Episode 010: Ed Zitron - Writing and Publishing Tips for Getting More Sales

Creator Business Show
December 6, 2021
Ed Zitron

Today on the show, I’m joined by my friend and colleague, Ed Zitron. Ed is the founder and CEO of EZPR, a top-ranked PR firm whose clients include SK Global, Nature Publishing, Altwork, Lily Robotics, Target and Plantronics.

Ed is a prolific writer. In addition to his newsletter, he writes for The Atlantic, and Business Insider. Ed is also an award-winning author, known for his willingness to go against conventional opinions.

I talk with Ed about the creator economy, and the necessity of creating a community as a creator. We talk about how technology can help create new communities and relationships. We also discuss how to self-promote as a creator, how to keep your audience engaged, and much more.

In this episode, you’ll learn:

  • Why creators might want to avoid Patreon
  • Ed’s unconventional method for creating high-quality content
  • How to write error-free content
  • Why NFTs are not a good monetization model for creators

Links & Resources

Ed Zitron’s Links


00:00:00 Ed:

Keep writing. Keep writing as often as you can. Keep writing until you work out what it is that the people like, but also what you like, which you can write regularly.

00:00:23 Chikodi:

Thank you for joining us on another edition of the Creator Business Show. My name is Chikodi Chima, and today I’ll be joined by my friend and colleague, Ed Zitron. He is now writing for the Atlantic, and Business Insider.

He started with a newsletter, and he’s been a prolific writer about macro trends.

He’s very controversial in that he doesn’t follow the conventional opinion. He definitely goes against the conventional opinion.

We talk about the creator economy. Are we re-codifying things that have already been done, or are we charting new ground? We also talk about how community is really essential, and how technology is creating new communities and new relationships.

It’s a really wonderful conversation, and I’m so glad that you’re with us.

Welcome to the Creator Business Show, Ed Zitron. I wouldn’t go as far as to say that we’re friends, but I’d say that we’re deeply respectful colleagues. Yes. We worked together on the launch of The Compound Protocol, I guess it was 2018. So, it’s been a while now.

We’ve been in each other’s orbit for quite a while. I think you were pitching me when I was a reporter at The Next Web in 2012. So, we go back.

00:01:31 Ed:

I’ve been married, divorced, married again, since then. There’s so much crap that...

00:01:37 Chikodi:

Bought a home. Sold a home.

00:01:39 Ed:

Bought a home, sold a home several times, moved to Las Vegas.

00:01:43 Chikodi:

Does that mean it’s all going to start again, now that we’re together in one place.

00:01:48 Ed:

Yeah, I’ve got to do it all again next year. I can’t move anymore. I’m dying here. Well, I was. I’m fine now.

00:01:58 Chikodi:

Good, good. So, Ed Zitron, you are the founder and CEO of EZPR. You are a prolific writer and a publicist, like myself. Why don’t you give your background? What are the relevant aspects of what I mentioned that you care about, and who are you really?

00:02:16 Ed:

Who am I really not? So, I run a PR firm. I’ve run it for about eight years now. I’ve been in PR for about 13 years. It was a writer before, I’m still a writer now. Now I have a newsletter. I started writing pretty much only to get the demons out, because if I didn’t write, I got kind of depressed.

So, I started writing that, and then people actually started reading it. Which is pretty impressive, considering I was not writing it really for anyone, other than to vaguely get attention. Now it’s grown into something where I write for the Atlantic, Business Insider, and basically anywhere else that’ll have me.

So, yeah. As far as creators go, I am deeply suspicious of a lot of creator-focused companies. I really do not like Patreon. I feel like Patreon and Jack Conte do not have the best interest of creators in mind. I think their entire cost structure is terrible, but more importantly, my experience of Patreon previously is friends of mine coming to me, begging for help and saying, “Hey, support will not help me!”

These are not small creators. These are not creators who are making 30 bucks a month. These are people making in some cases, tens of thousands. Patreon, I compare their support to PayPal. It’s a bizarre black box, where you don’t really have the support. Patreon has upped their game somewhat.

There they’re desperate to keep their biggest creators because surprise, surprise. When you’re half-assing your support for years, people tend to move on. People want to move on. I just don’t believe that Patreon and a lot of these creator-economy com great. companies really offer much. I don’t think they offer anything other than a bait a

CMS and a payments platform. if anyone finds a way to do that cheaper, they’re probably going to lose because discoverability is not something that Patreon really offers. Anyway. That’s how I feel. I hate Patreon There we are. It’s my entire, just kicking this off, kicking this

00:04:16 Chikodi:

Yeah. Yeah. And it’s only going to go up from here. So, you know, taking a small step back as far as creators go, you are a prolific writer. If I do say so myself, you have a couple of books, you mentioned that you’re now being published for your opinion, editorials and original material in the Atlantic Business Insider, and you have your own, uh, sub stack publication, whereas your edit and you’re publishing two, three times a week.

00:04:45 Ed:

Usually three to five, but I’ve actually been quite burned down. I’ll fully admit I was re I few days ago, I just hit. And it doesn’t mean I’m stopping up, probably stopped writing again today. But usually there was a point when I was doing five. I did like, I had like a separate week street where I did five a week.

And now I think it’s a combination of just this very long year for everyone. But also with the fact that I had a relatively breakneck pace for months and months and months, and it eventually just got me. And on top of the fact I’ve run a PR agency along with that, but I like sub stack as well. I think subs Tech’s great because they don’t purport to be more than they are.

