Hello! My name is Anthony Agius (most people know me on various online places as decryption) and my primary income these days is from the 820 people that give me $5/m or $50/yr to read my daily takes on the technology industry. I've been publishing The Sizzle (thesizzle.com.au) almost every weekday for a bit over 6 years.

For the last 10 years I've worked as a freelance technology journalist alongside The Sizzle, writing articles for publications like Delimiter, SMH/The Age, Macworld Australia, PC & Tech Authority, Australian Personal Computer, Drive Zero, Wheels/WhichCar and Media Connect/ITJourno. I've also spent a big chunk of those years doing copywriting (i.e: sponsored content blog posts, words in advertising campaigns, that kinda stuff) for various tech brands like Seagate, Hisense, Asus, Samsung, Gigabyte and heaps more.

Whenever people ask me what I do for a living and tell them I'm a technology journalist, they surprised to meet someone doing this full-time, so have a heap of questions about the work.

If you've got a question about what it's like to make a living purely off an email newsletter, what it's like working in the technology journalism area, or general questions about technology journalism, I am here to answer them!

Proof: https://twitter.com/decryption/status/1453241562025111557

Comments: 286 • Responses: 91  • Date: 

RoboticElfJedi85 karma

In the last ten years or so it seems that there's been a change in tech, with companies like Apple and Google going from something cool, with an upstart vibe and a promise of good, to something... else. What's your take on the direction GAFAM have gone, and how has this changed being a tech journo?

decryption162 karma

Mate, this is a great question.I remember being so excited when Google launched Gmail and hunting for invites. I lined up for Apple products like a nice little sheep. Now that feels so gross.

These companies are so massive, literally trillion dollar behemoths, and have made their money off the backs of some perverse activities like data mining and abusing their market power. It definitely changed how I write about tech over the years. It seems so naive now, but at the time you'd never think how say, Google's new thing would spy on people, or it collected data, how it could be used against people. Now that's the first thing I consider.

If I had to sum it up, I'm way more skeptical of these companies now, whereas 10 years ago I'd take them at face value.

Sirerdrick6421 karma

Have you read any of Jerry Mander’s books?
Your comment here sounds similar to how he views technology and innovations.
If you haven’t read his works, either In the Absence of the Sacred or Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television are great.

decryption12 karma

I have not! Will check them out, thanks for the heads up.

cutelyaware11 karma

Why are you surprised that Google collects our data? That was always the price for all the wonderful stuff they've given us, and they never said otherwise. The only thing that changed is that people began to understand what they were giving up. Well OK, that and removing "Don't be evil" from their internal code of conduct. That was ominous.

decryption50 karma

10-15 years ago the consequences of that data sharing wasn't necessarily obvious to most people. It's way more clear now how it can be abused and the creepy lengths they'll go to.

cutelyaware-7 karma

Exactly. And whose fault is that?

decryption11 karma

Are you suggesting that tech journalists are at fault? Maybe there were voices shouting this that weren't listened to.

But that was the mood at the time - it just wasn't on most journalist's radar. It wasn't on mine, that's for sure. Looking back it was very naive, a frame of thought that technology could do no wrong.

The advertising-data collecting industrial complex wasn't seen within the wider tech community as being that bad - I think because we didn't know the repurcussions. There were multiple players (DoubleClick for example) before Google purchased them all and before Facebook turned into what it is today.

cutelyaware5 karma

No, I'm suggesting the consumers are to blame for gleefully giving up something they didn't care about. DoubleClick is another good example. It was clear from the start what they were doing, but again, nobody but investors cared. Americans at least expect the government to save us from our own bad decisions, but at the same time don't want government treating us like children.

decryption3 karma

That's the rough bit - sure, we all know that we're getting fucked by big tech, but the majority of people don't care and actually quite enjoy the trade-off. I used to think it's a bad thing, but now, maybe it's alright - let the normies have their walled gardens while the nerds roll around in their own mess outside the gates.

It's a fatalist view, I know :(

bennymarsh4 karma

While I can't disagree, I find it still exciting what these platforms allow to be created and provided to us for in reality no friction and very little cost.

decryption12 karma

It's hard to deny how mainstream the FAAMG gang made the 90s nerd dream of giving everyone the internet and making it easy for them to use. It didn't quite turn out how we expected, but it happened.

stevensommer76 karma

What's the weirdest press release you've received from a company?

decryption117 karma

Has to be one from a sex toy manufacturer many years ago when the iPod was a thing. It would plug in to your iPod and your headphone with a 3.5mm splitter cable and rumble or whatever to the tunes.

I guess this is more common now, but 10 years ago it was pretty damn weird! They even sent me a review unit..

faaarmer47 karma

...and how was it?

decryption174 karma

I gave it to a friend who gave me a bit of feedback - "you don't want this back, yeah?" - so I reckon it was okay, hahah

rustyshelf51 karma

I really like your writing style, which might be the main thing that keeps me subscribed to The Sizzle. I've always been curious to know though: do you get people complaining about how casual and sweary it is or do you think that's what draws people in? Personally I love it so don't ever change but I've always wondered!

