Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Web Secret #244: Brain Pickings and other newsletters

People are always asking me whether they need to write a blog, create a Pinterest or otherwise engage in new media.

But older forms of media continue to thrive in an era of apps and tweets. If you offer strong/interesting/amusing content you will have followers and champions. For these reasons, I am a faithful reader of two newsletters.

The first is the weekly, amazing Brain Pickings, the brainchild (pun intended) of Maria Popova, a 28 year old former Bulgarian body builder. How to explain? I will quote a recent article in the New York Times:
She is the mastermind of one of the faster growing literary empires on the Internet, yet she is virtually unknown. She is the champion of old-fashioned ideas, yet she is only 28 years old. She is a fierce defender of books, yet she insists she will never write one herself.

...Ms. Popova is the unlikely founder of the exploding online emporium of ideas known as Brain Pickings.

Her exhaustively assembled grab bag of scientific curiosities, forgotten photographs, snippets of old love letters and mash notes to creativity — imagine the high-mindedness of a TED talk mixed with the pop sensibility of P. T. Barnum — spans a blog (500,000 visitors a month), a newsletter (150,000 subscribers) and a Twitter feed (263,000 followers.)
Let's face it, there is a lot of low quality sh*t on the Internet. Brain Pickings is the antidote to that garbage. Typical articles include "5½ Timeless Commencement Speeches to Teach You to Define Your Own Success," "100 Ideas that Changed Graphic Design," and "John Steinbeck on Falling in Love: A 1958 Letter." Lovely, literate, stuff.

Then there is Bill O'Hanlon's monthly "Possibilities Newsletter." Bill's publication is part divertissement, part confessional, part "list of awesome things Bill is doing soon." It's short, easy to read and there is almost always something that I am going to be inspired by.

This past year, Bill honestly discussed the failure of one of his ventures, the "Psychotherapy Digest." Who does that? In another issue, he introduced me to a video series featuring extraordinary people.

Bill also has a phrase he often uses in his newsletter, something to the effect: "if this fails to delight you, please unsubscribe."

I continue to be delighted.

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