It feels like every journalist started a Substack in 2020. I proudly joined that number when I launched the COVID-19 Data Dispatch in late July.
But after five months of screenshotting Tableau charts, struggling to keep organized, and hitting Gmail’s email size limit again and again—I realized the platform wasn’t serving my needs. I wanted to give my readers clear archives and easy-to-navigate resources, and Substack just wasn’t providing.
From now on, I’ll be publishing each issue as a series of posts on the site and sending out a newsletter with the highlights. This will help keep issues concise while still allowing me to do deep dives into important data issues.
More on the new site below. But first, some housekeeping.
Here’s how to make sure you don’t miss my emails on the new platform.
- Add firstname.lastname@example.org to your contact list.
- If you use Gmail, drag this email to your Primary tab.
- Set up a filter to ensure this newsletter always makes it to your Primary inbox. Here’s how to do it on Gmail.
- See these whitelisting instructions for other email clients and apps.
If you have any questions or find that you’re missing my emails on Sundays, hit me up at email@example.com.
Why I moved
The choice to switch platforms wasn’t an easy one. Substack allowed me to focus on content without worrying about any technical setup, and it provided an easy experience for new readers who wanted to sign up. But after deliberating the move, talking to mentors, and spending a few weeks setting up my new system, I’m feeling good about this decision.
Here are a few of the reasons why I made this move.
- Linking out to posts: Probably the most common criticism of the CDD (Substack edition) was that it was simply too long. Emails got cut off in inboxes, and readers would need to scroll past thousands of words of analysis to get to new featured sources or my weekly snarky comment about a data dashboard. I wanted to make the email reading experience easier without compromising my desire to really dive into data sources. This new format—short blurbs in the newsletter, linked out to longer posts on the site—helps me do just that.
- Organized archives: Publishing each newsletter as a series of posts rather than as one long article also helps me keep the site organized—and makes it easier for you to find the information you need. I’ve set up several major categories, such as “Federal data,” “K-12 schools,” and “Hospitalization,” which group similar newsletter segments together. The archives are also organized with tags (which get a little more specific than the categories) and by date.
- Hosting data resources: In addition to posts from my newsletter issues, the new website includes dedicated resource pages. These pages pull together data source recommendations, annotations, and tips in a format that’s much more accessible than a Google spreadsheet. (Shout-out to the WordPress plugin TablePress, which is my new best friend.) The first couple of pages are up; more will be posted in the coming weeks.
- Hosting visualizations: One big reason for moving off Substack: on this website, I can actually embed Tableau dashboards. And Datawrapper charts, and Flourish charts, and basically any other type of visualization. This will make it much easier for you to interact with the charts I feature, whether those are charts I produced specifically for the newsletter or figures I’m hosting from other sources.
- Setting up for search: The new website is searchable both internally and externally. Internally: a “Search” widget on the site’s sidebar and at the bottom of every page allows you to search for topics like “Texas” or “Dr. Fauci.” Externally: I’m using a couple of WordPress tools to make the website more easily recognizable by Google and other search engines. This should help more readers find the publication.
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