Edit: oh and a bonus question (feel free to ignore), ever thought about doing the deals bit at the end as its own free newsletter where you get paid in affiliate links?

decryption55 karma

I remember my style being an issue ages ago back when I was running MacTalk. I'd publish an article with a few naughty words in it and get complaints from people saying I don't need to swear so much and that it makes me look stupid. They were probably right.

I try and keep the swearing to a minimum now and save it for when it really has an impact. I do try and use everyday language however. I'm not writing an essay for a professor, it's just a mate talking to mate, so I keep it low-brow on purpose because that's how I talk to people!

Would I split the bargains out to its own free newsletter? I could do that, but it's more effort for possibly little gain. Right now I link direct to Ozbargain instead of the item itself on Amazon/eBay so Sizzle subscribers can read the Ozbargain comments, which are often super useful to get feedback on the deal. If I want to include affiliate links I'd need to link direct to the item, so people would miss out on that Ozbargain feedback. I could add my own feedback/comments instead, but then I'm creating more work for myself.

danwarne15 karma

100% your writing style is one of the key reasons that brings punters in. It's such a breath of fresh air compared to most other writers. Very uniquely "Australian".

decryption15 karma

It's probably one reason why I've struggled to build an overseas audience - too Aussie!

franker4 karma

As a public librarian in the U.S., I'm amazed at how many books now have swear words in the title, to the point where there isn't even really much shock value in it anymore, if that's what they're going for.

decryption6 karma

In Australia swearing is almost used as filler words like umm, or ahh. Adds a bit of colour to a sentence!

Palmquistador3 karma

Does Ozbargain have an API youcould use to pull in the top 10 or 20 comments / reviews?

You can also just link to the reviews and then link to your affiliate right after, readers can do either or both if they want.

decryption7 karma

Not sure about the API (they probably have one, not sure if it's for public use) - but I kinda feel bad stealing their commission anyways. Their community made the effort of sharing it, I just link to it.

The latter approach (a link to Ozb & a link direct to the item with my affiliate link) is probably a good idea. Hmmm. Might have to try that and see if the effort gets me a decent level of extra income (I've got eBay and Amazon links already - I reckon around 70% of the deals are on those two sites).

AxeDentist28 karma

How'd you learn to write and enjoy it when you're covering something as broad as all of tech? I like to write articles about things I'm interested in, but when it comes to doing it for pay I fall apart because half of that is dull as dishwater and I'm a biased fucker.

I've always been OK editing other people's braindumps, but never my own.

decryption35 karma

This can be a big struggle - particularly when I'm forced by an editor to write on a topic I really don't care about (e.g: corporate VOIP setups, ugh). The good thing is that I love learning things and when writing about something, I'm also learning about it at the same time. Most of the work I do is reading and research, writing is just the final step.

It took me a while but in the last few years I've come to grips with the fact that most of what I write is going to be ordinary. I write so much so it's unrealistic to expect it all to be A-grade top shelf shit that I smash out of the park. That's not to say I phone it in, but try not to put pressure on yourself for everything you publish to be awesome. Some of the best feedback I've received on my work has been stuff I wouldn't necessarily think is my best and the stuff I think is awesome goes unnoticed!

ElectronicHornet-28 karma

Do you miss the days of Mactalk, lining up for products at Apple resellers?

Do you think you would ever travel for a new product launch again? (Like when you got the iPad at launch in the US)

decryption49 karma

Nah, I don't miss it much. It was fun at the time as a 20 year old bloke, but now I look back on it and feel very weird about giving what is the world's biggest company so much attention. Don't think I'd ever go overseas for a product again. Life's too short.

danwarne16 karma

Hah! Didn't know you'd travelled to the US for the launch of the iPad. So did I! I was sent there by my publisher ACP to buy one on the first morning of launch, and then bring it back as quickly as possible to Australia. That was a fucking exhausting trip, haha!

decryption45 karma

No shit? I've known you all this time and we didn't know that about each other? Amazing!

Where in the US did you go? Los Angeles/SFO? I visited NY because it had the most Apple Stores at the time so I could get as many iPads as possible. People paid me before I went to bring them back. Some were so keen they met me at the airport! One guy even flew in from Adelaide, to meet my JFK-LAX-SYD-MEL flight in MEL and grab the iPad right away instead of waiting for me to post it.

Another funny story about that trip - I got a suitcase just for the iPads. Fit around a dozen in there. Back in Sydney at Customs they asked if I had anything to declare, I said I did and showed them the iPads, expecting to pay a massive chunk of GST as 12 iPads are clearly not for personal use. I never ended up paying it because the Customs staff were so excited to see an iPad, I gave them a 20 min demo of mine (which was tough after 20hr+ flight from JFK-LAX-SYD) and they just waved me out without paying.

my_clock_is_wrong25 karma

What do you think are the barriers to wider adoption of electric vehicles in Australia. I see plenty about but I think that's despite anything the government is doing. What do you think is reasonable to get things moving?

decryption44 karma

The biggest thing that's worked in Europe is strict fleet based fuel economy and emissions regulations and massive penalties for carmakers not achieving those targets. Australia has virtually no regulations or very old ones.
In the UK its not being able to drive into London without paying a massive entry fee unless you have a low emissions vehicle.
You could write a book about the various incentives Norway has done (transit lane use, 50% or whatever taxes on non-EVs, huge tax offsets for EV purchases etc).
The ALP floated these ideas at the last federal election. We saw how that turned out.

