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David Blue
Written by David Blue

After eleven months of con­struc­tion, our plat­form has defin­i­tive­ly blos­somed into a mar­velous dig­i­tal dream­boat, ready and able to make use of your invest­ment.

You may feel like scold­ing me, this go around, and there’s def­i­nite­ly an instance — I’ll tell you the whole sto­ry — where it is utter­ly deserved.
 
Know­ing myself, my next of these let­ters will be high­ly nos­tal­gic. It’ll shake the dust off the already-mas­sive piles of our his­to­ry with lega­cy hyper­links, dull-to-lit­er­al­ly-any­one-else num­bers, and tremen­dous­ly sap­py shoutouts. In this eleventh month, though, I must get down to busi­ness, and write you as the white, 20-some­thing own­er of a fuck­ing start­up.
 
Rough gig, eh?
 
By now, you know Josh Topol­sky is a huge, val­i­dat­ing influ­ence of mine. He appeared on the Digi­day pod­cast in Feb­ru­ary, when The Out­line seemed a lot younger. (Con­grat­u­late it for win­ning The Soci­ety for News Design’s World’s Best Dig­i­tal Design award. I’d say it was well-deserved.)
 
As if it was com­mon knowl­edge (I’ve prob­a­bly just man­aged to miss it,) Bri­an Mor­ris­sey said “it takes about a year for a media com­pa­ny to fig­ure out who they are.” The gen­er­al theme of my head­space as we’ve approached Trato’s first birth­day has been the increas­ing­ly preva­lent task of turn­ing it into a busi­ness.
 
I’ve remained hes­i­tant to dive off the entre­pre­neur­ial cliff until now because I was wait­ing for the moment I could look at extra­tone dot com and say that’s worth pay­ing for. That era is swift­ly arriv­ing. As such, you can expect some out-of-char­ac­ter behav­ior going for­ward, on my part. I will be uniron­i­cal­ly pro­mot­ing the Patre­on on Twit­ter. My engage­ment has steadi­ly fall­en off since turn­ing sin­cere in the pur­suit of this thing, any­way, so I plan to pro­ceed head­first into start­up cul­ture with­out any regrets. It’d be a shame if the result­ing per­son­al growth has tru­ly ren­dered me of 0 val­ue to the audi­ence I cre­at­ed it for, but I’ve put way too much in it to let my van­i­ty impede its future.
 
This does not apply to the staff, how­ev­er. Con­sid­er your­self implored to let me become a sort of mar­tyr to com­mer­cial­iza­tion. Extra­tone’s finan­cial future does need to hap­pen, but it’s my job to make it so with­out ruin­ing the val­ues which make us worth­while in the first place. Your read­ing expe­ri­ence will nev­er be soured by adver­tise­ments, but you may be soft-prompt­ed to sign up for our new week­ly newslet­ter. It’s wit­ty and ele­gant — a vir­tu­al clone of The Verge’s Com­mand Line in for­mat, but more suit­ed for a fresh­er audi­ence. I want­ed some­thing brief to com­pli­ment our love of long­form, and it looks promis­ing. I’d like to see it become bi- or tri-week­ly with­in the year, even­tu­al­ly amped to dai­ly in the near future.

F I N A N C I A L L Y

Oh boy… a new, scary head­er.
Am I one of those peo­ple, now? Will I lis­ten to start­up pod­casts and talk exces­sive­ly in pyra­mid scheme-esque plat­i­tudes? What if I aban­don Extra­tone and re-bet every­thing on some bull­shit con­trap­tion?!
 
Have no fear, folks.
I began this ven­ture know­ing this day would come, under the edu­cat­ed assump­tion that I have some busi­ness sen­si­bil­i­ty. Enough to last us until I find my life­long finan­cial & legal Cheque, any­way. It didn’t occur to me that I’d actu­al­ly need to use the term busi­ness when refer­ring to a Word­Press web­site, though. It’s going to take a bit more adjust­ment, but I, alone must come to terms with the fact that our future orga­ni­za­tion must look and smell for prof­it, lest we resign our­selves to death or pub­lic media.
 
