A year in letters

Phire
Phire
Jan 2, 2018 · 3 min read

On January 20th 2017, the 45th President of the United States was inaugurated. On January 21st, millions marched around the world in protest. And within a week, it seemed, we started burning out on the sheer volume of garbage news that was being shoveled at us every day.

That was the impetus behind Fight Fire With Phire, what I call the “weekday newsletter for the overwhelmed”. Each letter consists of five sections: one major new story, one major ongoing story, one social issue to consider, one thing we can do to help, and one thing that made me laugh. I set out to write something that was quick and easy to read, that would keep people plugged in even if they only had a few minutes a day to catch up, that was realistic without being fatalistic, that was hopeful without being delusional. I think I’ve done pretty alright. Here are some fun (to me) stats:

Total letters sent: 225 (+1 accidentally sent test message)

Total word count: 116,352
Longest letter: 1,109 words for the Las Vegas shooting, Oct 2nd
Shortest letter: 208 words for the first ever letter, Jan 30th

The rolling average word count went from ~450 words to 600+ words somewhere around late July and early August. It’s easy to see why: that’s around when the Russia investigation kicked into high gear and when Charlottesville happened. Oh, and when Scaramucci was hired and fired. Remember him? After that, the hurricanes hit, the Las Vegas and Texas shootings happened, the various tax and health care bills unfolded, and the rest is very depressing history.

Average send time: 8:31 PM
Earliest send time: 3:48 PM for Betsy DeVos confirmation, Feb 7th
Latest send time: 2:25 AM for Harvey Weinstein, Oct 5th

Send times got progressively later starting around the middle of May. If you’ve been with the newsletter since the beginning, you know that for the first 3–4 months the letter rarely went out past 7 PM PST. Around the middle of May was when a bunch of stuff hit the fan in terms of work and school and my personal life, and I never quite recovered from the burnout. I’m hoping to get back to a reasonable sending time in 2018. Of course, the newsletters used to take me around 45 minutes to write at the very beginning, and now regularly take 2–3 hours, so that doesn’t help.

Fewest unique opens: Las Vegas shooting, Oct 2nd
Most unique opens: First ever letter, Jan 30th
Fewest unique clicks: SCOTUS upholding part of travel ban, June 26th
Most unique clicks: Women’s Twitter boycott (or not), Oct 13th

A weird thing about writing a regular thing that’s pushed out to a consistent audience is that the quality of any given day’s work doesn’t seem to have any bearing on how it’s received, because whether or not someone opens a given newsletter generally has more to do with what’s going on in that person’s life than with the writing. This is occasionally frustrating, but it’s a great exercise in not looking for immediate gratification for everything I put out into the world. Plus, given that my audience is people who don’t have time to read dozens and dozens of articles every day, the click through rate seem to mostly depend on whether the funny thing of the day is embedded in the newsletter or whether there’s an external link. That works just fine for me.

Average title length: 2.85 words (not including date)
Longest title: I’m not entirely convinced I’m not having a break from reality: July 11th, 2017

There’s not much interesting to say about the title length, I’m including this mostly to relive how much Jared Sexton freaked out that Donald Trump Jr. had simply tweeted out proof that he’d met with Russian diplomats who promised damaging information on Hillary Clinton. It’s the little things, you know?

Anyway, I can’t say it’s been a fun year per se, but it’s been a rewarding project and I am both proud (and slightly resentful) that this is the most consistent writing project I’ve ever worked on. Sign up for the newsletter and see for yourself if you’d like an angry feminist to tell you about the news every day! See you in the streets.

Phire

Written by

Phire

Front-end developer, writer, social justice rogue, armchair sociologist, and staunch defender of the Oxford Comma. Doesn't bite, probably.