A good opportunity to take a look around at where we stand.
ASTORIA, New York- Once a year or so I make these mind maps of all my projects and how they relate to each other. I sit down and take stock of what I have and what I want get in the months ahead. It’s a plan of attack, so to speak, that has me at the center of it — a way forward to accomplish what I want to accomplish … which actually means do what I want to do.
Coronavirus lockdown provides an ideal time for doing this. Travel is not possible. Life has stopped … for everyone. We’re all taking a hiatus from what we normally do, from where we’d normally be. I feel like a garden perennial that has withered away in the winter. But I know the summer is coming and I will rise again.
This gives us an opportunity to sit back, plan, and start anew again. The treadmill of life as abruptly ground to a halt. We have no choice but to step off of it and go and do something else. There’s an opportunity in this if we take advantage of it.
Do you like what you we’re doing?
Will it lead you to where you want to be?
If this was your end game would you be satisfied with what you’ve done?
So I sat down yesterday and made one of my little yearly mind maps. I drew circles on a piece of paper to show what I had and what I wanted. I made circles of my publication platforms and various mediums and promotional outlets, and linked up how they corresponded with each other.
I liked what I was looking at:
Big media journalism — Forbes, The Guardian, etc.
Books — On the New Silk Road, Ghost Cities of China
Blog — Vagabondjourney.com
Commercial articles — DHL Delivered
Video — YouTube, independent docs, docs with production companies
Public speaking — Topics: Silk Road, new cities, travel
Social — LinkedIn, Twitter, IG (yuck)
My reboot is going to be less of slashing and burning and more of an enhancing and redirecting of what’s already there. I like what I do and there isn’t much that I’d like to change.
However, there are some places that need patched up — I really don’t like social media but it’s now become necessary to put more effort into it, my YouTube channel is more of a content dump than a platform, I still need to finish On the New Silk Road.
I’m realizing that I may have been been wrong about this — in this time of walled gardens, being outside the gate often isn’t the best business move.
There was only one major area where I needed a new strategy. I will talk more about this soon, but the world of journalism is no longer what it was when I first began. There are more pressures on publications to self-censor, ad revenues are dwindling, and pay is actually dropping. On one publication that I write for regularly I had recently had my pay cut $300 per month and two articles canned. I never had an article with them canned before, and I just had that happen twice in one month. I can’t get too upset about it — it’s just the way the profession is now — and I will continue writing for them but it’s become time to start looking for other options as well.
Many established journalists are simply cutting out the middlemen altogether.
Some are using Medium.
Some are using Substack.
Some are using other similar platforms.
Many are showing pretty decent results.
I used to not view these platforms too highly, as I didn’t understand why someone wouldn’t just start up their own website and completely cut the tether. But having run my own website for over fifteen years I know that this option is nowhere near as viable as it once was: search and social traffic keeps falling, ad revenues keep declining. For a publication that’s meant to be a full-time job you need to make full-time money, and this is more difficult than ever to do with your own website. So I’m realizing that I may have been been wrong about this — in this time of walled gardens, being outside the gate often isn’t the best business move.
A shift in strategy is needed, and cultivating an audience willing to pay small amounts of money each month is looking like the best way forward.
I decided to go with Substack for this. It’s an interesting newsletter / blog combo content delivery system. It’s super simple and straight forward. There is no coding to worry about — I just write, push publish, and the newsletters are sent out.
My focus for this product is the New Silk Road — the topic that I’ve been covering for years on Forbes and other publications — so most of my articles and posts about this are going to go over there: https://newsilkroad.substack.com/.
If I can get 500 to 800 subscribers I wouldn’t need to do anything else — that would be my full-time job. I’d then just travel up and down the Silk Road writing about it, turning the site into the best resource available on the topic.
If you’d like to get in on this, that would be very, very much appreciated. There are two subscription options available: free and paid. The free option will get a post or two weekly and the paid option will get all content along with travel / business consultation and rights to republish stock photos, videos, and quotes from interviews. The cost for this is just $5 per month ($50 per year), or around a buck a week.
If you’re interested in checking it out, head over to On the New Silk Road and dive in. Leave a comment, let me know your thoughts and suggestions.
That said, how are you rebooting? What are you going to change? Do differently? End? Begin? Let us know below.