Welcome to Sidechannel

Next Monday, I’ll be joining seven other independent writers to launch a new Discord server called Sidechannel, exclusively for paid subscribers to our publications. That sentence might make total sense — or it might make you feel lost. So allow me to do some clarifyiing.

What is Discord:

I asked my Twitter followers for some creative explanations to this query that, depending on when you started using the internet, might resonate differently. A few of my favs:

It’s like a chat room for adults. Slack without work. You have a user name (you can use your same one as here, for ease, if you’d like; personally I’m considering changing mine to ‘annie4545’ just to reproduce the AIM magic [yes, 45 was my high school boyfriend’s football number].

Who Gets Access:

All paid subscribers to Culture Study get access (if you have a subsidized subscription, that includes you). So do all of the paid subscribers to the seven other publications owned by the other writers on the channel (more on them below). If you’re not a paid subscriber, but have been meaning to subscribe for some time — maybe this is the push you’ve been looking for.

Why This Might Even Slightly Interest You:

I mean, who knows, maybe you hate chatting, this is totally fair. But maybe you are a person who likes or misses internet conversations that felt generative and overflowing and weird and addictive. That’s what I’ve tried to cultivate (and will continue to do so) with our weekly subscriber threads here, and what I hope to cultivate in real time over on Discord.

Each of the newsletters gets a “channel” — ours is “Culture Study” — and we can create, expand, and subtract sub-channels from there. To start, there’s channels for “Culture Links” (very free to interpretation), “Productivity Culture” (which includes work culture stuff), and “Just Trust Me,” where you can share anything that fits that indescribable designation. We’ll do channels to discuss new pieces, channels to continue Q&As with people who’ve done Q&As for the newsletter, spontaneous “what should I watch/cook/read” tonight brainstorms, and article reading/discussion clubs. (Would you have liked to do a prolonged chat with Chris La Tray? With Jessica Calarco? With Terry Nguyễn? This is where that will happen — and, even if you miss it, you can scroll back and read it).

I’d love to workshop ideas for future pieces with you, or just bounce around ideas. When the Baylor Influencer Twin get married, obviously that will be a channel. But there’s so much else that can spark them as well.

We’ll figure out what we want and like and build and adapt from there, and much like our subscriber threads, I want to continue to think of the entire thing as a community that we’re building.

There will also be cross-pollination, for lack of a better word, with readers from other newsletters. You can go into their channels, and they can come into ours — but I’ll be moderating our space to ensure that it doesn’t devolve into assholery. I don’t expect problems, at least at this point, because people are really craving a place to be generous humans to one another the internet. But when that fails, we also have very transparent moderation guidelines, which will be available when you join. I kinda think of this like the least toxic version of high school cafeteria tables out there: you don’t have to hang out with anyone but us, but if you do want to go eat lunch with someone else on Thursday, you’ll be very welcome.

This cross-pollination also means that you’ll have access to guest speakers / Q&As hosted by any of the other writers — and, sorry to be a ridiculous tease, but there’s someone pretty interesting slated for Monday, and there will be many more to come.

Who Are the Other Writers?

Some of this I’m cribbing from Casey Newton, who has been the mastermind behind this thing, and some of it is my own flourish. We’ll be adding more writers in the months to come, but this is the initial group:

  • Casey Newton (tech, democracy and the big platforms). After seven years covering tech companies at The Verge, Casey launched Platformer last year — a wildly successful publication that breaks serious news and has the eyes of Silicon Valley leaders focused on it. Casey is whipsmart and funny and a truly generous writer.

  • Nick Quah (podcasts and audio). Here are the things to know about Nick: he figured out that there was no trade publication on podcast news and he just….started one? Very successfully? He is, as Casey puts it, “the industry standard.” He lives in Boise, which makes me like him a lot, on top of his truly excellent reporting.

  • Delia Cai (media). The media is self-obsessed, if you haven’t noticed from all the Substack coverage lately, and Delia’s Deez Links — her iteration of media reporting — is always on the top of my newsletter reading links. She is way cooler than me and I really appreciate that.

  • Ryan Broderick (internet culture). Broderick writes Garbage Day, a transcendent newsletter about the internet’s strangest corners, and has already figured out how to create a wildly fun and generative Discord. He’s showing us all how this is done.

  • Kim Zetter (cybersecurity). A veteran of Wired, Zetter is one of the most respected reporters in her field — the sort of person that when you say her name, people kinda hush in respect. If you are interested in the world of cybersecurity, either as a newcomer or someone who’s been part of this world for decades, this newsletter is for you.

  • Eric Newcomer (startups and venture capital). A Bloomberg defector as of last year, Newcomer writes deeply reported, stylishly written updates about big money players in the tech industry.

  • Charlie Warzel (the attention economy). The newest arrival to the independent reporting life, Warzel just left the New York Times to launch his new Substack publication. He’s one of our most thoughtful interpreters of what the internet is doing to our politics and to ourselves. He is also the co-owner of Peggy and Steve and shares my house with me and puts up with my bullshit, which is another way of saying he is my partner.

How Do You Join?

I’ll be sending out a link to paid subscribers on Sunday evening. Feel free to completely ignore it — or come hang out. I’ve said this before, but one of the unexpected pleasures of starting this newsletter has been our collective cultivation of a community of so many ages, perspectives, locations, and experiences. We contain multitudes — but are bonded, in however loosely a way, by our commitment to think more, not less, about the culture that surrounds us, and our understanding that just because things work a certain way now, it doesn’t have to be this way. We’ll make this space what we want it to be, and if it sucks, we’ll stop.

If you’re a subscriber, I hope you’ll join us as we figure it out — and I want to assure you that these old school newsletter threads will also remain active. And if you’re on the unpaid email list — particularly if you’re someone who’s a regularly reader of the newsletter, and has the means — I hope you’ll consider subscribing. And I’ll see you soon in Sidechannel, where I promise to share the most emo lyric I once put next to my “current status.”


If you’re reading this in your inbox, you can find a shareable version online here. You can follow me on Twitter here, and Instagram here. Feel free to comment below — and you can always reach me at annehelenpetersen@gmail.com.