00:05:26 Chikodi:

Well, um, the pace of production of material puts you in an interesting spot because you’re not monetizing off of content, but you’re producing a lot of content. And, you know, after we became acquainted, when I was a staff reporter at, uh, uh, The Next Web, you know, you’re quite prolific on Twitter as well, and maintain quite a number of very public relationships with a lot of authors, um, on these top publications.

So, um, your output is puts you in, in unique company, I would say, How do you think of yourself as a creator?

00:06:07 Ed:

I think create a, can be kind of a nebulous term because create a can of plate it’s it reminds me of like w like seven or eight years ago when you had this whole maker movement. Not sure if you remember that it was this really disingenuous thing where it’s like anyone who built anything was a maker.

It’s like, oh, make a magazine. And it was people like sewing clothes and doing art, which is fine. And they’re both valid pursuits and they’re wonderful, but they’re not new. And I hate codifying and re-codifying things. It’s a personal thing. Well, we are seeking more meaning than it is in the world. That being said the whole create economy.

I think the, I don’t see myself as a Cray because I’ve considered someone I consider creation creates or something you dedicate yourself to full-time and I just don’t, but perhaps I’m wrong for that. I just don’t see myself in that realm because creators are more creative than I am. Perhaps. It’s more, more of a, a judgment on me than anyone else.

00:07:06 Chikodi:

You know, one of the things that I really respect about you is your hot takes. So you say you don’t like codifying and re-codifying things. Why don’t we, why don’t we talk about what the dangers or the pitfalls of codifying and re-codifying things are? Cause that’s what you see this moment, as it

00:07:22 Ed:

So about to codify something. We’ll talk about not like codifying, but I think the. And subtype brain, which I’ll get to in a second. I think that sub stack has created an interesting thing with writing just in general. And I don’t think it is a subset specific problem, but something that sub-state through its ease of use and its ease of monetization.

But also the subsequent pressure to keep creating has created a new thing where people just come up with stuff to fill space and they try and codify something special that isn’t special at all. Uh, I’m not attacking the right own question. I’m not even going to name them, but there was someone who recently wrote something that was like, oh, you’re not just feeling bad.

It’s full regression

00:08:07 Chikodi:


00:08:08 Ed:

Piss off. You just feel bad. Cause the stuff happening too, it’s not full aggression. Oh, and what was the other one? It was like, um, late night progressed the nation, but it was like deliberate, like, um, ventral procrastination or. Because you stay up at night instead of going to bed, reading stuff on your phone.

And it’s like, that’s just using the telephone. It’s not special. And what I think that comes from is this demand to always seem profound. Like you’re always come up with something new, but coming up with something new means coming up with like a new thing, like I’ve invented this and that pressure to constantly create is something that has led a lot of people to make.

It’s why I think you see some people at Glenn Greenwald going a bit bonkers because there’s always this need to keep the, whatever it is. The engine is your audience, the antagonism in his case of masturbating as coverage of the news. And there are like Alex Barron’s certain, his entire thing is just keeping his audience as scared and pissed off as possible.

I think that you are seeing people who are writing, who are suddenly. Having the problem of continued engagement. Like they have, they are way more present in the engagement with their readers than they were when they were writing somewhere else. And that is scary. It is scary. Even me, even me in this unpaid newsletter where I’ve approaching 4,000 subscribers, none of whom pay me in that case.

It’s like, I even, I feel this pressure. I got to come up with something good. I got to come up with something that they’ll love that will grow my user base. And I think that that incentive and that drive is something that has led many writers down avenues they might not have been before. I also think the sub stack and the creators who, and perhaps like, just don’t see right as, as great as which is totally invalid, they are creators, but a lot of the writers who’ve moved up to sub stack.

You can really see that pressure is weighing on them and casing you earn who I, I honestly have grown a lot of, a lot more. Respect for, not that I had like a disrespect for him, but he wrote an amazing thing on his well platform has been great platform or is a great example of how to do writing creation so well, but he wrote this thing about how difficult it was and the things he’s found and stuff like people don’t care about QA people don’t care about interviews.

That’s really fascinating because generally do really well in other publications. And I think the, but I think the sub stack in particular creates these artificial pressures on people that they have to keep coming up with takes rather than thoughts and takes in this case meeting. Hi, I have a new opinion and it’s daring and out there, which is a bad place to start.

It’s a bad place, a bad place to start, which I feel trapped by falling into many times. It’s like I got to come up with something spicy meatball to really engage. And it’s like, the moment you move into that, you are just writing tablet general.

Even if you write not like a tabloid, you are trying you up in the same veins.

And every time I try and manufacture that I do terribly. And it’s a lesser, a hard lesson. I’m sorry, I’ve gone completely off track with that question.

00:11:26 Chikodi:

So then are those people actually creators?

00:11:28 Ed:

Yes. They still create yours. Even if you find their workloads, some they are still creators. It’s just the, I’ve always considered writing less creative than I think I should, even if it is very much creative, I think it’s because it’s non-fictional, but it’s very much still creation creative. Like, um, there was like some more news on Patrion does a fantastic news show.

Those, those people, they are creators despite literally commenting on the news. And I think the term creator is so wide and much wider than they’ve ever given it credit for.

00:12:02 Chikodi:

Okay. And then one of the things that. Like about writers who are, doing profound work, are there kind of tendency or the tendency to test ideas first on Twitter and then turn that into a, a long form take. Yeah. So your tweets are, quite entertaining as well. So you’re you say you’re doing this for exercising the demons in order to just stay expressed.

And yet you have the, uh, did, uh, the Atlantic come to you and businesses that are coming to you

00:12:34 Ed:


00:12:35 Chikodi:

Reading your newsletter?