DonSwanson3 karma

To be fair the disinformation around the ALPs proposals was huge.

I had friends who genuinely thought Labor's plan meant they would have to park up their diesel ute and fork out for a new EV.

LNP know how to spin.

decryption7 karma

It was amazing how much bullshit was spouted about the EV policies the ALP had in mind. There was never any risk utes or 4WDs were going to stop being sold, or even be taxed in any way, but that's how it was interpreted. Almost like a jedi mind trick.

dogarms23 karma

1) How do you maintain the discipline to write something day-in, day-out for so many years? I enjoy your writing but even more, I admire the work ethic.

2) Do you have a word count for every edition of the Sizzle?

3) I know you've tinkered with affiliate links in the bargain section of the Sizzle (love a good bargain), do you reckon the well has somewhat run dry on making a living through affiliate links now?

decryption28 karma

  1. Early on peer pressure kept me honest. I said I would write it daily, so I had to because people I respect (my friends, some social media followers) were reading. I didn't want to let them down. These days its a habit. Weekdays feel weird without spending a few hours reading my RSS feeds, social media and then writing up a summary of what I saw.
  2. I do have a rough word count. I try and keep each "news" item around 150 words. I used to write more, but sticking to about 150 words forces me to be succinct. That's what people subscribe to The Sizzle for.
  3. I kinda answered stuff about affiliate links for the bargains section earlier - https://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/qgpxnb/comment/hi7vl9w/ - I used to make a solid $400-$500 a month off eBay links, but they stopped giving commissions when someone uses a promo code.

billie_jeans_son21 karma

I sub to The Sizzle. Best $5/month. I am an IT professional, but I don't have time to actually read IT press - being a subscriber means I am across anything big going on in the industry. Plus, I expense it... But I would keep subbing even if I couldn't.

Since it is an AMA, here is myestion - do you know Daniel Rutter. And if so, can you tell him I would gladly pay $5 a month for him to write some new stuff too? It doesnt even have to be only for subscribers, he could put it on his blog. I miss his writing.

decryption16 karma

Dan's Data!!! Fucken loved his writing too. Big inspiration for me along with people like Anand Lal Shimpi and James Rolfe (old mate Agg over at OCAU).

per0819 karma

Everybody runs ad blockers, and few want to pay for news or subscribe to online newspapers.

How do journalists, especially independent ones, even make a living?

decryption31 karma

I personally like supporting writers/teams directly by paying them so they don't have to rely on ads, but that is probably not sustainable as subscription fatigue is a real thing (we are seeing it with streaming media now).
It sucks as there's some news (i.e: politics, local news) that really should be free to read so they have an impact on society. Locking it up behind a paywall doesn't help.
Wish I had a better answer mate, sorry.

tril3ma15 karma

Hi Anthony! How do you collate your information for the Sizzle. For example do have a custom RSS feed or a script that pulls the top articles from each mainstream tech website?

decryption24 karma

RSS feeds!! So many RSS feeds. I subscribe to about 300 different sites/blogs/sources and wade through about 2,500 items a day to filter out the crap. I'm pretty quick at it and have a sharp eye for what is good/bad now.

I also bookmark many, many articles to read later that aren't so time critical (i.e: interesting blog posts, products, videos etc) that I'll come back later and share in the newsletter.

Dysiode7 karma

Follow up to that
1. What RSS reader do you use?
2. How has the RSS landscape changed over the years?

I struggle to keep up with some content creators and have just assumed no one even supports RSS anymore, but maybe that's a bit premature?

decryption5 karma

I use Feedbin - well worth the US$5/m I pay for it. On the Mac and iOS devices I use Reeder as a local native app for it.

The vast majority of sites still spit out an RSS feed - often they're not advertised in the page's footer, but if you chuck the URL into a feed reader they pick up an RSS feed automatically.

Some sites I really enjoyed and relied on for The Sizzle, like Bloomberg and Reuters got rid of their feeds recently. Very annoying!!!

brad-corp14 karma

How do you find your readers and convert them to pay for something which is usually free?

decryption36 karma

Mate, if I knew I wouldn't be here, hahaha.
The first group of Sizzle subscribers were literally my friends, who enjoy what I write and wanted to support me. The second group are people who followed me on social media and my previous projects (MacTalk, an online forum I used to run many years ago). Now most users come from word of mouth and random stuff I do, like this AMA.
Marketing/self promotion/whatever you want to call it is by far the hardest part of the job.
I try and make checking out The Sizzle in the first place as low friction as possible. No credit card, no bullshit popups, just give me your email address. You get 2 weeks to see if you like it and if you do, you pay. About 5%-10% of the people that take up a free trial end up paying.

brad-corp12 karma

That's awesome. Thanks.

