What shall I call my newsletter?

Spotted HawkI’ve been blogging since 1999, first at weblog.searls.com, and since 2007 here. I also plan to continue blogging here* for the rest of my life. But it’s clear now that newsletters are where it’s at, so I’m going to start one of those.

The first question is, What do I call it?

The easy thing, and perhaps the most sensible, is Doc Searls Newsletter, or Doc Searls’ Newsletter, in keeping with the name of this blog. In branding circles, they call this line extension.

Another possibility is Spotted Hawk. This is inspired by Walt Whitman, who wrote,

The spotted hawk swoops by and accuses me,
he complains of my gab and my loitering.
I too am not a bit tamed.
I too am untranslatable.
I sound my barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world.

In the same spirit I might call the newsletter Barbaric Yawp. But ya kinda gotta know the reference, which even English majors mostly don’t. Meanwhile, Spotted Hawk reads well, even if the meaning is a bit obscure. Hell, the Redskins or the Indians could have renamed themselves the Spotted Hawks.

Yet barbaric yawping isn’t my style, even if I am untamed and sometimes untranslatable.

Any other suggestions?

As a relevant but unrelated matter, I also have to decide how to produce it. The easy choice is to use Substack, which all but owns the newsletter platform space right now. But Substack newsletters default to tracking readers, and I don’t want that. I also hate paragraph-long substitutes for linked URLs, and tracking cruft appended to the ends of legible URLs. (When sharing links from newsletters, always strip that stuff off. Pro tip: the cruft usually starts with a question mark.) I’m tempted by Revue, entirely because Julia Angwin and her team at The Markup went through a similar exercise in 2019 and chose Revue for their newsletter. I’m already playing with that one. Other recommendations are welcome. Same goes for managing the mailing list if I don’t use a platform. Mailman perhaps?


*One reason I keep this blog up is that Harvard hosts it, and Harvard has been around since 1636. I also appreciate deeply its steady support of what I do here and at ProjectVRM, which also manifests as a blog, at the Berkman Klein Center.

  1. Thomas Vander Wal’s avatar

    Doc’s Blog Distribution would be a good name. The best newsletters these days have gone back and added web addressable formats, which then turn into blog versions, if then created as a blog that is sent via newsletter.

    It came full circle already.

    Own your content on your blog and use a compatible service to send it out in newsletter format.

  2. Perry’s avatar

    I like searly. Plays on early, surely and – of course – surly.

  3. Chris Heinz’s avatar

    Clueless Train? (Self-deprecation always good, yes? LOL, check out the name of my blog, which will be 20 YO next year.)

  4. Tanya W.’s avatar

    Hi Doc, I think it’s a great idea to have a newsletter. I already subscribe to your blog through the brilliant (and free!) Blogtrottr service, which sends me your posts by email. It’s always great to see a new “Your Daily digest for Doc Searls Weblog” email in my inbox! But yes, I agree that the newsletter should have a snazzier name. I’m not the most creative word-wise, but if lightning strikes and I come up with something I’ll let you know.

    On the topic of a platform for the newsletter, it’s quite coincidental that Warren Ellis posted this today about moving his newsletter to Buttondown, I’m not sure if it would fit your needs or not, but might be worth looking into: https://warrenellis.ltd/republic/newsletter-development-moving-orbital-operations-to-buttondown/

    Thanks for your thoughts as always!

  5. Kevin Cox’s avatar

    Why not use Medium as it sends emails to your subscribers and allows you to easily post to Twitter, Linked in and Facebook?

    Preserve the name – Doc Searls’ Newsletter is great.

  6. Steve Stroh’s avatar

    I’m surprised that you’re considering Revue considering that it’s now a Twitter product.

    If Substack (which I use and like) is out of consideration, then the next best choice (in my research from a couple of years ago) is Ghost – https://ghost.org/publishers/.

    Your name is your brand, so you could call it anything and get traction.

  7. Dave Winer’s avatar

    Papa Doc’s Idea Emporium.

    There are no good answers for newsletter distribution. Substack also make you use their editor.

  8. David Blue’s avatar

    Perhaps it’s because of my relative distance from academia, but in the past five years of reading you, you’ve become *The* Doc, unconsciously (there isn’t much competition, in other words.)

    Off the top:
    – *DOC*
    – *The Doc*
    – Also, *Searlsmail*

    More importantly, though, please do have a good hard look at [**buttondown**](https://buttondown.email) if longevity/portability is a concern.

  9. Everett Guerny’s avatar

    If you like Spotted Hawk and think it’s likely to be meaningful to others, then why not? Maybe personalize it a bit: “Spotted Hawk.doc” has a nice ring to it, and layers of punny meaning to unfold.

  10. Mike Warot’s avatar

    Whatever you do, please also publish an RSS feed for it. This allows anonymous, no hassle subscriptions.

    Who knows, maybe it’s time for the pendulum to swing back to independent bloggers again. 8)

  11. Doc Searls’s avatar

    That’s the plan, Mike. Nothing without an RSS feed.

  12. Doc Searls’s avatar

    I didn’t know that about Substack. Writing on it looks and feels like Medium, which I think does the same.

  13. Doc Searls’s avatar

    I did not know that Revue went to Twitter. I see at @revue that “Revue is now a part of
    @TwitterWrite. I’ll check out Ghost as well as Buttondown.

  14. Doc Searls’s avatar

    I didn’t know Medium sent emails to subscribers, though that makes sense. But I agree with you that Doc Searls’ Newsletter is the best choice. I’m going with that, though perhaps without the apostrphe. Not sure on that one.

  15. Doc Searls’s avatar

    Thanks, Tanya. Having checked on them, I’ve decided to bypass Ghost (too complicated, and I suspect too dependent on tracking). Warren Ellis’ take on Buttondown kinda scares me away from it a bit.

    What I like about Dave Winer’s approach is that you can blog, tweet, and send newsletters from the same outline. And I like writing in outlines.

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