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The Essentials


Don’t say it. Don’t say it. Don’t say it. Don’t say it. Don’t say it. Don’t say it. Don’t say it.

Happy Friday! Couldn’t help myself. It’s me, Brew podcast host Kinsey Grant, back for another go-round with The Essentials. After a long week, I’m jazzed to have a little fun with y’all.

P.S. Was this forwarded to you? Sign up here.

Leading Off



Call our medium the cockroach of digital journalism if you want. But for all the obituaries that’ve been written about email newsletters...they’re still here. In fact, I’d venture to say we’re in the middle of a newsletter renaissance—one that’s rewarded the intimate connections made in your inbox. Does the WSJ sign off stories with pictures of their pets?

Of the 36,000+ writers who have lost their jobs during the coronavirus recession, a brave few have ventured off on their own to start email newsletters on platforms like Substack, which has 100,000 paid subscribers.

  • The appeal: Newsletter services like Substack don’t run ads, meaning any money writers make comes from loyal readers, not ad buyers who might pull back budgets in recessions.

The money stuff: Substack takes 10% of subscription revenue in return for doing all the tech things we writers often loathe. Same goes for competitor Mailchimp, where account registrations jumped 49% in March as the pandemic set in like a honey mustard stain on white jeans.

Want to join the newsletter revolution? Before you start your own, try giving these a read:

  • Not Boring by Packy McCormick lives up to the name—it’s a fantastic resource for deep dives into business strategy paired with genuinely funny commentary.
  • Flow State has a simple premise that works: Every weekday, you get two hours of music designed for work listening.
  • Femstreet is must-read content for anyone interested in venture capital, startups, or pleasing peach design.

Even more here.


Stay Sharp

Stay up to date: Prepping for a new writing project () means replacing after-dinner wine with after-dinner perusal of the Pew Research Center’s archives. I came for the media analysis, but I’m staying for the relevant news. I urge you to add Pew to your media diet.

Level up: Twitter threads are the new op-eds. Just ask the Brew’s Toby “Threadmaster” Howell. A few threads and threaders I’ve enjoyed reading lately? Creative strategy guru Jack Appleby’s collection of social case studies. Attention economy expert Ari Lewis’s threads, especially this one about our Business Casual podcast. And finally, Naval Ravikant basically invented the Twitter thread with this one back in 2018—it's still relevant today.

Get lost in a hole: The New York Times Magazine’s covers hold a mirror up to life as we know it. Even if you don’t click through to read the articles, scroll through this archive of covers and watch the last several years fly by.


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For your BBQ: Pregame by reading two quality pieces on the food supply chain in the U.S. and how COVID-19 exposed its many shortcomings—one from Buzzfeed News and another from the Washington Post.

For your binge: the 20 best reality TV shows of all time. Survivor coming in at No. 2 is sure to ruffle some feathers. 

For your...Bluetooth headphones? Idk stick with me, I’m trying to make this B theme work and also want to share some great music recs. Our senior editor of verticals, Dan McCarthy, recently made the bold claim that Waxahatchee’s Saint Cloud is the album of the summer. Fair, since we all know Folklore is an autumn album anyway. 

  • The Ringer might take issue with Dan’s claim, though—here are what it considers to be the best 20 songs of the year so far.
  • And while I’m here, another A+ piece from The Ringer about the myth of the isolation album. I don’t agree with it all, but it made me think about what being alone is supposed to feel like.


Dept. of Cool Ideas

These days, I’m recording our podcast in what’s essentially a converted broom closet. The sound is great; the video feed makes me look like Harry Potter at the Dursleys’ house. We’re thinking of sprucing it up, seeing as in-person podcasting doesn’t seem too imminent.

I’m betting you, too, could use a video call background refresh that goes harder than a Zoom filter. Look no further:

  • Take inspiration from the stars, whose teleconferencing backgrounds the NYT has meticulously decoded. I’m aiming for Gwyneth Paltrow meets Regina King.
  • Set aside some time for styling your bookshelf and bookshelf accessories. Bonus points for prominently featuring a tattered copy of War and Peace.
  • Consider where your “fun wall” might be with some help from Curbed.

Because’s not the quality of what you’re saying that matters. It’s the background in front of which you’re saying it.


Happy Place

Townsendma30Nubble Lighthouse, Cape Neddick, Sohier Park Rd, Maine 03909CC BY-SA 4.0


My 26th birthday is November 3, the same day as the 2020 presidential election. To 1) reward myself for making it through the campaign news cycle and 2) cope with the crushingly swift passage of time, I booked a trip to Maine for that weekend.

I’ve never been before, but I think it’s going to be my happy place.

Thanks for reading, everyone, and happy Friday (please say it back). If you’ve enjoyed this or any other edition of The Essentials, share it with a friend.



Written by Kinsey Grant


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