Follow up - do you think you'd increase your revenue if you used something like patreon, with different tiers of subscription? (either on patreon on your own private method)

decryption34 karma

Regarding Patreon (or Substack, or Revue etc), I'm reluctant to rely on a 3rd party for my income. One change from them and it could have severe financial impacts, or impacts on my customers. I might miss out on some of the platform effects of those services, but it's a trade-off I'm willing to make.

I have considered different pricing tiers though. For example, just the newsletter for $3, the bargains section for an extra $3, access to the forum for $3 again, etc - but it's too annoying. If I was a customer I just want one price for everything.

I'm more likely to do "extras" like a podcast, or regular long form content - but that also takes more time. At the moment I prefer to scale up what I'm already doing, as if I have 10 subscribers or 10,000, I still do the same amount of work.

AnswersQuestioned12 karma

This Reddit post isn’t very old but have you noticed more traffic to your stuff? I would be interested to know how this AMA helps you out in percent terms. You write really well, good luck!

decryption25 karma

Barely made a dent, haha. Since this post went up I've gained 6 new free trial subscribers. I'm tempted to add a promo code to skip the trial and go direct to paying for The Sizzle to the OP, but that seems against the spirit of an AMA.

decryption13 karma

For anyone still following, it's up to 28 now.

LAWsyndrome9 karma

And now one more!

decryption6 karma

Cheers mate, hope you like it!

HerrKrinkle3 karma

Sorry, I've never read the Sizzle, but that's a relatively good conversion rate given you leave the decision to the reader. Shows how engaging your writing is. I guess you have a "Did you like what you read?", though, right?

decryption2 karma

Asking the subscribers "if you like it, pay for it!" is part of my sales strategy, yep. Usually if people like The Sizzle during their trial, they do end up paying eventually, but it can take weeks/months of begging them to pay to get them to actually sign up.

FallopianNewb11 karma

If North make the finals, will you decorate the Sizzle in the club colours?

decryption9 karma

If North win a flag, you bet your fucken arse I will!!

MsMaryMac11 karma

What's the most ridiculous government policy that you have covered? and what made it so ridiculous?

decryption38 karma

In Australia at least, the recent Social Media (Basic Expectations and Defamation) Bill 2021 is really bizarre. It's literally designed to protect the feelings of politicians who don't like being answerable to people on social media. The most pissweak internet related law I could think of.

HerrKrinkle2 karma

Pissweak. I learned a new word today. Thanks!

decryption2 karma

One of my favourite phrases - weak as piss works too!

brad-corp11 karma

Do your newsletters have advertising as well? Or do you write sponsored articles?

decryption20 karma

Nope, absolutely no ads, ever. People pay me to read it, they shouldn't be subject to advertising.

I don't take sponsored content either - nobody's ever offered, but there wouldn't be anything they could offer that would make me taint my reputation in that way.

brad-corp6 karma

Thanks for answering my questions! I like your ethics around the newsletter.

decryption11 karma

You're welcome! I try and treat all my customers like how I want to be treated. If I wouldn't accept it, I wouldn't expect my customers to either.

euphratees718 karma

Have you tried reading the Future Crunch newsletter?


It's a newsletter that covers technology, environment and health. The blurb is "good news you probably didn't hear about". It lifts me up each time that I read it.

Thanks for your newsletter, I enjoy your casual style.

decryption12 karma


I have not heard of it! I like how they donate a third of their paid subscription income to charity. That's awesome. I should do something similar (maybe only 1% or 5% or something, haha I can't afford 33%).

blackphase38 karma

I’ve been invited by one of our software vendors to an end-of-year dinner cruise around Sydney Harbour next month.

Given the current state of Covid, I’m not a big drinker but the food does look good and they might give me stuff, should I go?

decryption12 karma

When I started out, I went on heaps of those things. Enjoy it! Free food and drink on a fancy boat! Yeah you'll have to put up with some sales people talking to you, but they're easy to ignore.

blackphase35 karma

The free food and (potential) swag is rather appealing…

decryption5 karma

Worst case, if it sucks, you can leave!

karma30007 karma

If you can swim of course.

decryption11 karma

Ohhh, one of those ones where the boat moves! (I've been on a couple where the boat is just anchored in a marina). Good trick - take you out on the water and you have no option but to listen to some guy telling you how awesome their SAN solution is.

alanjlee8 karma

In buying tech stuff like a second hand server - how impulsive would you be? Would you spend hours researching something or just snap and buy it and hope it all fitted together perfectly?

decryption12 karma

I tend to do heaps of research before buying something, but it depends how expensive it is. If it's less than like, $200 and I can easily re-sell it, I'll just YOLO it and buy. Worst case scenario I write a blog post about it and learn something.

chutneypopcorn8 karma

What issue or topic generated the highest volume of swear words in your newsletter?

decryption14 karma

Hmmm, probably anything to do with the NBN. Just a constant stream of incompetence.

threephase037 karma

Favourite piece of tech? Favourite YouTuber?

decryption15 karma

Ooh that's a hard one. At the moment I'm really enjoying the Rodecaster Pro mixer. It's such a perfect device for modern audio work. The folks at Rode packed in everything someone doing a podcast or small live production could ask for. To top it off, it's made and designed in Australia. How cool is that?
Favourite YouTuber (I'll stick to tech) is even harder, as I don't watch much YouTube - but I watch almost every bigclivedotcom video. Always fun seeing him tear something apart and explain how it works.