00:12:36 Ed:

Yes. And that was wonderful because it’s nice to get paid for it. Uh, but, but also it is wider audience. And there is when I first started writing on Substack, forgive me that I just continually go on tangents. But when I first went writing on subject, the hardest thing was knowing that like 30 people.

I had a newsletter list of 300 people that I’d grown over years just by having it on my personal site, I added them and I just kept writing. And my general sense was, and it actually also, you know, the founding story, if my newsletter, I got COVID. So I got COVID I Thanksgiving last year I made the Turkey and it was like, oh, this is so good.

I’m like, it’s kind of bland. And then that night I was hooting up a storm and Putin my hoots for my bar that night. And I couldn’t smell it. I’m like, Coniac I talked to mark. I said, honey, I’ve got COVID and she’s like, no, you don’t. And I got tested and absolutely had COVID. So I was in I’d already written one thing like a few days beforehand about fire had manager had written a, kind of a callous COVID piece about how all the people he’d effect by driving home for Thanksgiving.

And then that he was going to write down. And I wrote about that in wave and was pissed off and it kind of worked. But when I got COVID I was like, I’m going to do this. I don’t do this daily because this will be something I can do while very sick, which also kind of just talks about it. And at first it was almost like just my views on the world, writ large.

And then, I don’t know, I just kept doing it. Like just being like, whatever. No one’s going to like read this, but who gives a crap? I’m just doing it for fun. And then it was maybe around, I would say like mid April, I wrote this thing about clubhouse, this whole thing about clubhouse, because I was just like, I’d started formalizing Mara and it was actually cut.

Like this whole lipstick thing has been really fulfilling with my writing as well. Because if you look at, as I have what I’ve written, you can really see where at first I started just writing about myself and my own crap. And then you can see how I just graduated. Like, oh, I can write normal on here. I can write and I can find my own.

And then eventually I just kept writing and kept writing. And then like April, may I found my feet and it’s been really interesting there because I found this remote work thing started writing about remote work and journalism. And that’s where I got the big pop. And that’s about where the Atlantic popped up.

And they’ve been fantastic. I mean, just also, it’s really nice writing with an editorial team. As in having someone say, Hey, someone edit your stuff versus Grammarly, which I only really recently started using, but it’s, it’s just, easy to write on Substack that it’s just something I got into and it’s really been good.

It’s given me something that isn’t my job I really enjoy. And the other problem is not treating it like a job, which is a natural X-date.

00:15:34 Chikodi:

Well, you know, so, uh, Pico is a sponsor of the podcast and, um, alternative to, uh, sub stack. But when are you, are you specifically like team subs tech, or do you think of sub stack as a phenomenon and a kind of, uh, an evolution of the newsletter writing?

00:15:52 Ed:

The latter, I believe that I I’ve known the reason I have one of the best subject domains, easy.stack.com is because I was one of the first users and I will fully admit I use that. And when I was get used this shit like immediate, but Hey mistress, like why not? And Hamish is a wonderful, thoughtful bloke.

And we had a few conversations. I’m like, I just don’t think people are going to use that. And then like a year passed and it really took off. Or the first one I remember noticing was Mike Isaac. And I think that sub stack had two major advantage. They were really the first mover, the first one to really take this seriously, but also the way they built that platform is.

And I haven’t used Pico could speak to Pico, but with sub steak, there is a real, tangible, Wiziwig thing to him that just works so well. And it really is just condense the writing experience clearly based off of use of CMS previously, clearly, somewhat like when they put this together, they were like, all right, how do people want writing to feel?

And it works, but also it doesn’t do too much. It is not a busy experience. It’s looked the same when I started using it years ago as it does today. I think the other challenges will pop up, but it’s tough to move on from sub-state cause sub stack is just so, so easy. Even if you control your audience once you’re in em, it would be tough to move on.

I just, I also, I wouldn’t do it perhaps on word who was doing this.

00:17:22 Chikodi:

Okay. So what’s the feedback loop look like from starting a publication, easy thoughts, upstack.com. Where’s your ed at, and then, you know, hitting an inflection point where now, you know, very well-known publishers have approached you about writing for them. And then you’re writing about remote work, which we can talk about in a second as well.

But, um, what does that feedback look like in terms of growing your subscriber base with a much more mainstream exposure?

00:17:54 Ed:

It is a, it was a nightmare. First. I had to push past the part of my brain, which said, no, one’s reading this Anthem. I had to kind of just resigned myself to the fact that I don’t think anyone like if you go, but I went back to here we are. I’m on one of my posts from November 20.

338 views. Next one, hundreds, 88, next one, 380 next 1, 3 22. I had to just, and I would write God, I can’t even count, but like

00:18:23 Chikodi:

Author. You have books out

00:18:24 Ed:

I have books out there and it’s like, I had to just suck it up and just be like, you’re building, you are building an audience, which takes time. And Matt Weinberger is a really good friend of mine and works at business.

Insider gave me a lot of advice, which was basically just keep writing, keep writing as often as you can keep writing until you work out what it is that the people like, but also what you like, which you can write regularly. And, but it was, I just, I came from a relatively cold place, like Eric newcomer case in you earn, um, and others who have moved on to sub stack have built in audience.

I never really had that. Or at least I didn’t have a readers audience. I didn’t have fans, which has been one of the more bizarre things about it. And because I have fans now, I have people who, who like only know me from my writing, which is deeply weird, but nice.

00:19:26 Chikodi:

Because you’re behind the scenes guy as a publicist.

00:19:28 Ed:

But I don’t publicize my own work beyond Twitter.

