The First True Member of the Creator Economy?

Probably the Most Thorough Interview I’ve been subjected to happened in mid-June. It took journalist Simon Owens (who writes with great insight about the “Creator Economy”) until today to distill his notes down …to only 4,000 words! He was boggled that True was able to start, let alone survive, in the ancient days of the Internet, when there were no tools to do what I’ve been doing since 1994.

“Though it’s impossible to definitively pinpoint the first creator to crawl out of the internet’s primordial ooze, Cassingham is certainly a contender.”

Those tools sure helped once they arrived, but it took years to get them, in part by my telling the very first Email Service Provider what I needed, thus setting the standards for the many thousands of newsletter publishers who followed in my footsteps. And hey: it only took a quarter century for newsletters to really take off!

“Cassingham was merely 20 years early to a business model that would transform the entire content industry,” he wrote, and “he certainly gets credit for forging a career path that hardly anyone else — even the internet’s most enthusiastic visionaries — thought possible.” It’s free to read on Substack: Was Randy Cassingham the first member of the Creator Economy?

Terribly Minor Quibbles

Just so the technology details are clear, I’ll comment on a couple of things from the story.

  • “Majordomo only allowed for lists of 10,000 email addresses; anything larger than that and it started to suffer from delivery issues.” Actually, it wasn’t a Majordomo issue, it was a Unix sendmail issue. Majordomo, early mailing list software that was actually built for discussion lists, used sendmail to do the actual sending. But that Unix module would bog down when a message was sent to more than 9,999 addresses, so I broke them into blocks of 9,900. It was a tedious, time-consuming process (as he accurately summarizes).
  • “So Cassingham began pitching newspapers directly about syndicating This is True”. Actually, no: they came to me. Smart newspaper editors were already online and looking around, and some found me. (It’s possible readers suggested it to their local newspapers too.) One was a local alternative tabloid, the Pasadena Weekly, which paid a very welcome $20/week (which I didn’t have to share with a syndicator). They were savvy enough that they still exist!
  • He totally nailed my transition to Lyris, the first Email Service Provider (boy was that a relief!), and then the switch to a more advanced ESP, AWeber, which I still use today. That’s complex stuff, and he “got it” completely.

All in all, he did a great job with the firehose of information that I blasted him with that day, and he only had a couple of questions by email before he published.

I’m definitely proud to be the first True Member of the Creator Economy.

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9 Comments on “The First True Member of the Creator Economy?

  1. That is interesting. I wish I knew how long I have subscribed. We definitely had dial-up and only intermittently. Same e-address! I’d forgotten about having to resubscribe back then.

  2. Idea + followthrough + survival manouvers = the conclusion to this excellent article. Kudos Randy!

    Thanks for your 20 years of support (so far)! -rc

  3. I was a follower of yours in the 90s and early 2000, and somehow along the way fell off. I used to hand out the Goohf cards at business conventions and to friends. I just reconnected after seeing this article. Great to read you again!

    Glad this story helped bring you back. Enjoy! -rc

  4. Glad you stuck around. I first started with you a long time ago when the internet, for me, was Windmill BBS in Lubbock, TX.

    Back when BBS’s were a primary online resource for a lot of people who couldn’t get onto the Internet proper, I sent free licenses to carry TRUE to 163 of them so their members could read the newsletter. But there was no BBS by that name among them (or even any in Lubbock). I guess I’ll never know how many published it without that agreement. -rc

  5. Oh, the old days. We remember those days in the beginning. A newsletter told me to follow you in 1995 and I have since.

    Yes, we love you, despite how often you bash us Floridians.

    Not all of them. Just the ones that deserve it. There just happens to be a lot of them in Florida…. -rc

  6. My one complaint on Simon’s wonderfully detailed hustory: I’ve been a subscriber to Randy’s list for so long that I had a vague recollection of the fact that This is True was NOT the original name of the newsletter. I kept waiting for that part of the story, if for no other reason than to be reminded what it was. I understand you deciding not to spend a bunch of words detailing the switch from This Just In to This is True, but it’s clearly part of the interesting history of Randy’s pioneering publication and it feels weird that it was completely unmentioned. I had to do some deep digging on the True site to find Randy’s telling the 1995 story of the copyright issue that triggered the change. But again, great story and thanks Randy for the 25+ years of entertainment from a VERY early subscriber!

    Just for clarity, it was actually a trademark issue (very different from copyright). I didn’t mention it to Simon: I consider it a blip in the history. While I liked “This Just In” (which only lasted 10 months), I think This is True is better!

    The one significant part of it to me is, I consider anyone who remembers reading the newsletter under that title to be a Charter Subscriber. -rc

  7. When my Father-in-law was first dipping his toes into the waters of the internet he stumbled upon your newsletter. One day he said “I finally found something worthwhile.” It was your newsletter and it was probably 1996 or 97.

    It took me a wee bit before I joined and now I slowly savor the articles throughout the week. Occasionally I will stockpile them and then I am in for a great long treat.

    Thanks, Colleen, for this as well as your generous Premium auto-renewal. I hope your father-in-law is still reading too. -rc


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