netshroud6 karma

Tech seems to move in cycles - from mainframes to clients and back to the cloud, or CGI to SPAs and back to "server-side rendering"... what's the strangest or most memorable cycle that you've seen?

decryption15 karma

It's kinda funny these days seeing kids (like people under 25 are kids) realising the joy of running your own server, hosting stuff, doing things with computers I did back in the late 90s/early 2000s. Also realising that social media kinda sucks and smaller groups of like minded people (forums, private communities) are superior to public free for alls.

funsy_bob6 karma

Have you thought about doing a quick 5 minute daily podcast of the sizzle? Like Norman swan’s coronacasts. Quick, easy to listen to, and get people in and out and leave an impression.

decryption5 karma

Thought about it, not sure anyone would pay for it! Plus not that keen on the extra work - sounds easy in principle (just read out what I wrote), but could be a bit of a time sink, dunno.

I'm also not keen to give it away for free and pop in ads - not really in the spirit of The Sizzle imho. There is a decent chunk of people however that would never read/pay for an email that would make a podcast worth while. I should give it more thought.

bym0076 karma

How did you choose the name "The Sizzle" for your newsletter?

And what do you have planned in near future wrt The Sizzle ?

decryption12 karma

I got it the name off an old Tony Martin sketch from RRR called Gary Sizzle: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Bjb4yaIYPQ

What's in my newsletter is the "sizzle" not the "steak" of tech news. I don't do weeks long investigative journalism, I take work others have done and summarise it - it's a service people like, but yeah. A bit of a pisstake of my own work.

decryption7 karma

Just realised I didn't fully answer this question!

What do I have planned? There's two things I want to explore - a podcast/audio and longer-form content. I don't know the exact formats yet but I'll probably launch an experiment before Christmas.

yarneputs6 karma

How did you become an expert in tech. Do you have tips for aspiring journalists that want to become an expert in a specific subject?

How do you use social media as a journalist? Do you use it to promote your content? What about debates on social media?

decryption8 karma

Passion! You gotta love the particular field and be obsessed with it. Share that passion with the world and you'll get traction. I've been doing this since I was 16 (I'm 37 now) in some form or another like blog posts, forum posts, meetups etc because I genuinely love technology (though these days its a different kind of love, haha), so it takes time to build that audience.
If you want to write tech for a mainstream publication however, just start blogging. Publish, publish, publish. Get creative, cover topics nobody else is, or cover them in a depth nobody else is either. Find the contact details of the editors and make a pitch for something you think the publication would like, using your existing content as examples of how you are actually capable of doing it.
Social media is massively important. Journalists love Twitter and so do I. Great place to see what the editors are into and even send a DM to say hello.

kyerussell6 karma

Over the past decade or two I went all the presumably usual stages of having an interest in tech, from the naive entrancement through to Big Tech cynicism and burnout. I still (happily) work in tech, but having to write about the day-by-day goings on of the Big Companies And Stores du jour would certainly wear me thin these days. How do you manage to...not hate this industry enough to make a job out of talking about the day-by-day goings on? Even as opposed to just 'working in tech' (e.g. as a developer or sysadmin) instead of writing about it.

decryption9 karma

I absolutely understand what you're saying here.
Sometimes I look at the day's news it's either boring stuff (cool a new iPhone, whatever) or evil stuff (like the Facebook papers), I get through it and pretend it's group therapy. I think most of the readers feel like we do, wondering what the hell happened to the scene we loved so much so I try and be sympathetic to that feeling of loss - because I feel it too.

Querty_5676 karma

What software do you use to run your newsletter business? (e.g. membership site, payment processor etc)

decryption8 karma

Currently I use a mix of services because I'm not a fan of services like Substack, Buttondown, Memberful, Ghost etc - I tried them all and didn't find them flexible enough.

  • ActiveCampaign for sending emails and hosting my email list.
  • Chargebee for billing/subscriptions (with Stripe as the card processor).
  • Discourse as a private forum for the paid subscribers to chat in.
  • GitHub Pages to host my website where I have forms for people to sign up & pay.
  • Integromat as the glue that lets the above services interact with each other.

If you're interested in learning more about my setup, I've written about it in detail over on my personal blog: https://blog.decryption.net.au/t/why-i-use-a-mishmash-of-services-for-different-parts-of-the-sizzle/37

Querty_5675 karma

wow thank a lot mate! i can see why you have loyal subscribers, you over-deliver! excellent info!

and, just a future idea for you, make an ebook/course on how to do what you do, not necessarily in the same niche, but in whatever niche. just an idea :) you clearly have the knowledge and energy and the ability to wordsmith, it could make another income stream for ya!


decryption5 karma

Never considered anyone would pay to read about the business side of The Sizzle. Might try write out my experiences and give the eBook thing a shot. Could even get a few Sizzle subscribers out of it.

shaftautopump5 karma

Let's say you're earning $45k per year on The Sizzle subscriptions. Do you have another income, is it the only income for the household and, if so, how does the household survive on that?

decryption3 karma

I could survive on that income alone personally - but my wife works, I don't have kids (at the moment at least) and top up my income with freelance writing :)

LorfOfHaggis5 karma

No plans for a sizzle magazine? Or a more fleshy version focussing less on specific daily news but more on trends or bigger ideas/analysis/rants?

decryption6 karma

Oh there's certainly plans for something wider than the newsletter as it exists today. Making it profitable and sustainable is the hard part.