And I barely, yeah. Like people know me usually as a shit poster an I like, it’s kind of like my PR career today. If I had to do what I had to do to start in the, start my career again today I’d fail because I’m significantly older and lazier, but now it’s like, if I had to the whole, the pace I previously had to get going before I would just wouldn’t be able to do it.

I give

00:19:53 Chikodi:

Sure. Sure. Yeah. I mean, nobody would do what they had to do to get started if they know? Yeah. Knowing then what I know now I would,

00:20:02 Ed:


00:20:03 Chikodi:

Who knows, maybe I’d just be a ditch Digger or something, you know Uh,

00:20:06 Ed:

I don’t know what I’d be. I’d be in that ditch.

00:20:10 Chikodi:

Yeah. Uh, so let’s talk about your creative process then, because pretty prolific output five, posts a week. And it’s not just any posts, it’s quite, analytical. You take a lot of you take a big picture idea and then you pull it apart. You have facts and figures.

You look what’s going on in the industry Clearly it must serve your clients very well that you have this analytical mind. but you know, how, how do you find the time w running an agency and then manage to put out high-quality output so often?

00:20:43 Ed:

You are going to find this loathsome but just when I have time, I start writing. And if I have to stop for a call I, will as long as I get my stuff done, I can write, but also I don’t plan anything. in advance there are rare cases where I have an idea the night before, and I might hammer it out the next day–those are generally easier, but more often than not, I simply open a page and I start writing. I’m looking at my recent ones. So the one I wrote about there isn’t A labor shortage that was in my head already. So that span out fairly quickly. The one I wrote on Monday about America demonizing labor that took me an hour and a half

It took me a fairly long time to write that it’s about 2,203 words.

00:21:28 Chikodi:

Took me an hour and a half to read it.

00:21:30 Ed:

It’s but that’s the thing. I research as I go

00:21:34 Chikodi:

I imagine you’re living research because you’re, you’re you’re in the flow for clients as well

00:21:38 Ed:

To to an extent, but I don’t work with many companies that have any relation to what I write. Which is good because I don’t like to cross the streams. I th it’s dangerous, as we both know, but in many cases, the clients are just, occasionally I’ll get clients who are like, oh, I read your thing here. I’m like, oh, that’s nice.

That’s cool. there are clients who know me as a writer now, which is good. It, it helps. But my creative process is that I sit down and write when I have an idea. most of the time I come up with it as I go, like, I just, I don’t, a lot of people have a significantly more planned-out thing They have a whole structured thing. I do not have that. I have no plan. I have nothing. I just sit down and write. I’ve been told by many people, this is extremely strange. Apparently most people. have a plan, they write an outline, then they write the thing. And then the thing happens. I don’t do that. I’m terrible at planning.

I’m writing a book proposal right now and it’s a complete nightmare. I hate writing it, but proposals are awful. Uh, and that’s the most structured I’ve had to write in years and it sucks. And I hate every moment. Luckily I have good agent. I have good people who give me good advice, but it’s still like my creative process has always been chaos.

I write a lot in my head. So I wrote a 7,000-word thing about the super bowl back in 2015 or 2016 I forget that I wrote in 45 minutes because mostly because I had most of the ideas in my head

I was like, oh cool. I’ll put them down now. And then I will edit as I go. But yeah, I know most people do not most people right now.

00:23:37 Chikodi:

You’re an anti-monetization creator because you’re not writing for the industry you then serve. So you’re not looking for clients when you write and then you’re not charging for your newsletter. What kind of support do you have? You said you were using Grammarly before and now you have editorial support from the Atlantic and Business Insider.

00:23:59 Ed:

Well with them, when I write for other places, they have editor or a spot with the subs, that guy have, I literally just have Grammarly and that’s it because people would occasionally mail me and be Hey you made a mistake. I get so annoyed, and I’m so tired of that by people have never heard from, but if you’re the first, if the first touchpoint you have with a creator is to say they made a typo.

You’re an asshole. I’m sorry. No one ever. If that, if the first thing you say to them, you got this wrong that is a shitty thing to do to a creator And it happens all the time. you’re not improving their day. You’re not making their work better. You’re making them upset. if, you have a relationship with them already, by all means, but if you don’t, there’s no, all you’re doing is making other people feel bad, but anyway, that’s a personal thing, but yeah, I don’t, I, since I’ve used Grammarly, people have stopped complaining.

I thought about paying an editor at some point, but now it’s like I can’t I don’t write in a structured enough way nor do I write regular in a way that can be timed out well enough to have an editor. I don’t charge for it. And I think if I did charge for this, I would hate it because I would have the pressure of this is a paid thing. Someone is paying for. And thus, I have to be at this level otherwise.

00:25:21 Chikodi:

Okay. And we were talking about that a few minutes ago, in terms of people feeling like they really have to be striking a nerve all the time when they’re doing this for pay. Where do you think the platforms are responsible for driving this kind of behavior amongst the creators?

00:25:39 Ed:

I don’t think the platforms are responsible at all. So once they go back to casing you in a platform app, one thing he has done is he has not changed his beat. I mean, it’s different, but he is still a guy going out and getting commentary on things from people. He is, he’s doing the same thing he did at the verge for years, and he’s great at it.

And it works, Eric newcomer. He feels like he’s doing more weird investigative stuff. And he and I have had numerous public arguments about his stuff. Um, and I, I probably won’t bang on about that much, but. Back to the platform question. I don’t think the platforms drive that. I think the nature of people who have not been facing the engagement war before now facing it.

I think that that is what changes behavior. Because if you are a writer who’s just been writing and perhaps you’ll have an occasional thing where someone will tell you, oh, this piece did really well. Oh, if you’re like Business Insider, sometimes I know in the past has had traffic. Like traffic is a big metric for them.

