Yogi Berra, the famous American Baseball player, once said "When you come to a fork in the road. Take it."
His crazy humor aside, when you are at a point where things need to move in a world that is changing, it is better to realize it and move on with it.
We are Drishtikone had realized that the world of communication was changing. Mere blog articles where SEO brought people to it were not the only way to get the word across. Specifically when it came to something as critical as one's future and voice. That message had to reach the audience directly.
In May 2020, therefore, we started a newsletter. On a whim. Daily!
A foolish undertaking in many ways. But one which became one's most rewarding experience and decision ever. It changed me as a person fundamentally. The knowledge, the insight, the information that one gathered to share in a coherent yet effective way, was new and exploratory in nature. The writing technique and the way to research were unique as well. I would start with a question and let it lead me to the whole write-up. Every day.
After almost a year, due to personal commitments, I had to reduce the frequency down to weekly. It was not easy on me as a writer and also tough for the audience to digest the material and do justice.
The New Challenge
There were two issues for us at Drishtikone:
- While the blog was on Drishtikone.com - on WordPress; the newsletter was at Drishtikone.news - on Substack. The content was dispersed.
- While Substack was made for paid newsletter writing, the payment mechanism (Stripe) does not allow paid subscriptions from India because Substack charged a percentage for itself. My major subscriber base was and will remain from India.
So, we need a platform:
- that could enable the core content format to be a blog article as well as be sent as a newsletter without juggling or messing with the underlying code
- allow paid subscription if we choose to have it while we enhance the offering of our content
The only such platform is Ghost.
WordPress does allow newsletter "integration" via Mailchimp, Mailerlite, etc. But the best such applications can do is integrate subscribers. The one that is better than most is Mailpoet. But it does not integrate the core content with the newsletter.
The only way to do both with WordPress is via a plugin called Newsletter Glue. It is a powerful plugin that is rapidly enhancing. So if you want to integrate stuff within WordPress, that is the way to go.
The technical integration involved could be tough to handle for one person. And, I wanted to focus on writing as opposed to handling the underlying technology, even if I could.
So started the effort to bring together over 8000 articles written on our WordPress blog since 2005 (hosted with over 100 GB of data, videos, and images) and 300+ newsletters written on Substack since May 2020.
The Ghost support team worked with us to help us achieve that.
Then came a great Ghost technology expert - Umang. He is an expert at doing development and theming with Ghost. He helped us get to this stage.
We finally came to the point where the new site is now totally functional. Some changes are still left to be done (for example, point the Drishtikone.news domain to this site as well)
Many of us want to start our own publications. We just don't know the best direction or way to do it. We, at Drishtikone, have tried and experimented with most technologies. So, if you want advice and suggestions we can help. We need more voices out there, not less. Please feel free to write to us if you need to establish your voice.
That is why I have shared the technical details so the journey and decisions make sense to everyone.
A New Start
After over 3 months of hard work - involving hours of research, experimentation, changes, migration, negotiation, project management, designing, and finally completing the combined site - we are now ready for the new journey.
Let us deal with questions on our future direction.
Will the Drishtikone newsletter be paid only?: Not only. But also. We will increase the content offerings to more than weekly. A lot of changes and events are happening across the world and we need to share our Point of View (PoV). Some of the content will be available to only paid subscribers and some will be free. The subscription is nominal - $5 a month (roughly INR 375) or yearly $50 (INR 3750). We will make it worth your while. You can start with being a free member and later graduate to a paid subscription, once you are satisfied that the content is worth the money.
Why even go paid as opposed to growth?: If what we offer is good, more readers will come and pay for it. The information and analysis here at Drishtikone is second to none even in the mainstream Indian media. That is not arrogance. It is a fact. To be sustainable and bring good content, it is important that we provide value and state our worth. Our ecosystem is apologetic. It needs to offer quality with confidence.
What kind of content will we offer?: It will include detailed analysis on topics that are current and important as well as compendiums on topics and events which will bring every type of information in one place for your reference. Apart from this, we will bring podcasts and videos.
Please do share your thoughts and suggestions with us so we can start together on a new journey ahead.
Stand in a new world
What the Indian establishment is doing currently is not an easy task with respect to its diplomatic initiatives with respect to Ukraine. It is India's good fortune that it has a steady and articulate person at the helm of its foreign affairs. Dr. Jaishankar.
Wanted to share this Q&A at the Munich Security Conference just a few days back. Do watch and reflect.