I'd love to do a quarterly publication (be it online or in print) that commissions stories on a theme from the best Aussie tech journalists. The economics around doing that are tough however. Been tempted to say fuck it, plonk down the cash and see if anyone likes it enough to pay.

bimaus4 karma

A more fleshy version sounds like an OnlyFans :) We can live in hope of that happening!

decryption2 karma

I won't kinkshame here.

spellout5 karma

Has covid played any part in growing or de creasing your newsletter subscriber base?

Is marketing something your always doing ?

decryption9 karma

COVID didn't really impact The Sizzle much. It had a massive impact on my non-Sizzle writing however. All my copywriting and freelance work died as those publications and companies pissed their pants and cut spending. The tech industry did amazingly well out of COVID due to all the working from home and isolation stuff, but the writing work never returned for me. I lived off the government's JobKeeper payments for a while, which were so damn handy. When those stopped I was able to scrounge up a bit more freelance work again.

Marketing is something I *should* always be doing, but I don't. I kinda hate it. I want to write, not promote myself. Self-confidence isn't a big trait of mine and I need to try hard to do marketing, so I procrastinate and find excused not to. It sucks as without marketing, I won't get more subscribers to the newsletter and over time will actually lose money as a percentage of subscribers naturally cancel for whatever reason (they get bored, lose a job, etc).

onejosh5 karma

What’s the best way to amass Qantas points today? Asking for a friend.

decryption6 karma

I've kinda tuned out of the points game lately. But from my casual observation, card churning is the fastest way to get a heap of points. No good if you plan on getting a loan in the next 3 years, but I don't know of any other way to get 400,000+ points in a few weeks.

varrqnuht5 karma

Have you ever considered doing the same thing as The Sizzle but for a different market/industry? How many of these could you do before you ran out of time?

How much of this is tools & workflow vs just having the right background, skills and voice to make it work?

chx_18 karma

I am not OP but let me give you some perspective. I know something about this as I am both a former columnist, editor (by the end I was on the editorial board, even) of the largest computer monthly in Hungary and a current one person company which I suspect Anthony is too. Basically, we were the same semi-pro magazine that Byte was internationally. We died only a few years later.

As you suspect, writing The Sizzle is not an eight hour a day job. (Even with the podcast.) However, running the business might be and it might be more. It's incredibly, incredibly hard to get paid subscribers and deal with their issues etc. You can't make enough to sustain a help desk, even a single person. Just can't be done. Tech is easier because tech-y people have fewer stupid issues in subscription, emails etc (fewer, not none!).

It seems there's a market for well written newsletters -- which I couldn't do because my style is very terse, my editor has famously accused one of my articles of being a hex dump of my brain, that's what happens when both the columnist and the editor are programmers on the side -- but it doesn't seem like this is enough to sustain entire companies.

decryption12 karma

Yep, one person business here! I do all the marketing, the tech support, the customer service and of course the actual writing of the newsletter itself. I could pay people to help every now and then, but I'm a cheapskate and like learning so I stick to things and scales that I know I can handle on my own.

Platforms like Substack have made running an email newsletter so easy. You still need to put effort into marketing and content, but the actual nuts and bolts of handling subscribers and taking their money is done for you.

There are companies doing newsletters and employing people. Some newsletters get hundreds of thousands of people subscribing and the ad rates are crazy - like the old school magazines. It's a very similar business to selling magazine subscriptions back in the day - just with emails instead of paper!

chx_4 karma

Some newsletters get hundreds of thousands of people subscribing and the ad rates are crazy


decryption7 karma

Yeah! Check out Letterwell: https://letterwell.co/marketplace - a market place for newsletter ads.

There's 16 newsletters just on that platform alone with over 1 million subscribers!

decryption8 karma

There are companies that do this across many verticals - Cooper Press comes to mind. The platform/tools itself are a piece of piss for any mildly skilled CRUD programmer.
The real skill comes in the marketing (getting people to sign up, click ads/buy a subscription) and of course, the content itself being something people enjoy or get use out of.
Personally I'd love to try do The Sizzle for different countries. UK and Canada in particular. I wouldn't write it myself as I don't know shit about those markets, but I don't see any reason why a tech journo like myself in those countries couldn't do what I do.

AsianFrenchie5 karma

What's the next big thing in tech that nobody has heard about?

decryption9 karma

Sorry I took a bit longer to answer this, as I was really trying to think of something to reply with! I genuinely don't know what could be big that some people don't already think is going to be big.

