Adam Stoner

Community over audience

If the previous decade was about radically open social media platforms (as Andy McIlwain calls them) I have a strong feeling that this coming decade will be the complete opposite. Instead of status updates sent into the unmanageable and unfiltered void, I’m betting on a flip from audience to community, from reach to engagement, and from viewers/listeners/readers to paid-up die-hard fans. And I want you in on it.

I’ve taken a decision that some of the mightiest publishing giants in the world have struggled with and implemented something akin to a paywall. Unlike a toll where someone must pay to pass, I prefer to liken my paywall to a stile you might find on a countryside walk. People can wonder through freely; the stile just separates people who are passing through from the ones who intend to be there: the ones that care. You.

There are two reasons why I’ve taken this decision:

  1. Control of the platform is control of the message.
  2. You can’t build deep connection in 280 characters.

Control of the platform is control of the message.

Social media platforms are in the business of selling your own audience back to you. This is their business model. It is by design.

For years, businesses, publishers, and influencers have been encouraged to move conversations to social media platforms and to generate streams of unique content for them in return for little investment and the promise of large audiences. In one respect, those audiences did arrive – these kinds of entities frequently have millions of followers – but follower counts are ultimately insignificant when the ability to reach that audience depends, as Steve Lambert laments, on one thing above all others: payment.

Since mid-2017, when I began falling out of love with social media and wrote a fully-fledged program that started deleting my tweets on a rolling basis, writing on this website has been my preferred method of mass-communication; semi-private, long-form messages that feel both personal and valuable. No algorithm, no advertising, no attention-grabbing bells and whistles. No behind the scenes talk of serotonin or dopamine or how to get you addicted. No foreign interference, no data to harvest. A private and meaningful conversation is just an email away.

In other words: I control the data, I control the message, I control the platform.

You can’t build deep connection in 280 characters.

This is about deep connection. Every time somebody new registers to my website, I get a notification on my phone, live and as it happens. Sometimes I’ll reply and say hello. Giving me your email address is the deepest form of connection you and I can have on this website. It’s also the only trackable way I know my readership. I am not a writer nor a professional blogger and I do not write here for recognition or audience. I would write here even if I had zero readers and for all I know I might: I don’t run analytics software here because I think it’s creepy and I respect your privacy too much to spy on you.

Rather than trying to reach as many people as possible, I’m focusing on a specific group who appreciate what I do most. You, trusting me with access to your inbox is worth more to me than access to your social media timeline. This list of people who are interested in my work is my only measure of success.

My goal in putting up my stile is to create a community to connect with, to discover what is important to you, and to foster more meaningful relationships on the internet…

_ Update: Three days after this was published, Mark Zuckerburg shared similar sentiments on his Facebook page – read his post here._

06 Jan 2020

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