“Events, my dear boy, events.”
— attributed to British PM Harold Macmillan (1957-63), asked to identify the most troubling problems his government faced
As you may have noticed, the theme here has become repetitive. People try to get together. COVID complicates those interactions. Connections are broken or remain strained.
As a wise card player would say, it’s time to stop asking you to throw good money after bad. I’m suspending Social Fabric News with this entry. Paid subscribers are supposed to get refunds for the remainder of their subscriptions automatically. (At least that’s what Substack says. If not, you know how to find me; the refunds will come from my bank, so I’ll know, too.)
This wasn’t what I had in mind. My aspiration for Social Fabric News was to build an audience by telling stories of the victory of social networking and community building as we emerged from the century-defining pandemic.
COVID had other plans. Lethal ones. Community-stifling ones. Events (as in the stuff of daily life) wouldn’t conform with my trivial professional plans.
It’s also the case that tens of millions of people were refusing to protect themselves and others by taking a vaccination which cost them nothing out-of-pocket but would have prevented them from serious illness, possibly death. They also refused to accept other modest but yes inconvenient changes in behavior that would prevent the virus from spreading. Maybe just a little, but some.
That resistance didn’t help my inconsequential (in the broader sphere) goals, either. But I’m not going down that rabbit hole. Intelligent people know how to protect themselves, even if they choose not to, or for cynical reasons they do, but try to convince others not to for attention or money or whatever.
We’ll get through this
The vast majority of North Carolinians and Americans will emerge from the pandemic and carry on in something resembling pre-pandemic normal.
But not now. Maybe next spring. Until then, without a large travel budget I’d only be able to tell similar stories that add little value, other than the occasional “attaboy” to a person or group or institution that’s defying the odds. Those stories become repetitive and uninteresting.
I also misread the room, or at least the entrepreneurial environment I entered. It’s much simpler to earn a living “creating content” independently through newsletters, videos, and the like if you bring along a large audience, have specific expertise that’s in demand, or occupy an unfilled niche with mass appeal.
It also helps to be a relentless marketer with a bazillion contacts. Along with enough prestige that people will pay a few bucks a month just for your information and analysis.
The Deregulator model was a bad fit for today’s political environment. With Social Fabric, my niche never developed, my contact list wasn’t as large as I needed, and my audience stopped growing.
I wasn’t “creating content” the market wanted.
It happens. The market teaches you.
It’s not over
I’m not ending Social Fabric News. We’re just … on a break. I’m doing some outside paid work, in case you didn’t know.
The long-form feature about Merlefest I’m producing for The Assembly is consuming my attention in ways I didn’t expect. (You should subscribe. Seriously.) It’s becoming a life-altering experience. But the festival is three weeks from now, I’ll spend much of it interviewing people and collecting information, and the story won’t appear until after it’s over. I have to deliver a worthy account, of course.
Plus, I’m volunteering at IBMA Bluegrass Live!, which covers the last week in September. There’s a lot on the plate.
I’ll write about those events here, too, eventually. Other stuff as well (such as this event in Greensboro in October for my pal Virginia Postrel).
You won’t see new posts several times a week, or perhaps even weekly. You also won’t see an option to become a paid subscriber.
I’ll sort out the schedule, if there is one, later. When I return, if you choose to Buy Me a Coffee, I’ll appreciate it. No obligation or expectation.
For now, thank you for reading. Extra thanks to those who paid and helped support me. You have no idea how much I appreciate it. If only there were more of you. …
Acknowledgements and appreciation
Special shoutouts to those who publicly coached me along in various ways. (I hope I’m not overlooking anyone.) Wally Olson and Andrew Donaldson for promoting relevant pieces on social media. Cindy Raxter for rekindling our friendship and promoting the site — plus all the fantastic work she does for Bynum Front Porch. Sara Buxton at Raleigh Night Market for the social entrepreneurship she and Lauryn Stroud are spurring here. Yaël Ossowski, Pete Kaliner, Scott Briggaman, and Patrick Johnson for spreading the word in radio interviews and podcasts.
Extra thanks to John Hood for his continued friendship and encouragement.
To Virginia for plugging the site, sending ideas my way, and being on call any time I needed a sounding board.
My dear friends at the Raleigh Uke Jam for inspiring the concept behind this endeavor, for welcoming an awful player to the group seven years ago (who’s gotten better thanks to you all … seriously!), and for keeping me moderately sane and connected over the past 18 months. We turn 8 in October and will party.
Our elderly, super-sweet, somewhat gassy large dog Baxter, for being the best and goofiest office mate anyone could have.
To my family, for encouragement, knowledge, and a podcast guest!
And of course to Cara, for letting me make this bet on myself and offering not only love but also sound advice when the model needed tweaking or revamping. I married well.
What happens next?
As they say, the future is uncertain. The stock market will fluctuate. For those who hang around, you’ll hear from me next time. I’ll let you know where the employment market takes me.
Tomorrow, I’ll do this. If you have the capacity, I’d urge you to do the same.