Is It Time to Stop Blogging and Start an Email Newsletter?

When entrepreneur Jason Calacanis shut down his blog in 2008 and replaced it with a subscription-only email newsletter, his move seemed to be more of a personal response to abusive reader comments rather than a leading indicator of a trend (although software guru Joel Spolsky also shut down his blog earlier this year). But now others have joined the blog exodus: Sam Lessin, the founder of streaming-media startup, recently announced he was shutting down his blog and starting a subscription newsletter — one that charges readers a monthly fee. And since he is also an entrepreneur, he started his own subscription-newsletter service too, which is called On the blog, Lessin said that he started blogging in 2008 with a defined set of goals, including:

  • Understanding the medium: “I strongly believed that it was an important medium to understand and that the only way I would really ‘get’ it would be to make a serious commitment to it.”
  • Protecting online identity: “I personally found that if you don’t own your own identity, others are more than happy to hijack it and use it for their own ends.”
  • Intellectual rigor: “I was letting myself get a bit lazy/sloppy in my thinking and I thought that forcing myself to take a public position would force me to hone my positions.”
  • Being taken seriously: “I thought that there was ‘margin’ in the medium… meaning, more people that I cared about read and took blogs seriously per-unit of work/input.”

The founder said that after two years, he felt that he had achieved all of his goals, but added that he felt writing a public blog that was available for free to readers was “exceedingly disingenuous if not straight hypocritical given my strong belief in the value of information” ( is designed to allow newsletter writers to set their own price for subscriptions, and the founder’s blog is $1.99 a month). Lessin also mentioned a factor that others argue has contributed to a decline in blogging — namely, the rise of Twitter and Facebook and other social tools that are easier to use and require a smaller investment of time, or what Lessin calls “passive and active data-streams.”

Since setting up, Lessin has been joined by several other bloggers, including Nate Westheimer — co-founder of video-indexing startup AnyClip — who says he plans to continue blogging but will share in-depth startup tips and other thoughts through his premium newsletter. co-founder Michael Galpert has also started a newsletter through And Jason Baptiste, co-founder of several startups including Cloudomatic, argues that while they may seem somewhat stale and old-fashioned, email newsletters can still be a good business (although Lessin charges for his newsletter, Jason Calacanis’s version is free, but subscription is limited).

Not everyone agrees that moving from a blog to a subscription newsletter is a good move, however, particularly for startups and entrepreneurs — since sharing your ideas with a broader audience can have its own value, especially when you aren’t well-known. Former investment banker-turned-entrepreneur Steve Cheney recently described how he asked Hunch co-founder and angel investor Chris Dixon for advice on what he should do to raise his profile, and Dixon responded: “Start a blog.” It’s worth noting that .

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Post and thumbnail photos courtesy of Flickr user Boetter

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