A new platform, a new model, a new way.
ASTORIA, New York- I’ve woken up these past two mornings and virtually ran over to my laptop to begin work. I was excited, focused — having fun. I felt like I was building something, that the product of my effort today would lead to something bigger and better tomorrow; like I wasn’t doing a job but doing “my work.”
But then it oddly struck me that I haven’t felt this way in a long time. This was how I felt in the early days of Vagabond Journey and during my first couple of years at Forbes, when it all felt like some kind of competitive game rather than a job — I would strategize, step in the ring, and throw punches, celebrating as I chalked up points on some kind of proverbial scoreboard. It gave me that particular feeling of accomplishment that is ultimately the driving passion behind the work that comes to define a person. I’m not sure if I know a better feeling.
Anyway, all of this was about the fact that I’ve started a new project that will soon become what I do full-time. I talked a little about it yesterday. Basically, it’s a newsletter / site that will dive deep into the Silk Road — sort of a combination of what I’ve been doing over the past five years on Forbes and Vagabond Journey heightened to the tenth power. I will plunge deeper that what I can for big media and obtain a degree of professionalism that doesn’t really fly on a personal travel blog.
I generally have access to the full gamut of people building the new hubs of the Silk Road — from the CEOs and officials down to the manual laborers. I can get into the restricted areas and I can hang out in bars with the locals. I have time to make friends and cultivate the relationships. Basically, I’m a traveler disguised as a journalist … and I sometimes get the impression that I’ve chosen this profession just to enhance the travel experience.
This is the new newsletter / website:
I’m still building it. I should have a few new stories out today. All stories are currently free, but as time goes on we will operate on a free / paid subscription hybrid platform. The goal is to get 800 paying subscribers — basically, the much-coveted “1,000 true fans” — and that will provide me the means to travel up and down the Silk Road documenting what’s happening in perpetuity.
It’s a direct-to-audience business model that cuts out the middlemen of editors and publishing brands, removes the need to cater to advertisers, limits the editorial power of search engines, and substantially reduces the ability of governments to exert influence over the content. It’s just me, the Silk Road, and anyone who wants to read — all earnings are paid direct and go back into the project.
Getting my head around this new model is taking some time. I basically need to throw away everything I know about running a website. I no longer need to censor myself for the search engines, I no longer need to concern myself with links, and all of the Big G’s rules and ever-vacilating policies suddenly no longer apply. I also have no need to worry about a publication’s particular biases, editors’ personal chauvinisms, and not shocking the audience with a different point of view that they haven’t been conditioned for.
It’s a freeing experience — a freeing experience that’s made writing fun again.
I’m very happy to report that we’ve received our first three paying subscribers yesterday. This is going to work. Only 797 more to go.