I don’t work there. And I tend not to ask my friends there what businesses like, but I know they are more traffic focused, but like Bloomberg or the verge, for example, I’m sure they had an awareness, but if you suddenly move from a publication where your only job is to write and then have to run a sub stack, for example, you have just become a small business.

And that is a different pressure. I don’t know if it’s harder, but it’s different to what you might have faced as just a writer. And that’s good. It’s also bad. It’s also a different kind of pressure. As far as cadence of coverage. Like I, if I had a gun to my head, I could write five blogs a week in perpetuity.

I wouldn’t have a great time, but I could do it. I don’t think most people can. And I think it’s very hard to keep up with or even know what the demand is when running your own publication. I don’t know, like engagement does not seem to drop if I don’t post every day, but it also doesn’t seem to go up if I post every day. However, that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t. It just means more content is more. And I think that trying to divide, I think the platforms, if they’re involved in this at all, do a crappy job of explaining the why behind anything. It would be nice if sub-sect, for example, Hey Mitch, if you listen in place, or anyone, if you could say, okay, when you post on Tuesdays, you get more traction like basics example, buffer, I think does this with social media posts.

I imagine this must have some, there must be a way to do this in sub stack. It would be nice if companies would give that kind of insight. Because the one thing I will say about sub stack and newsletter writing in general, that I’ve heard from the Write of the writers who make money from this is it’s isolating.

No one is really saying. What to do next and Substack as they write our hours and all this other stuff. And it’s like, oh, you can post on the thread of other writers. And that’s just sad. It’s nice, but it’s sad. No one wants to do that. And having to do that is painful. It’s like, and also just repping yourself, uh, to quote Delia, Kai, who wrote these links up until recently.

Now she works at vanity fair, amazing newsletter she had, but she wants row. I think it was actually a sub-second review that like, you have to be your own wing men and it’s true. You have to, you have to turn off the small part of your brain that says, oh, this is embarrassing. Oh, I don’t want to, I don’t want to talk about myself.

A mirror Gable wrote for insight or something about that as well about how the self-promotion stuff is so embarrassing and so weird and feels gross and greasy. And I think the platforms are in a difficult position where if they start promoting. One person, they have to promote everyone. And I was just like, how do you promote, like how, what is, what is discovery?

And I think the Substack also as muddied their own waters by having people they pay, I don’t think, I don’t know how I feel about them.

00:30:08 Chikodi:

Is that the program where they’re paying a year in advance

00:30:11 Ed:

Yeah. I mean, I think it’s cool. My suggestion for who has been previously that they need to, they need to make it an independent board that decides who gets it because they don’t give money to

00:30:26 Chikodi:

Friends and former, uh, yeah.

00:30:28 Ed:

Disgusting. Transphobes like Jesse single,

00:30:31 Chikodi:


00:30:32 Ed:

Like, like specifically people like Jesse, it is not a, like, his views are not polarizing.

They are anti-trans people and he is a scumbag. And it is obvious to the world to see and subs that gave them in advance. And that that’s just that alone proves that it should’ve been an independent board. Like that’s you, you can’t make those decisions

00:30:57 Chikodi:

From a business perspective, it’s very, very poor with decision-making.

00:31:00 Ed:

Guess, no, I think it’s poor.

Decision-making with just a single, but I don’t think it’s a bad idea, but you’re really need an independent board to decide that you need, and it needs to be a nonprofit entity. It needs to be separate so that you don’t do things like this.

00:31:16 Chikodi:

So you’ve got strong opinions about particular companies in this space. What are your predictions for creator monetization going forward?

00:31:26 Ed:

That there is going to be a collapse of companies in this space. I think you’re already seeing it. I, I can’t name a specific one here. but there are only so many people that can be sustained in the market. I think the right comparison is to payments companies and e-commerce companies There’s a reason there aren’t that many storefronts. There are quite a few storefronts but only a few real success stories in storefronts. in e-commerce like Shopify and BigCommerce Shopify grew out of the fact that BigCommerce sucked. The problem is, is how do you differentiate a product in this space?

You really don’t when it comes to writing, writing is words and monetization features. and it’s going to be very hard for most companies out there. if someone can solve the engagement problem, they will make a lot of money. I also think that everything about NFTs is total garbage. Just total dog shit.

NFTs in general are not good for artists. I think you’re going to see a few of these companies pop up as they are already popping up saying, okay, we are going to let you mint NFTs as a creator, and it’ll be a way for you to monetize like all things like that. It will be great for five people the rest will be screwed and they won’t get anything.

And the world of NFT is, is just, it’s a, a problem. No, sorry. solution in search of a problem. I think that’s how creators are going to get taken advantage of. I think that but it’s a good time for existing creators and new creators. There have never been more ways to get money out of people, which sounds bad, but it’s good.

00:33:16 Chikodi:

That only sounds bad. When you say it,

00:33:18 Ed:

No, no, it isn’t bad though, because think about it up until recently up until the last five years, if you were someone who painted art and you want to sell a giggly giggly I forget like a really high-end print what would you do?

00:33:31 Chikodi:

Get an agent or a gallery in.

00:33:33 Ed:

You’d have to find you an independent printer do that.

And Then you would have to ship it yourself. But right now this company called INPRNT for example, where you can buy it, you can just upload the art and do it. That’s fantastic. That’s great. That is a way for great creators who don’t paint on canvas to sell art. That is a way that people can do it. And I, I personally have collected comic artwork for my entire life, Pardon me? It Feels like my entire life has been 10 years. I’m 35. It’s not my entire life but I’ve been collecting comic artwork for years Comics are something where I buy the physical original artwork,

00:34:11 Chikodi:

And you’re saying you can see the brush or the pencil marks and, uh,

00:34:15 Ed:

I can go and grab one from the corner if you want, but you can see the individual art of the pencils.

