On Packaging Digest // 5

My digital newspaper.

Hey y’all,

What a crazy time. I hope you all are safe and healthy and had a chance to catch up on plenty of reading over the last week or so.

First and foremost, thank you to everyone who shared feedback on last week’s Lambda School case study. For any new subscribers, just a reminder that this is a digest week. Next week, we’ll be back to a packaging case study. 

On to this week’s digest...


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I recently had a familiar idea that seems to return once a year or so. The idea, accompanied by a sense of nostalgia, is that my morning routine would be infinitely better if I read a physical newspaper. 

Every time I get this idea, I look into the New York Times and the Boston Globe, and realize there are two reasons it won’t happen:

First, I’m just not willing to pay for it. Print newspaper subscriptions are surprisingly pricey, and I always come back to the fact that I’ve gotten by without one for so long, why pay now? 

Second, I’ve curated my own version of a newspaper across my favorite digital sources. For this week’s digest, I thought it’d be fun to dig into what my digital newspaper would look like, both how I consume information and who I’d consider my columnists. 


The Front Page

When thinking about the Front Page of my digital paper, what I really mean is the applications I use to surface my favorite content. This has evolved over time but is pretty simple. I use two channels to subscribe to my favorite writers: Gmail and Feedly. I use Gmail for newsletters and Feedly to follow blogs and individual writers. Both Gmail and Feedly integrate with Evernote, which is where I do most of my reading.

In Evernote, I have a folder labeled Inbox where I save articles for later. This folder gets crowded sometimes, so I have a backup called Reading List that I’ll scan every week or so, and filter out articles I’m no longer interested in.

At a high-level, that’s my workflow. Below, I’ve broken down my favorite writers across a range of categories that you might see in a traditional newspaper. One caveat is that the writers listed below write regularly. While I follow other writers closely, most of them do not produce as consistently as the writers listed below.


The Business Section

Business is where I spend the most time, and it’s not close. Within the broader category of business, there are specialists that I turn to for expertise within their respective domains.

  • Tech: Ben Thompson - I only pay for two newsletter subscriptions, and Stratechery is one of them. I’ve been reading Ben Thompson for a few years now, and he consistently produces great work. He has the rare ability to think broadly about tech holistically, and specifically about the most important tech companies operating today. He’s also partially responsible for the current newsletter boom as other writers follow his approach.

  • Finance: Matt Levine - Matt Levine is an absolute workhorse. A former investment banker, Levine writes a daily column for Bloomberg called Money Stuff. His writing skews towards finance, but often covers a wide range of current events in the business world. I am constantly shocked by the volume and quality of his output.

  • Media: Matthew Ball - Ball is a former Head of Strategy at Amazon Studios who has become renowned for his commentary on the streaming wars - his analysis does not stop there though. I’ve loved his writing on Hollywood studios, video-games, and the forthcoming Metaverse. 

  • Hip-Hop: Dan Runcie - Trapital is the other newsletter that I pay for, and it might be my favorite. As a huge hip-hop fan, I love Dan’s insight on the business of hip-hop and making sense of my favorite artists' business decisions.  As he’s found, hip-hop stars are often ahead of the curve and some of the most innovative users of digital platforms.

  • Opinion: Scott Galloway - My Dad first introduced me to Scott Galloway’s YouTube video The Four Horsemen, which launched him into the national business spotlight, and kicked off his current standing as one of the most opinionated academic figures musing on American business. Often hilarious, and often wrong, he’s one of the most entertaining writers I read regularly.

  • Comics: Marketoonist - Tom Fishbourne produces one comic per week that summarizes a topical subject in the business world. Often spot-on at capturing the sentiment of the modern information worker, Marketoonist is a quick, fun weekly read.


    Everything Else…

    While I read the writers above regularly, I tend to scan the following sources and only dig in when there’s something I’m particularly interested in.

  • World: Zeihan on Geopolitics - While I’ve always wanted to subscribe to The Economist, any time I’ve tried, I’ve realized there’s just not enough time. Peter Zeihan is an expert on geopolitics who provides succinct context to current events. Recently, I’ve enjoyed his perspective on Coronavirus, the Middle East and the current state of the Oil Wars. 

  • US: Derek Thompson - Thompson writes for The Atlantic, but I subscribe to his posts individually through Feedly. He has the ability to look at the big picture on national business and political issues and provide sharp commentary with interesting supporting data.    

  • Economics: Marginal Revolution - Tyler Cowen’s Economics blog is ideal for scanning. I probably actually read less than 10% of what he posts (he posts a lot). Many of his posts are brief excerpts and commentary on research studies across academia, economics and beyond. Cowen is a true polymath and can speak thoughtfully to an insane range of subjects.

  • Sports: The Athletic - I’ve been subscribed to The Athletic for a couple years now, and usually scan the app weekly for fresh stories on the Celtics and Longhorns. While the quality of output really depends on the writers covering your team, they have strong national writers as well, and I’ll occasionally find myself reading their bigger exclusives. Generally, I’ve found better content on The Athletic than ESPN lately, and expect that to continue as ESPN continues to invest more and more into their mindless talking heads.

  • Art: Brain Pickings - Maria Popova is a master curator and gifted writer, who has published Brain Pickings for over a decade. I follow her on Feedly and often find her writing to be exactly what I need. She tends to gravitate towards philosophers, artists, and writers searching for meaning. I’d consider Krista Tippett’s podcast On Being to be her audio-spiritual companion. Unsurprisingly, these two are friends and Maria has been on Krista’s podcast multiple times.

  • Culture: SSENSE - SSENSE is primarily an e-commerce and brick and mortar streetwear retailer that also has an editorial function. This is the one digital source that I don’t get through Feedly or email, but Twitter. SSENSE is on the cutting edge of streetwear and culture, and they’re always interviewing up and coming artists before they break. 

  • Books: Ryan Holiday - For years, Ryan Holiday has been sending a monthly reading list newsletter. I’ve probably been subscribed for about 5 years, and it’s consistently one of my favorite emails to open. Holiday reads prodigiously and has a wild range of interests. Every month he shares ~5 books that he’s read in the previous month, along with some of the best articles he’s found on the internet. I’d highly recommend subscribing if you’re looking for reading inspiration.


Print Subscriptions

Beyond these digital sources, I still subscribe to two monthly print magazines and one print newsletter. 

I am a big fan of Will Welch, GQ’s current Editor-in-Chief, and have enjoyed watching the magazine evolve under his eye. I also subscribe to Bon Appetit, and always love reading the Editors Note from Adam Rapoport, another one of my favorite personalities in print media. Unsurprisingly, Will and Adam are good friends and have been holding down the fort at Conde Nast together for some time.

Lastly, my Dad got me hooked on the monthly newsletter from The Wine and Cheese Cask, a small shop in Somerville. Every month they recommend a handful of wines, focusing on value, seasonality, and food pairings. If you live in the Boston area, I can’t recommend it enough. 

While the business of print media has dwindled in recent years, I think there will be a resurgence as people get tired of scrolling feeds. There’s something special about holding a magazine or newsletter in your hand, and the brands that can make that experience feel extra special will thrive.

Thanks for reading, and hope everybody stays safe and healthy! 

Until next week,

Rob


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