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 Drop.io, 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 Letter.ly. On the Drop.io 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 Drop.io 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” (Letter.ly is designed to allow newsletter writers to set their own price for subscriptions, and the Drop.io 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 Letter.ly, 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. Aviary.com co-founder Michael Galpert has also started a newsletter through Letter.ly. 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 .
Related content from GigaOM Pro (sub req’d): Social Advertising Models Go Back to the Future