And that’s lovely, But there are many very talented artists who don’t draw on those don’t draw physically anymore. They draw like behind me, you’ve got an Erik tan and see if it’ll focus well. Nevertheless, there’s Eric tan, all of those Eric Tam pieces. I don’t believe he draws on canvas. I think he draws on the computer, but previously he’s had to sell through Mondo tees, which is a terrible website, but now if you wanted to, or any creative, you could just upload it somewhere and sell really nice prints without having to do any of the Logistics. That is amazing. That’s fantastic. if that is something, if that is the net win out of the creator economy that’s fantastic because it doesn’t cost them money to start an art business, which is awesome. The reason I find NFTs loathsome is because They are adding layers of abstraction to something that does not need to exist.

Like there is no reason oh, it’s one of a kind, my asshole. It’s an IPFS address. It’s not one of a kind of anything. Look, if NFTs are going to work, why is top shots dying? Because it has no validity the whole NFT is good for creators thing. is just crap.

It’s just awful, awful, awful.

00:35:31 Chikodi:

You don’t see any, any value in it.

00:35:33 Ed:

Theoretically, I believe that unique pieces are have validity I own original comic artwork. I see that. I just don’t believe anything. cryptocurrency-related needs to intermingle I think that there is probably a way to create unique identifiers. Someone mentioned maybe it was the Beeple auction Something quite funny where you didn’t actually buy the NFT, you bought the only wallet, the physical wallet it was on That’s actually what the ownership was. And that, that if it wasn’t Beeple it was something, another major NFT art sale that alone proves there’s no validity here because if you have to abstract, what ownership is, you’ve already lost.

It’s not that they made a lot of money. Great. But the more layers you add between the artist and money, the worse it is, that’s why sub-steps done well. That’s why DeviantArt was so was and is and remains popular. That’s why Etsy grew because the friction between the artist and the purchaser it’s that, it’s just right there with the NFTs.

You are intentionally obfuscating where the artist is, you are allowing counterfeits and yes, someone could theoretically upload a fake to Etsy. it happens But there are ways of policing that when something is in an immutable, blockchain, it is not possible to stop it at all. it’s a, it’s a frustrating thing because I see this really disingenuous push to say, oh, NFTs are for artists.

It’s great for artists. Most NFT art is garbage anyway, and that which isn’t garbage could live elsewhere. I would much rather buy the physical thing. if it’s digital, maybe the uniqueness doesn’t matter. Maybe the value is not uniqueness. Maybe it’s beauty. You just have the image. It, that is where I think there is going to be a vast NFT crash that is going to hurt artists more than anyone also NFTs are full of taxation.

Issues Depending on how you look at cryptocurrency. There’s just so much crap in it. There’s a McRib NFT,

00:37:48 Chikodi:

From, McDonald’s.

00:37:49 Ed:

I assume a sore on my feet. I’m like, I’m just going to skip right over that. Or I’m going to go on a killing spree. And it’s just, it’s frustrating to me because it is not adding value to creators or making creators happier.

It’s just enriching the same people that crypto has already enriched. They’ve just found another place to hide and grow money,

00:38:10 Chikodi:

Yeah, that was an interesting conversation I was in is that it’s a new toy to play with for people who were very early in crypto and were buying Ethereum at, you know, 10 or $20 and are now eight

00:38:21 Ed:

Which is so funny because they’re the same people who are like, yeah, well, you know, cryptos away that we get a quality and no, it’s the way that you personally have got rich

00:38:31 Chikodi:


00:38:31 Ed:

It’s offensive.

00:38:33 Chikodi:

So do you think that’s complete picture or are you looking at the current moment and now analyzing, you know, past movements and technology and saying likely this is where it’s going to be like, do you, are you completely hopeless on it?

00:38:47 Ed:

I do not believe any NFT relation to crypto is good. I do not. I think the NFTs as an idea of unique digital artwork is an idea that has some validity, but its relation to cryptocurrency is bad.

00:39:02 Chikodi:

And they’re still working in crypto.

00:39:04 Ed:

I have one crypto client I’m extremely, extremely picky with him. And I pretty much only work with people who do stuff.

That’s transactional. Like it’s Hey, we are hoping transact foster because that has validity. Do I believe in the greater efficacy of crypto? No.

00:39:19 Chikodi:

But you see an N a In a micro sense. that it’s working.

00:39:23 Ed:

In a micro sense. There is, there is something there. I just, the problem is that anytime You have to sit there and explain to someone why something isn’t bad, you probably are already in a bad position.

00:39:33 Chikodi:

So I th I mean, this is why I appreciate getting to have this conversation with you is that you’re a very macro thinker and you definitely go against the grain, but you don’t just do. You know, like if you were doing that to drive subscription to your newsletter, then it would have a very different form than to say, like, these are opinions that need to be out there.

The, you know, the other, the other, the other aspect is, uh, remote work and making, uh, you know, you could say making creators out of all of us, you said in your, in your newsletter that it’s making freelancers out of all

00:40:04 Ed:

Yes. I think it is. I think the, it will potentially, it just mostly opens up the job market, assuming that companies except at scale. I also think that. The whole creator economy is really just the result of the flattening of payment systems, and distribution systems, which is what connects it to remote work.