The key to our meta­mor­pho­sis is in the incen­tive of our rev­enue mod­el.
In case you hadn’t heard, the Extranet is a no adver­tise­ments, ever On Line Zone — a dec­la­ra­tion-at-ori­gin which exempt­ed us from some espe­cial­ly unhealthy dig­i­tal trep­i­da­tions like Search Engine Opti­miza­tion and Pussy­foot Jour­nal­ism, but set us for­ev­er upon a path with spe­cial risks that can appear — at first — more numer­ous than those encoun­tered in the bar­bar­ic, tried ‘n’ true AdSense Splash.
 
While the lat­ter can make for quick mon­ey in the teething stages of a media com­pa­ny, it also binds them to a sin­gu­lar, ter­ri­ble pur­pose: expo­sure. If a busi­ness exists to make mon­ey, and your busi­ness makes mon­ey from adver­tise­ments, your entire des­tiny will remain eter­nal­ly enslaved to The Unique View. Regard­less of the depth or beau­ty of your ideas, you’ll always exist on the click­bait spec­trum, some­where.
 
Our mod­el lit­er­al­ly flips ad incen­tives on their head. To sur­vive on vol­un­tary sub­scrip­tions, a pub­li­ca­tion must sim­ply remain as excel­lent as pos­si­ble, as opposed to per­pet­u­al enroll­ment in The Uni­ver­si­ty of Treach­er­ous­ness. Instead of striv­ing to top search results, we must endeav­or to be unfor­get­table. If we do it cor­rect­ly, we’ll cul­ti­vate a core com­mu­ni­ty of ultra-engaged sub­scribers who we’ll know by name.
 
But how?
 
A fuck­ing four-step busi­ness plan.
  1. Form and acti­vate the com­mu­ni­ty.
  2. Build a beau­ti­ful, one-of-a-kind method of con­tent deliv­ery.
  3. Attain a fair­ly depend­able con­tent cadence.
  4. Sell the prod­uct in a way that imme­di­ate­ly and — from then on — con­sis­tent­ly ensures and/or fur­thers its qual­i­ty.
Cur­rent­ly, we are bridg­ing the mid­dle divide, depart­ing num­ber two for num­ber three. A year of obses­sive­ly pul­ver­iz­ing Ye Olde CMS of The Blog Boom into a prac­ti­cal, visu­al­ly-pli­able plat­form for our par­tic­u­lar bents has had real results. I’ll spare you the front-end com­par­i­son shots until next month, but suf­fice it to say that we’ve beat the back-end envi­ron­ment into a vast­ly more adept and nuanced oper­a­tion.
 
I’m new to finan­cial respon­si­bil­i­ty, but I’d imag­ine poten­tial investors may har­bor some curios­i­ty as to their assets’ des­ti­na­tion, which is a less painful con­ver­sa­tion for me than you might think. It’s hard­er to imag­ine rich­er soil than what we’re build­ing on now: we (that is, you and Extra­tone) can do what­ev­er the hell we want. Thanks my first demon­stra­tion of com­pe­tent fru­gal­i­ty in this exis­tence and the mag­ic of open-source soft­ware, our cur­rent over­head is vir­tu­al­ly nil. At this moment, any and all of the expense account’s incom­ing green can be spent on con­tent, under con­di­tions of sen­sa­tion­al trans­paren­cy (subscribers/investors receive pho­to­graph­ic audits by request,) and that is a beau­ti­ful thing.
 
For bet­ter or worse, I have always been a ter­ri­ble sales­man. The root of my inad­e­qua­cy is the same com­po­nent that’s going to make this next bit extreme­ly painful.
 
Let’s talk about  m e m b e r s h i p l e v e l s ! !
  • $1/month gets you a free pass to main­tain an infi­nite­ly both­er­some occu­pa­tion of our Dis­cord, as a guest, and breaks you through our new all-meta pay­wall.
  • $5/month makes you a con­tact on my phone, and buys your entrance into our sub­scriber-only Dis­cord chan­nel — a col­or­ful dig­i­tal broth­el full of unlim­it­ed delights & temp­ta­tions.
  • $10/month is where it gets real­ly seri­ous. Your choice of upcom­ing con­tent updates on an indi­vid­ual basis, Tim’s phone num­ber, and up to five cus­tom redi­rects to con­tent of your choos­ing (sub­ject to my approval, of course.) An exam­ple: extratone.com/flex.
  • $20/month will allow you just about any­thing you want, hon­est­ly. Shoe­horn your­self on our mast­head under just about any title you’d like with your dirty mon­ey — we’ll even dol­ly up a head­shot for you. Sit in on edi­to­r­i­al meet­ings if you real­ly want to.
  • $100/month and it’s per­son­al. I will be your bitch. What do you want? 24/7 access to my ear? Dai­ly lovelet­ters? Hap­haz­ard invest­ment advice? A play­thing for your rabid pet??? Ter­ri­fy­ing.

