Do you know how onions are harvested?
It’s a smelly process.
Involving one tractor that unearths them and lines them up in mounds on the field.
And another that sucks them up and spins them in a barrel that sifts out the dirt.
AND another tractor pulling a big open trailer, carefully staying nearly side-by-side to the one that sucks them up. Sifted onions are sort of shot off the one and into the other, piling into the massive trailer.
Each of these processes makes lots of noise.
And leaves heaps of perfectly good onions on the field to rot.
All very technical, I know.
And maybe not something you care to know?
But I want you to feel like you are in this field. To imagine a giant brown swath of recently harvested onions and that this process is taking place on the end rows while you are in the middle of the field. This section has already been harvested but there are plenty of onions they missed. You breathe in the potent smell, eyes tearing up and nose running as you slowly metal detect your way across it.
Yes. You are metal detecting.
Surrounded by modern tools doing modern things (loud, efficient, sloppy) while you swing a modern 2-pound detector in hopes of finding something interesting.
And, by the way, you are in England, because there’s way more history of metal use there than in the US and you’ve taken multiple expensive COVID tests to be here among the onions.
Are you with me? Walking slow, swinging that detector with your right arm? Holding a shovel in your left hand? (Sorry, lefties.) Listening for beeps just begging to be dug and then turning out to be chunks of soda cans or lead blobs?
Every time you hear a signal worth digging you repeat the process of pinpointing it, digging until it’s out, then isolating whatever clump of metal is waiting to be discovered.
99 times out of 100 you dig up junk.
Like, absolute trash.
New trash. Old trash. Trash you can’t even tell what it is trash.
You unearth a clump of dense bronze.
It’s a strange rotty green.
You think, “Well, that’s old. Only ancient bronze is this color.” (Yes. You know that at least.)
And then you clean all the dirt off of it and discover that this really old piece of bronze isn’t just a blob. It kind of comes to a point. And if you turn it...
“OMG it’s a socketed axe head.”
Like, the broken tip of a Bronze Age axe head.
As in, this thing broke and was discarded sometime around 850 B.C.
It could be that the last person who touched it touched it THEN, likely cursing the broken tool.
Still with me?
It’s a surreal feeling. Finding what someone else lost. Recognizing it and connecting with the past.
Crafting a narrative in your mind as you blow your onion irritated nose and imagine the ancient landscape of a modern field.
It happened to me last week.
My first axe head tip.
And I loved the moment. I indulged in it.
Cut to the present: These days we’re leaving a different trail.
A trail of digital content.
Articles, videos, and newsletters, perhaps? All waiting to be discovered and experienced.
Is yours identifiable? Does it bring people into a story they want to be a part of?
Is it creating meaningful moments for them?
Think of your newsletter as a reason to detect that onion field.
But cut right to the valuable substance without making your subscribers dig up trash.
Get straight to the good stuff.
Psst: If you’re a curator, it’s your job to sort the trash from the treasure.
Now, let’s get to the links I’ve collected for you this week. It’s good to be back from vacation, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t wish I was back amongst the onions.
The Publishing Industry’s Push For Subscribers
This week’s publishing insights reveal a theme: publishers are prioritizing subscriptions over traditional revenue streams. Take a look at how it’s going and the impact on journalism.
- This Digiday article by Sara Guaglione breaks down what we know: newsletters are helping publishers increase subscriptions.
- One Asian business site published one story a day and gained 30,000 subscribers. Read Laura Oliver’s story about it here.
- The future is here. Robot journalism is driving subscriptions, according to Faisal Kalim for What’s New in Publishing.
- Could “Debranding” be the key for publishers who want to prioritize subscriptions over ad revenue? Laura Hazard Owen with Nieman lab thinks so.
- The Fix explains just what kind of role Facebook and Google are playing for newsletters and spoiler it’s not all positive.
- Where do you get your news? Joshua Benton looks at the relationship between Facebook, users, and journalism in this Niemanlab article.