I am technically a creator now. Not despite not doing anything creator-ish I haven’t done anything weird or special that changed my life. But It’s just because there’s easy access to software. If somehow I could draw, which I cannot, I could theoretically become an artist today and what not, it’s not even a, what is art thing?

It’s just, I could get to Cintiq Wacom tablet do it and upload it. it could be there and someone could buy it maybe they would like it. The one thing I have already is an audience, and I think that is what stops a lot of people becoming creators. I think the audience building is always going to be the trouble.

It’s the same thing with everything. How do you build an audience with anything? How do you build an audience starting out in a career? I think these are all problems that everyone who becomes a solo entrepreneur is going to face that you faced and I’ve faced. I think you’re now seeing creators facing the problems that a lot of freelancers and contract workers faced before, which is how do I build an audience online and how do I retain it?

How do I get people clicking by? What does that look like? What do I need to create? which goes against, a lot of creators moving into business are going to have that, that dichotomy where it’s like, ah, I want to create, because I’m creative. I don’t want to create for money, but I also need money to live

00:41:52 Chikodi:

And people are buying creative works.

00:41:54 Ed:

Exactly. And it’s like, it’s, that is going to be a problem a lot of creators are just naturally going to find. now

00:42:02 Chikodi:

And who do you see doing a good job of this? I know that you’re deeply invested in the writing community. Are there other, other forms of creators in this emerging? You know, cause it sounds to me like your, your view of the credit economy is that it’s about, connecting with an audience and having access to an audience where you’d have to do that in much more labor-intensive ways.

00:42:28 Ed:


00:42:28 Chikodi:

Who’s doing a good job with this new paradigm.

00:42:31 Ed:

Well, it’s a new and old paradigm. Drew toothpaste, attra toothpaste. He run married to the sea. Um, he runs toothpaste for dead. He did Duchesne zone. So he’s someone who has been creating online for like 15, 20 years. I know it because I was fan of him years ago and I met him through Twitter. I’m actually really good mates now.

Uh, he is someone who’s just being very good at creating. Keeping people engaged by having guess what a regular flow of content. not everything has to be a home run. I’m quite in that Weinberger from BI there, but it’s actually going back to Matt’s advice, which is you want to learn how to hit singles.

You need to learn to just create continually because regular doesn’t have to be every day. Doesn’t even have to be only once a week. Regular is what keeps people coming back. And drew has a car and his wife as well have an incredible output that continually doing stuff all the time. And that’s what gets people engaged.

That’s how you build an audience. It isn’t easy because it isn’t linear. It’s not like if I put out this much, I will get this much. It’s usually the sum of the parts of doing this a hundred times will get you somewhere in the region of, and even there, what is the region of, but drew does a great job with that.

I’ve mentioned Casey new and unsub stack. He uses.

Don what he has done, but he also has a keen nose for what is important. He was on top of the base camp stuff from a few months ago. Feels like a year ago. It was not

00:44:00 Chikodi:

Yeah. I mean, we’re 35% of the

00:44:02 Ed:

Yes. And they did. And they did their whole, um, if you don’t agree with our completely lack of discussion politics, you can go.

And then they did. Casey was on that case, got interviews. No one else did Casey got sources. He did just a great job, but he has a regular cadence and he is one of the few subjects I pay for. Then again, like Ashley Feinberg, she’s kind of on hiatus at the moment. I’m actually not sure what’s happened. But she writes when she writes on the most bizarre, direct things, like where is Donald Trump right now was the thing she did or is the.

What’s happening to our former precedent and just showing the kind of inane and kind of depressing stuff. He does sauntering around Mar-a-Lago and the simpering sycophants who follow him. And she finds that internet news shame witness. And she’s just really good at it. And what she does is she does, she knows she has worked out that what people love isn’t the most important news.

It’s the most bizarre told in the irreverent way. She always has them back at Deadspin and otherwise she does a great job because she doesn’t stray from what her, she knows exactly what the audience has signed up for and she gives it to them. And it’s lovely. And there apparently a patron people who do it as well.

There are plenty of really good ones. Um, at Hagle, Bon Trevor, Trevor Strunk, I believe his name is he has been doing no cartridge, which is a podcast. And he’s actually releasing, released a book recently. He’s been doing that and he. He grinds that out. But what he’s done is he’s found people in politics like leftist politics who love gaming and he brings them on it and talks about games.

So he puts their audience over, but it’s not something he does in a malicious or, uh, like he’s taken advantage of them. He’s just knows the people are interested in them and likely what the game, what they play. And he’s started wonderful job about that. And he’s really written and talked about the importance of gaming within culture and the kind of ignorance that culture has towards video games really beautifully.

And he’s kept it academic. He is an academic at heart. I believe he’s had published papers to check that, but he is still kept it within that academic thesis. Yeah, it has that core, which always mattered, which is we’re thinking about this on an academic level and then affect your way while also not being completely impenetrable, which is a problem with academia.

It’s really admirable what he has. And I think the, I think that the existence of like Trek like Trevor and Ashley Feinberg, being able to do this on their own really proves that there is real magic from this creator economy stuff. There is an ability for people to monetize doing something that isn’t necessarily that they wouldn’t have been able to have an income from before.

And that to me is wonderful for all the negatives. There may be

00:46:52 Chikodi:

Wow. I’m still going to have

To get to know you a little better. Cause like I was expecting another, another couple of stanzas there, but, uh, that is, that is quite a place to pause. So there’s magic in people being able to access audiences that were never reachable before because of the flattening of payments.