E D I T O R I A L L Y

Late­ly, I’ve been jok­ing a lot about our trans­for­ma­tion into a Marx­ist, Catholic pub­li­ca­tion. Some­how, the entire­ty of Extra­tone’s edi­to­r­i­al team all inde­pen­dent­ly arrived upon the con­clu­sion that we need to be saved in the same two month peri­od. From now on, Tim and I will be going to mass on Sun­days, drenched in sin. As such, it was only preva­lent for us to live­blog Christ’s emer­gence. But did he see his shad­ow? Will cli­mate change be stopped? Stay tuned for the offi­cial ver­dict.
 
For the moment, my inter­view with Eugen Rochko, cre­ator of Mastodon greets you as you land on the front page. I con­versed with him just after his break­fast on the biggest day of his life (my words, not his,) which — espe­cial­ly in reflec­tion — is a won­der­ful­ly strange thought. I’m fair­ly sure I was just one spot in the queue ahead of Casey New­ton, who’s front-page sto­ry on The Verge was less neg­li­gent than I por­trayed it in my rant on Future­land, aside from its sub­head. In ret­ro­spect, I’d like to rescind the harsh­ness of my crit­i­cism (though I think it may have just been revised.)

I antic­i­pat­ed the rest of the industry’s cov­er­age would be focused on the inter­work­ings of the ser­vice, so I thought I’d focus on Rochko, him­self, which proved to be just as inter­est­ing. Though I was ear­ly, I could’ve been much ear­li­er, which jus­ti­fies the self-abuse found in the sto­ry at the bot­tom of this let­ter. Frankly, I’ve nev­er been very good at inter­views, despite how much I enjoy them, and will be del­e­gat­ing them to oth­er staff in the future, when­ev­er pos­si­ble.
 
I think I’ve done a fair­ly good job of min­i­miz­ing my bit­ter­ness in these let­ters, this past year, but I think there is some prece­dent for the iden­ti­fi­ca­tion of what we are not, espe­cial­ly dur­ing this time of cru­cial mat­u­ra­tion for Extra­tone and its edi­to­r­i­al future.
 
That said, I’d like to fol­low up on my first sub­scriber-only let­ter and make an exam­ple of PCMag’s… thing on Mastodon.
I don’t know what dialect this is, or what school of jour­nal­ism it came from, but you can be assured that Extra­tone will destroy it, imme­di­ate­ly, should its loca­tion be revealed to us. It’s the rea­son geezers con­demn our gen­er­a­tion col­lec­tive­ly as The Black Horse of The Apoc­a­lypse, sent to restore Baby­lon for 20,000 years. This sort of bla­tant, infan­tile patron­iza­tion is what gives 21st-cen­tu­ry youth their absurd image in the minds of baby boomers, and real­ly… I can’t blame them. I hate being spo­ken to this way. I may be an idiot, but I have every­thing to gain by read­ing what’s writ­ten for genius­es, and absolute­ly noth­ing to lose. Per­haps it’s a more effi­cient means of com­mu­ni­ca­tion, but such butch­ery should be left to news ser­vices like Axios, who explic­it­ly oper­ate under a declared com­mit­ment to extreme brevi­ty.
 
To us, the Mag­a­zine tal­is­man is a promise of depth, respect, and aspi­ra­tion. We dig out an obscure vocab­u­lary because we enjoy the hunt, and want to share in its fas­ci­na­tions with our read­er­ship. We pub­lish beau­ti­ful, mas­sive, read­abil­i­ty score-bomb­ing walls of Gara­mond know­ing our audi­ence is patient, taste­ful, curi­ous, and well-read. That’s not to say we’re not look­ing for the con­tem­po­rary voice, but we believe with all of our hearts that this is not the one.

A U D I O

Just a few hours after my inter­view with Eugen, we record­ed an episode of Future­land on the future of social media while the top­ic was still fresh. Then, last week, Tim and I decid­ed it was time to chill out a bit, so our reg­u­lar pod­cast­ing date was spent record­ing an episode of Drycast, which proved to be par­tic­u­lar­ly enjoy­able after Nina and Jab even­tu­al­ly joined. We left the win­dow open in Stu­dio Eat to Spring’s breezes and sub­ur­ban bar­be­cue odors, and thor­ough­ly enjoyed oper­at­ing once again with­out any direc­tion what­so­ev­er. Except for anoth­er of my edi­to­r­i­al rant in the begin­ning, the prod­uct is very enter­tain­ing.
 
