I’m gonna level with you: in terms of bad years of my life, I feel like I’ve had years that were worse than 2020. As someone who has the privilege of living alone in New York City, and, until recently, had a job that required me to browse the internet all day and allowed me to work from home, this year has been closer to standard than not for me.
Sorry if that’s rude to admit! Was there some rough stuff this year? Sure. Duh. Of course. Would I like to go to the worst bar in the world and pay a bartender $13.99 for their labor (popping the tab of a Coors Light that comes in one of those skinny cans)? Obviously. Have hundreds of thousands of people lost their lives and millions more lost their livelihoods because of a catastrophic collapse of dysfunctional institutions and the feckless, shameless schmucks who run them? Yes, and it will make me quietly resent anyone over the age of 55 until the end of time (2023). I mean, give me a fuuuuuu—
But there was also BNet, the most revolutionary media startup the world has ever seen. BNet launched on Substack just eight short months ago, and its meteoric rise has inspired some of the smartest writers and thinkers in the biz (Andrew Sullivan, Glenn Greenwald, Matt Yglesias, nobody else) to also strike out on their own.
I’ve enjoyed writing BNet this year, mainly because it helps cover my health insurance payments. But also because it lets me cover internet culture and how technology affects behavior in the way I want to. Billions of people use the internet every day, but I have found media coverage of it to be underwhelming and so narrowly focused as to be useless. If something happens on the internet that doesn’t involve a trend of social media, or someone with millions of followers, it might as well not exist to mainstream media outlets.
This dearth makes sense. A typical good story needs individual characters, and context, and evocative quotes, and definitive conclusions about why things are the way they are. In the coverage of internet culture that I gravitate to, you rarely get that. Internet culture is not about individual people, it is about accidental collaboration between pseudonymous users who don’t know each other, transmuting art and media and ideas as they pass through niche communities. It’s these many-to-many relationships that I am compelled by, rather than the one-to-many relationships you see with influencers and podcasters, who are just using new media to break into old media for monetary gain. To put it in the terms of old-media analogs, I’m less interested in celebrity news and more interested in local news.
Unfortunately, the internet is so incomprehensibly large and specific to each individual user that covering the internet how I want to requires more than checking trending topics or Facebook’s Top 10 articles every day and barfing out an explainer. I just kinda shove my head in the woodchipper and see what I can see and follow the trail as far as it’ll go. There are so many people doing cool shit online without any intention of amassing fame or power or money, and so many weird anomalies, and yet almost no concentrated effort towards documenting that. So that’s what BNet tries to capture — a ground-level view of the internet. I think it’s going okay so far.
My genuine goal with each BNet is to write something stupider than the last one. As a result, I’ve written some astoundingly stupid posts, and by accident, some moderately insightful ones too. Here are some personal favorites:
what happened to sextoon
At the end of every post, I say “Thank you for reading BNet” and I mean it!
Let’s peek behind the curtain. I do this because Substack is an internet thing right now and the people trying to build their newsletters into a business are usually coy about releasing stats publicly. They can buzz off. I’ll tell you whatever, I don’t give a frick.
As of right now, 1,749 people subscribe to BNet and 126 people pay for it, which I appreciate. The open rate genuinely hovers around 50 or 60 percent, which I’m fine with. According to Substack’s internal dashboard, BNet currently has a gross annualized revenue of $11,250 — though I think you can subtract $1,000 from that to account for the two generous family members who bought the $500 joke-price annual subscription before I got a chance to tell them it was a joke and nobody should buy that. The joke tier is priced at $500 to make it way too expensive to justify paying for but not so high that it would ruin someone’s credit score if they accidentally bought it, which a couple people have (they got refunds). If you pay $6.66 for a monthly subscription, I receive $5.50.
what’s next (the earnest part where i ask for stuff from you)
I’m going to level with you again, just like at the start of this post: I do not have any interest in turning BNet into a full-time job. I did this to fill some time during a furlough and that has turned into unemployment. I spent much of my career in media working autonomously and independently without any oversight or direction — it is exhausting. And then a pandemic happens, so your thumbhead boss lays you off after spending a full year and a half of ignoring your work and lying to you like, “It’s great, just keep doing what you’re doing. We really need your coverage” every time you try and bring up that he doesn’t seem to give a shit.
My point is, it has been nice to step back this past few months, but now I am once again eager to work with people who are not thumbheads. So if you are someone with hiring power and like BNet and think I could be of use to you as a writer or an editor… hello. (I will get ahead of it and say that my proofreading skills improve significantly when they are tied to a paycheck.)
And if you are not that person but feel like sharing this on social media with a message like, “I enjoy BNet, this one has a list of some of the best posts,” I’m not gonna stop you. That’s how the game is played.
As I try to figure out what the hell I’m doing with my life, it would help to know how you, the reader, feel. I have put together a short survey about BNet. Basic questions like, “what might get you to pay for it?” or “would you pay more?” or “would you pay the same if I published less frequently?” That kind of stuff. There’s also a funny pic on one of the questions. I’m just trying to get the lay of the land. If you’re interested in taking a really brief survey, you can do so here. Thanks in advance.