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What is Sidechannel?

In April 2021, I collaborated with a few other great independent newsletter writers to launch Sidechannel, a shared Discord server that’s exclusive to paid subscribers of any of our publications. The big idea with Sidechannel  is create a shared digital space for our respective communities to get together — and if they’re interested, to cross into each other’s communities. We also use the Discord server as a presentation space to stage the occasional live experience. (You can read more about it here.)

When you log in, you’re going to see that each publication will have its own dedicated section with their own dedicated channels. There will also be a few general channels, structured around interests pertinent to everyone.

Beyond myself, here are the other writers participating in Sidechannel:

  • The aforementioned Casey Newton of Platformer, who covers technology, platforms, and their relationship with democracy and society;
  • Ryan Broderick of Garbage Day, whose newsletter covers the parts of the internet that are super weird and sometimes fun and that I’m afraid to check out myself (I know him best through his podcast, The Content Mines);
  • Delia Cai of Deez Links, who writes my go-to reference these days on media news and gossip;
  • Anne Helen Petersen of Culture Study, who’s spending her bulk of her attention these days covering the many intersections of work and culture, though I first encountered her through her work on film and celebrity;
  • Eric Newcomer of Newcomer, who covers the startups, financing, and venture capital section of the tech industry (nerd shit that I love, in other words);
  • Charlie Warzel of Galaxy Brain, who recently left the New York Times to start up an independent newsletter on the attention economy and it is doing to our world and our brains; and
  • Kim Zetter of Zero Day, who has covered the endlessly fascinating world of cybersecurity going back decades.

Each writer is going to use their section of Sidechannel differently, and here’s how I plan to start out using Hot Pod’s for now:

  • There will be a broad channel for podcast news, stories, developments, trends, and gossip;
  • There will be a broad channel to talk about podcasts that you’re consuming and enjoying;
  • There will be a dedicated channel for Hot Pod subscribers only; and
  • There will be a broad miscellaneous channel to talk about anything else.

(I’m planning to add more channels as I feel like it; I’m also planning to shut down channels as I feel like it.)

My specific goal with the Hot Pod section is to have a space where people can thoughtfully talk about and engage with the latest in the podcast and audio world.

Three more things to note about Sidechannel:

  • First, Sidechannel is an experiment. which is to say, it could go well, it could go horribly wrong. It could also go reasonably well but I end up deciding eventually that it’s not something I want to continue doing under the Sidechannel auspices, plug out of the group server, and start up a solo server just for Hot Pod. Or I could find that the whole enterprise is not worth the attention and resources that it’s demanding of me.
  • Second, Sidechannel will be managed at the full whim of myself and the other hosts. If we choose to shut down a certain behavior or kick somebody out, it’s our supreme right to do so.
  • Third, Sidechannel is a purely optional experience. The bulk of the attention and value of Hot Pod will remain clustered in the main Tuesday newsletters and the Hot Pod Insiders. To the extent that news gets made in Sidechannel, those things will ultimately make their way to the newsletters at my curation and discretion.