Season 1 Recap with More Feels
Another Look Back
|Zach Margolis||May 27|
Hi again, I’m back!
So last week, I had a ton of fun putting together all those charts, but I have more thoughts I wanted to recap and didn’t want to dump it all in one giant email.
Pretty early on, I knew that I wanted to have a weekly newsletter, which part of how I came to call this the Weekly Margs. As I mentioned in the preamble in my first issue, I was looking to share images that I don’t post to Instagram and experiment outside of that platform. I’d say I mostly hit that goal, I think out of the 123 images from season 1, I’d only shared less than 10 of them on Instagram already.
I think the newsletter as a medium is really good for sharing pictures, because it allows me to share a few at once without feeling like I’m spamming somebody’s feed, and I can write as much as I want to and not worry about being too verbose for social networks like Instagram.
From the first issue, I knew that I was going to run through the alphabet. I like giving myself consistent goals and deadlines, so setting up a predictable cadence was really natural for me.
Coming up with what each theme would be happened a few ways. The first was from the photos to the letter: I would start by skimming through old pictures and a few trends jumped out at me. For example, the blurry ones in A is for Amateur Hour were an obvious trend, but coming up with the title for it was kind of an exercise. It was the same idea for the depth-of-field ones in F is for Focus. My other process was starting with a letter or word and finding pictures that clearly matched, such as with L is for Lighthouse. I knew I wanted to do pictures of lighthouses for an issue, I just had to wait for that letter’s week to happen.
I kept these ideas in my head until I had trouble tracking which weeks were which. Eventually I started a note in the Notes app to brainstorm the various letters of the alphabet:
I spent a lot of time skimming the dictionary to find words that popped out, so I’d write those down. I’m glad that early on I used multiple-word phrases, it was really freeing to not be stuck to a single word.
When I wanted to include a photo of somebody, for the most part I checked with them ahead of time to get an OK. Probably like 25% of the photos, mostly wedding ones, I knew that folks would be fine with it, but I know that people really appreciated being checked in with.
When I envisioned making my newsletter, I had dreams of building the tooling from scratch, so that I could control how the images got compressed and presented, and make sure not to include any tracking info. That is a ton of work (especially rich HTML email styling) so I ended up just using Substack so I could focus on writing newsletters, not code. I really like that Substack has an easy online editor that saves drafts, so I can even tweak drafts from my phone.
However, Substack does have some really heavy tracking that I don’t enjoy. In addition to read receipts via tracking pixels, every single link in each email is tracked so it even tells me who has clicked on what links, and how many times. One the one hand, it’s neat tech, added transparently to me as the author, but it’s really much more invasive that I want and I can’t turn it off. Substack is a VC-funded app, and it’s free to use, so this is unfortunately par for the industry right now.
Substack does allow folks to “like” posts and some other social features, and I turned them off because I think they’re gimmicky.
In the time since I’ve started my newsletter, I’ve been more proactive about subscribing to others’ newsletters too. I even signed up for a paid subscription of Normcore Tech since I enjoy it so much. (btw I have zero intent of monetizing this newsletter, it’s a personal creative outlet for me). After I created my newsletter, I feel like I’ve seen a lot more folks start writing on Substack, it’s been really nice. I’m not saying I was a trendsetter but most of these people started writing after I did so, I’m basically a trendsetter. One thing I really like about the newsletter format is that I can use my same inbox management and read-it-later workflows that I already have and there’s no worry about a particular person’s post being lost in a social app’s stream with a custom algorithm order that is hard to find later.
I keep all my photos in the Photos app on my Mac. I knew that most of my “good,” more deliberate pictures would be from film or my Leica Q, so I set up Smart Albums for each of those so I could jump through them easier. In general I do pretty minimal editing of my pictures, mostly just minor crops and rotations, so I didn’t really feel limited by the Photos app. I really only felt limited by the tooling for one photo in Z is for Zach’s Choice, where I asked Meghan if I could include it and she wanted me to change how part of her face was exposed. Photos app doesn’t have any masking or dodging/burning, so I had to ask her to edit that one the way she wanted and then send it to me.
Like I mentioned, I disabled Substack’s minimal social features. If people reply to the emails, Substack will forward those to me, and other folks would just text me or email me separately if they had something to say about a particular issue. The feedback was really great and I’ve definitely gotten in the habit of checking my emails more closely on Wednesdays as a result.
I think like with any project, there’s a difference how much I liked an issue compared with the response it elicited in other people, experiencing that was kind of fun. The T is for This Week was a “meh” issue for me, but it got stronger reactions from readers than I expected. Underneath the photo of my maps, I write about where I bought them, and one friend’s reaction was “where did you get those maps?” which was a reminder that people really don’t read. I’m totally guilty of not reading in other circumstances, but it was really funny to sass this friend when replying.
I know I say this like basically every week, but thanks for reading this far. I know this issue was basically a wall of text and I promised more pretty pictures.
Next up is season 2 of my newsletter! I think I may take a week between seasons just to breathe, but honestly I haven’t decided yet.
See you next time!