It's very specific, but I'm bullish on Cloudflare. I think they're going to be a huge challenger to the current cloud services like AWS, Google, Azure. If I had to invest in one tech company, that's where I'd place my money. I love how they go about it and remind me of the cool stuff Google did before they turned into what they are today.

tcn335 karma

If you put together a word cloud composed of all past editions, what you do reckon the 3 biggest words would be?

decryption6 karma

reckon, "shit the bed" and apparently

sirjec5 karma

Love your work Anthony, I look forward to my Sizzle every afternoon! Couple of Qs for you:

I must have purchased over 10 SSDs from your your bargains section, you’ve turned me into an OzBargainer - do you have any connections with the team that run OB?

I know you read the replies to each Sizzle edition because we’ve exchanged some emails over the years - what’s the best reply you’ve received to a daily Sizzle edition?

Bonus: what’s your Tesla referral code? Asking for a friend 😇

decryption5 karma

Nah, don't know anyone at Ozbargain, I just really like site. I did talk with the owner once though, totally unrelated to The Sizzle, before I even started it.

There was an issue with my new house that the builder was being a prick about, so I posted on Ozbargain saying how the builder suck. It got so popular that the top search result on Google for that builder's name was my Ozbargain thread saying they're terrible with photos and screenshots to prove it. The builder's marketing team noticed and cracked the shits with me, threatening to sue me if I don't take it down.

The builder threatened to sue Ozbargain too, so the guy that runs it emailed me asking if I care if the thread is removed. By that point I got what I wanted out of the builder (a cash payout to rectify their shoddy work) and said it's up to him - so he deleted it to save himself the trouble of dealing with those psychos.

Yep - I read all the replies people send to issues I send out. I reply to 99% of them too. If someone takes the time to talk to me it's only polite not to ignore them!

The best ones are where people say they learn something or solve a problem they've been having with their computer. Just this evening I got an email from a subscriber who gave me a passionate defence of why they enjoy vinyl records and honestly, I kinda want some vinyl records now too!

Tesla killed off their referral system, so no link to share :(

roxyrozh5 karma

Regarding the OzB vaccination trial you put out a while ago, how many people became paid subscribers? Also a while later when you pushed out that offer after hitting 70% vaccinated, was there a big jump in paid subscribers? I ask this because that was the push I needed to officially subscribe.

(I just wanna say I really enjoy these newsletters, I don't care enough about news or tech to seek out what going on, but at the same time I want to be on top of everything so I can have something to talk about at work (IT support). So I like being able to read digestible highlights of what's happening :> Thank you for doing what you do!)

decryption4 karma

how many people became paid subscribers?

  • 332 people sent me proof of their COVID vaccination and started a 3 month trial of The Sizzle.
  • 47 of those people have become paid subscribers now - a 14.16% conversion rate.
  • There's still 287 people enjoying the free trial. If 7% of them decide to become paid subscribers when their trial is over, I'll get an extra 20 new paid subs - possibly 70 all up.

That 3 month trial for vaccinated people on Ozbargain is by far the best single promotion I've ever done for The Sizzle and it didn't cost me a cent! I'd have been happy to pay between $1400 - $2400 for that many paid subscribers.

And thanks for enjoying The Sizzle! Your scenario is the exact reason why I write it. So happy to hear you're getting value out of it.

Presbyopia4 karma

Hey man! Love you work!

I'm wondering if this is something that requires full time attention or can be done potentially on a hobbyist/part-time basis. I've always fantasized about the idea of writing journal articles and even starting my own blog but haven't had any real people to speak to about this venture. Could it be done as a side-hustle?

decryption9 karma

Most of the time I've written The Sizzle, it's part-time purely out of necessity as it wasn't earning enough to pay my bills, buy food etc.
You can absolutely do this as a side-hustle. How successful it is depends on many things (your promotional skills, the content you're covering etc), but you can certainly grow it whilst doing a mostly full-time job.

burtrito4 karma

Is there anything that would make you go back to 9-5 work-life with a company?

decryption9 karma

Good question, as I've recently thought about this!

A few weeks ago I applied for a full-time job as tech editor of a car blog (Whichcar/Wheels). They wanted more tech coverage in their publication as cars are increasingly becoming computers on wheels. I love electric cars and the pay was good, so I thought I'd give it a shot. I lasted like 3 weeks doing both jobs until I realised how good writing The Sizzle is and the lack of having a boss (even if they are nice) is fantastic.

Office politics, clashing personalities, unwritten expectations, the lack of control of my own destiny - it all bothers me enough not to want to return to working for someone else.

I sometimes think about going back to uni, finishing my degree and returning to a pure tech role as I'd earn so much more money, but the lifestyle I have is too good, despite not making as much cash and not being on the tools these days as often as I'd like.

televis15 karma

Can you please share the lifestyle you love right now?

decryption8 karma

I get to work at home, with nobody checking in on me. I'm free to do whatever I like. I can think of an idea and implement it right away, no need to check with a boss or colleague, or worry if I'm stepping on someone's toes by doing something I'm not supposed to.

I can write about whatever I want, there's no editor to make me change the tone or direction of a story, there's no advertisers to please. I'm accountable only to my subscribers.

I can choose to work half a day, or take a day off (I have a few writers I can contact and pay them ~$100 to take over a single issue for me) whenever I want.

