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Introducing Satchel: a simplified newsletter and publishing platform for creators and their communities

I’m excited to announce today the launch of Satchel, a newsletter and publishing platform that facilitates direct, topic-specific communication between creators and their communities.

Among other features described below, Satchel makes life easier for creators by seamlessly integrating with Google Docs. This allows posts to have a single source of truth while taking advantage of the world-class writing and collaborative features that Google has already built (why reinvent the wheel?). This also helps creators avoid the annoying copy/paste process between platforms, eliminating common formatting issues that are frustrating to fix.

You can check out my Satchel here, and feel free to subscribe here to content I publish that fits your interests.

Why Satchel? Why now?  

We - the global community - have had more than a decade now to realize that social media companies make money by encouraging us to click on ads, which requires unleashing machine-learning algorithms to manipulate our behavior.

The robots have, unfortunately, shown us that we prefer to engage with inflammatory, controversial, non-nuanced, factually loose, and echo-chamber-y content.

Our global community is suffering. Our social media feeds are full of “engaging” words, photos, and audio/video clips that - albeit as part of a complex set of factors - are making us unhealthy.

What is needed to help bring about change, health, and nuanced discourse is a new generation of thoughtful creators willing to engage with their friends - and friends-of-friends - without trying to optimize an algorithm.

In order to do this, creators should be encouraged to produce content that asks tough, intellectually difficult questions.

While the robots might not like it, and you may not have a ton of people engage with it, helping a handful of people think deeply about a topic is better than leading millions off a cliff (or following them off that cliff yourself).

As one of the initial authors on Satchel, this is my plan. While of course it’s important to have fun and be silly along the way (there’s a time for that, and people can use Satchel many different ways), my goal is to venture into topics at the borders of my understanding and invite input to help shape what I think.

How does Satchel work? What’s different?  

Fundamentally, to start, Satchel is an online publishing platform and an email newsletter service built into one. We’re heading in the direction of allowing creators to charge their audience money for membership subscriptions (e.g. to access special content, deals, etc.).

Current features of Satchel’s initial release include the ability to:

  • Write articles in Google Docs and easily publish/update on your Satchel site and/or private email newsletters
  • Invite people to visit your Satchel site for collecting emails to establish a direct, 1:1 relationship with your audience.
  • Allow your audience to pick the topics they are most interested in following, to facilitate multidisciplinary “outside the box” thinking and yield better insight into what your audience cares about.
  • Apply a Canonical URL to your posts to allow Google to point syndicated articles to the pages/brands you want (but still allow your audience to see all your creative works in one place).

Upcoming features of Satchel include:

  • Use your own domain name for yourself and/or your brand(s).
  • Integrate with more APIs to facilitate easy aggregating of content (articles, videos, podcasts, photos) into one place.
  • Private group permissions and conversations.
  • “Membership” features, as I mentioned above, to allow audiences to pay creators for unique content and deals.
  • What else? Feel free to email us at hello@satchel.works with feedback/ideas.

How can I publish on Satchel?

Visit our homepage and fill out the simple application. We’ll be inviting in a small set of creators in the coming weeks as we fill out the features, iron out initial bugs, etc… Then we’ll open the platform more broadly, hopefully later this year.

Who is the team behind Satchel?

This has been a nights/weekends project over the last few weeks for myself (as the lead developer) and a handful of partners (Natalie, Marty, Perry, and Elisabeth) that helped with the visual design, overall branding, and software engineering (and a special hat-tip to Kyle for coming up with the name).

Can I help?

Yes. Please. We’d love to hear from you. In addition to applying to publish on Satchel as a beta creator, hit us up at hello@satchel.works and we’d love to chat.

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Author’s note: Thanks for reading. Feel free to tag me or hit me up on social media (@wclittle on most platforms, except I’m “/williamclarkelittle” on Facebook) and I’ll do my best to engage. Also feel free to shoot me an email at will@wclittle.com and I’d be happy to discuss more about Satchel. Finally, if you haven’t yet, subscribe to my newsletter and Satchel content on topic areas you care about and let’s keep the conversation going. Thanks!