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The Business of Content

Mar 7, 2018

This week I interviewed a guy named Ernie Smith.

Why do I think Smith is so fascinating? Because over the past decade he’s created two successful media properties, each with the absolute opposite goal of the other.

The first was a Tumblr account called ShortFormBlog. It amassed over 140,000 followers and was one of the hyperreactive news aggregators that thrived in the aughts. Every single day Smith logged in and plucked the most interesting quotes and stats from news stories and served them up in a tightly-packaged news product. The blog was so successful that it was covered in the pages of both Newsweek and Time (back when these were still relevant publications).

And then just when ShortFormBlog was at the height of its popularity, Smith abandoned it and launched a newsletter called Tedium. Unlike ShortFormBlog, Tedium would only be published twice a week and, instead of chasing headlines, it would tackle the most boring subjects imaginable and try to make them interesting. Several of its issues have gone incredibly viral and the newsletter now has over 10,000 subscribers.

Smith and I talked about why he made the switch and whether it’s possible to run a profitable independent newsletter.