The technology, you know, another one of the big movements, if you will, is around community. What do you think about community versus audience? Do you have a, do you have a sense of whether this is again, uh, calling something out? That is a it’s. What was the term we were using before about like rebranding something

00:47:35 Ed:

re-codifying. I am actually with the community thing, because I think in some cases there are communities that can crystallize around stuff that you wouldn’t think would I used to be a big part of the Queensland stone-age forum, a favorite band. And that got me into a secret show. Once communities have validity that I’ve always had, that’s what has made online.

So good. And it’s a lot of negatives, but the EverQuest, I won’t use to play EverQuest. The people used to play EverQuest with me, those people. I like there are some of them I still speak to. I believe the community is something that has existed for a while. Obviously everyone knows that, but things like discord have really made it a lot easier to crystallize. Codify them, but in a good way, like I think the, for example, platform, our culture study these links and a bunch of other news that just got together and did the side channel this code. And I absolutely am guilty of saying it was bloody stupid at first and I was completely wrong. I’ve been in that community.

I’m barely in it these days, but people talk about stuff. And there are people who just want to talk about culture. There are people who it’s stinking the obvious as it is. There are people who just want to meet like-minded folks. Talk about stuff. I am still not sure about community. Like, I’m not sure how far it can go, but I also think that while there’s the negative side, the obvious ones that the in cells, well cells, red pill, bastards, those communities have grown and they are truly low sum, an awful bad for society, but there were also plenty of other communities that have grown as a result of the easily available community.

That’s great. There are people out there for basically any interest for good and for bad. And that is a larger problem with the internet. A whole, which is there is no guide. There is no, there really aren’t that many guard rails. And so you get these situations where yeah, we can harp on about how bad racism is fucking terrible.

And it has got worse as a result of the internet that I cannot leave this conversation without saying, obviously that is bad. The good size are, there are communities of people. I have ADHD. I am on the spectrum as well. And there are people I can talk to about that. I can find communities to discuss with them that I never would have before.

And that is really something, but also on a grander scale, it’s not easy to find people who just thought kind of like you.

And we talk about the isolation of the internet. Now there’s actually, this is the time when communities are growing at four with positive results and sadly some negative.

00:50:13 Chikodi:

Yeah, I really appreciate you saying that because now whether that person is in or Belfast, there might be that one person that is just like you, that is your, you may or may never meet, but you can find that person or, you know, that small group of people that really gets you.

And, you know, one of the things I think is really prolific about the creator economy is the, communities that form around creators and form around content, where people are joined by these parasocial relationships, they’re joined by someone they don’t really know, but there’s that sense of trust.

And the fact that you. Identify with this person. And I identify with this person and then where people, and we have a, you know, relationship and a friendship because of our shared affinity for someone I think is a really powerful aspect of this moment as well.

00:51:03 Ed:


00:51:04 Chikodi:

And will I pay for that? Sure. You know, there’s definitely, definitely the patronage model.

Like I’ll patronize a person that brings communities together and

00:51:13 Ed:

I’d rather get five bucks to someone that I know who does good stuff, then give it to a vague organization that may eventually disseminate as much smaller payment to them.

00:51:24 Chikodi:

And it takes everything they know about me to keep me engaged and angry.

00:51:28 Ed:


00:51:29 Chikodi:

Yeah. So do you spend much time on YouTube

00:51:33 Ed:

I done

00:51:33 Chikodi:

Now? So you’re mostly reading and, uh,

00:51:36 Ed:

Mostly reading and listening

00:51:38 Chikodi:

There’s yeah. There’s just such a bounty of platforms that we can participate in.

Any closing thoughts about where you see the creator economy moving, anything that you’re particularly excited about. Anyone you want to shout out?

00:51:50 Ed:

I mean, I’ve shouted out quite a few people. I’m excited by the Substack thing. I think I was very harsh on it when it was growing. I think that frankly, I was wrong. I think Substack’s been positive. Other than Jesse Singal being able to make money, I think that it’s been great. I think it’s great that writers have a way to monetize.

I think that the only negative is some people equate access to a potential audience with having one already, and one’s ability to write with having the ability to make it as a freelancer. I think, as I mentioned before, the harsh business lessons that follow will make or break some people.

00:52:31 Chikodi:

And the self-promotion aspect, you said that you find a bit greasy. But it sounds like it’s necessary to be your own wing man or wing woman.

00:52:40 Ed:

You have to, it’s unavoidable, and it’s just something you have to get comfortable with posting. Occasionally you might DM someone and ask them to retweet, and it sucks. I hate doing it, but I’m probably never going to stop.

00:52:54 Chikodi:

But then you build relationships often.

00:52:56 Ed:

As long as you’re not too demanding of people.

00:53:00 Chikodi:

Yeah. I just think it’s fascinating to be able to have a relationship. We met in San Francisco. You were living in the east bay.

00:53:07 Ed:

Yeah, I was still in the east bay at that point.

00:53:09 Chikodi:

But we had known each other even at that point for five or six years before we even...

00:53:13 Ed:

For years and years, but now we’ve got much closer, recently. It’s great. That’s the thing, you and I would have probably never met, and now we have it and it’s great.

00:53:22 Chikodi:

Yeah. And we got two podcasts.

00:53:23 Ed:

Yeah. exactly. There you go.

00:53:24 Chikodi:

Yeah. I was in Mexico city to meet people that I follow on Twitter, because the opportunity presented itself, and this world is so accessible in that way.

So, how can people get ahold of you?

00:53:47 Ed:

It’s just @EdZitron on Twitter. It’s E D Z I T R O N, or EZ.Substack.com.

I’m very easy to find, it does not take much work to find me.

You can also email me at [email protected], if you really want to.

00:54:04 Chikodi:

Well, thank you so much.

00:54:05 Ed:

Thank you for having me.