I will probably start adding a few shorter more bloglike posts. These will include the sort of content that I have been posting on Facebook and LinkedIn, where I plan to reduce my presence gradually as my new ISTM finds its position.
If you have been enjoying my work all along, then I hope I am worth at least a buck-a-month to you for the next year. If this become successful enough, it may become my fulltime work.
Just fill in the form below. If you wish to opt out, please let me know as well and I will not bother you again.