17 years as a media artisan

Isabella Roughol has come up with the perfect name for what I’ve been doing for nearly two decades.

Adam Tinworth
Adam Tinworth

I rather love the idea of people publishing sites, podcasts or newsletters solo being “media artisans”, as defined by Isabelle Roughol:

Artisans are independent professionals. They usually work alone. They can take on an apprentice or collaborate with others, but it’s a gathering of individualities, not a corporation. That is the most obvious feature of this new media model. Journalists have through circumstances (times are tough) or through choice (I was that crazy one) severed ties with larger employers and become their own boss.

That describes perfectly what I’ve been doing here for all these years. It’s reshaped my career twice. First, when I transitioned from a features editor to RBI’s head of blog development, and then again, when it enabled me to transition to media consultant and trainer in 2012, when my daughter was about to be born.

I’m in the process of a third transition now, with a growing base of paying subscribers here.

Beyond the prosaic is the artisanal

I do occasionally toy with the idea of changing this blog’s name. After all, if Martin can abandon something as exquisitely quirky as “currybet” for the much more prosaic “martinbelam.com”, surely I can give up on the terrible pun that’s been the name of this site since early last decade?

Isabelle’s idea, though, encapsulates perfectly why I named the site this back in 2003: the incredible potential of one person and a digital publishing platform to create something new. Then, it was (web)blogs. Today, it’s newsletters. And given that they date back nearly 40 years, it might yet be blogs again…

So, I think I'll stay with it. An artisanal name for an artisanal blog…

One person and their tool…

Back to Isabelle:

Nothing is more valuable to an artisan than her tools. They fascinate me, lined up like soldiers over a workbench. The twelve different ones it takes to bind a simple notebook; the absinthe spoon, the berry spoon and the bonbon spoon, all slotted in different ways; the hollow needle that revolutionised medicine…

There’s something in this. The tool has always made a massive difference to me. This blog has been on four different CMSes over the years:

  1. Blogger
  2. Movable Type
  3. WordPress
  4. Ghost

I’ve only really enjoyed using two of those: Movable Type and Ghost. A true artisan, as she so rightly says, deeply cares about their tools. And it does delight me that we’re seeing a proliferation of tools again, from Ghost to micro.blog, to Substack and Revue and so many more.

The explosion of tools is inextricably intertwined with the explosion of artisan creators. We will inevitably go through a consolidation phase again, but I think I can say, with some confidence, that after nearly 20 years, the media artisan is here to stay.

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Adam is a lecturer, trainer and writer. He's been a blogger for over 20 years, and a journalist for more than 30. He lectures on audience strategy and engagement at City, University of London.