It’s impor­tant to note: that rant is the last Meta you’ll hear in our pub­licly-avail­able pod­casts. We’re going to do our best to elim­i­nate it com­plete­ly, mov­ing all about-us audio to a sub­scriber-only RSS feed on our Patre­on. Its first 26 minute-long mono­logue rep­re­sents the gen­e­sis of Extra­tone pay­walled con­tent.
 
Drycast’s revival got me look­ing through the archives. I found a hand­ful of lega­cy episodes that some­how escaped my restora­tion, and spent some time get­ting them back up to snuff. One of these was eigh­teen — record­ed exact­ly two years ago — when Ryan Dell joined us, and I had to explain that one video we shot, so long ago.

M E C H A N I C A L L Y

  • I final­ly got around to the long-over­due over­haul of our audio play­er. It’s at the top of pod­cast posts, cen­tered, behind a brand-new play but­ton that’s been ren­dered with col­ors not found any­where else in the stylesheet to steal the eye away from the more bureau­crat­ic dis­trac­tions toward The Real Meat of the Mat­ter.
  • It was brought to my atten­tion that the sub­scribe hyper­links below the play­er have sim­ply been link­ing to the main, aggre­gat­ed feed this whole time… It turns out, I’ll need to repoint each episode’s one-by-one, so it may take me a bit. Sor­ry about that.
  • After months of hys­ter­i­cal, wild­ly ani­mat­ed ges­tur­ing at my machine, body text padding is very close to where it should be. Everything’s just about per­fect in wide mode, but there’s still some seri­ous de-con­strict­ing left to be done for the mobile read­ing expe­ri­ence. This is a big goal I’m set­ting for four point oh: it shall be just a bit slick­er and wider.
  • For World Day of Lies, I just… broke the web­site, but I’ve left in the gra­di­ent­ed col­or text because I think it breaks the monot­o­ny in a cre­ative way. Feel free to berate me about it, as always.
  • In accor­dance with The Tone’s launch, our email page has been brought up to speed and ✉️ has replaced 📰 in the tip-top Quick­draw menu.

G O L F

Yes, this is Absolute Worst Case Sce­nario type shit.

In the near future — prob­a­bly late Spring, ear­ly Sum­mer — I will be endur­ing nine holes of the dingi­est, dirt­i­est local coun­try club I can find as pun­ish­ment for the worst mis­take I could’ve pos­si­bly made as EiC at this point in Extra­tone’s mat­u­ra­tion.

Here’s the deal: while I did man­age to squeak in a con­ver­sa­tion with Mastodon’s Eugen Rochko less than two hours before his sto­ry broke, I could’ve had a two month lead. Just before True/False, our friend Kali brought the ser­vice to our atten­tion on Feb­ru­ary 5th’s episode of Future­land, dur­ing which we actu­al­ly signed up for our accounts, yet… for what­ev­er rea­son… I did not fur­ther pur­sue the sto­ry, at the time, nor did I remem­ber to note it down to do so in the near future.

What occurred, then, was a 100% bang-on sit­u­a­tion via this sys­tem I’ve bet every­thing on, and I was the miss­ing link. Half the god­damn mantra of this pub­li­ca­tion is a ded­i­ca­tion to this par­tic­u­lar net­work, and — though Mastodon’s not exact­ly the sort of sto­ry one breaks — Kali’s tip was unques­tion­ably on-brand, intrigu­ing, and rel­e­vant to our audi­ence, which is the last thing I can afford to neglect.

This is why I must pun­ish myself in such a man­ner that I will nev­er for­get.

 

On that note, does any­one know how the fuck golf works?

The author

David Blue

David Blue

David Blue began producing films about cars in high school and wrote a weekly column for Speedmonkey through community college. He hosted a music, technology, and automotive podcast throughout 2015 called Drycast, before going on to launch Extratone in the Spring of 2016 as an independent online magazine in the interest of consolidating and unifying the vast amount of original voices he’d discovered within his network of artists, musicians, culture writers, and graphic designers, and continues to pursue new culture and new perspectives.