Best of all, I get paid to do what I love - learning about technology and sharing what I learn with the world.

Allydarvel3 karma

As someone doing a similar job. My pay is twice the national average and I live in one of the lowest cost of living areas in the country. For that money I work on average around three days a week. I work when I want. I might wake up at 6, grab a coffee, work till 9.30 and have the rest of the day to myself. My partner works odd hours and sometimes had Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday off. We can nip away for a couple of days at cheap rates, look after our grandchildren or do whatever we feel like.

decryption2 karma

Yep, I love the flexibility too. I also live in a "cheaper" part of Australia too - in a semi-rural town outside of Melbourne. I doubt I could afford to own a house in Melbourne of Sydney on my family's income.

PowerfulLier4 karma

I would like to read your newsletter but not pay or support you in any way. Is there an option for me?

decryption3 karma

Find someone that already subscribes and ask them to forward you each issue daily ya cheapskate!

roktober3 karma

Hey mate, see you buy stuff all the time. What pays so well? :D

decryption5 karma

Dual income, no kids, own my house. Plus most of the stuff I buy I usually end up selling later when I get bored of it. I've slowed down a lot lately however, trying to save some money for travelling now that COVID is on the tail end (fingers crossed!).

Peter_Dujan3 karma

Hi Anthony,

Just wanted to say thanks for a great product. I have been subscribed for a while now and I always look forward to reading my daily email.

My question is what has your customer retention being like? Do you think there are any subscribers still subscribed from 6 years ago?

decryption3 karma

I looked into this a few days ago when The Sizzle crossed 800 subscribers and found that 83 of the original 100 subscribers are still around and never stopped paying! Churn does happen, but it's rare to lose a subscriber long term - most of the ones that do stop paying end up coming back at some point.

Ardinius3 karma

What (if any) are your concerns regarding the host of cyber security legislation that has been introduced to Australia recently? What is your honest opinion on how government will use the powers afforded by such legislation now and several years into the future?

decryption4 karma

Ooh a deep question.
I worry it'll just make a shit situation more shit. Look at what the Australian government is doing to whistleblower Witness K, who dared to uncover the spying ASIO did on East Timor's oil & gas negotiations.

The raids they conducted on a News Corp journalist (News Corp!) for straying out of her lane and revealing plans for the ASD to spy on Australians.
It'll be a constant series of using these powers not so much for nailing terrorists or pedos, but to protect the mates of politicans and cover the arses of the powerful when they fuck up and someone dares speak up against them.

I also think tech companies may just go "nope, we can't comply with these bullshit laws, peace out" and either degrade their Australian services to the point they're almost usless, or pull out entirely. Not having Google in Australia with a full feature set for example would kinda suck.

Fizzelen3 karma

Who is currently viewed as the most “evil” tech company, Microsoft, Apple, Oracle, FaceBook, Twitter, someone else?

decryption7 karma

Out of the $1 trillion/FAAAM club - it's Facebook. Nobody has any love left for Zuck and his mates. Oracle are jerks, but only IT people hate Oracle. Facebook has mainstream hate.

Personally, I think NSO Group is the filthiest company. Their products has directly resulted in the deaths of innocent people because they don't care who buys their cellphone hacking software (i.e: Saudi Arabia).

BetterGeiger2 karma

I'm launching a tech Kickstarter next month. How should I promote it?

It's a radiation detector (like a Geiger counter) - www.bettergeiger.com

Thanks for any suggestions or advice.

decryption2 karma

I'm far from a marketing expert and personally don't cover Kickstarter projects because of the poor track record of them actually getting into customer hands, so I'm probably a poor person to ask!

My simple advice would be to make a big list of potential customers and then find all the media outlets those types of people read, listen to or watch and get in touch with with them with a succinct description of your product along with videos and photos of it.

From my own experience promoting things, keep in mind there is no silver bullet. You're probably going to grind away at it for a while, getting small wins here and there. It's a marathon, not a sprint.
Good luck!

mojojojo312 karma

What was the first six months, year for you like income-wise? How did you get your first 10 or 100 subscribers?

decryption5 karma

I already had a bit of an audience back when I started. I wasn't sure anyone would pay for it though. I went into it with the idea that The Sizzle is something I want for myself, so there's probably a few others out there who agree with me.

The first 10 subscribers were literally my friends. I told them I have a newsletter and they were interested to see it because they like my style of writing or wanted to support a friend (I would have done the same, even if I wasn't that into the newsletter itself).

The first 100 were more or less fans of mine from my earlier work (an online forum for Australian Apple users called MacTalk). The majority of the first 100 subscribers are still around too! (last time I checked around 90% of the first 100 are still subscribed).

The first year I got to about 200-ish subscribers and made $10,000 before tax & expenses: https://imgur.com/a/ieJyxQN

mojojojo312 karma

Thank you for the reply (and the award!). What would you say is the most effective marketing channel for your newsletter?

decryption4 karma

Word of mouth is the most consistent way of getting new subscribers. Existing subscribers sharing on social media or telling their friends at work.

There's also my personal Twitter account (@decryption) which I use for all kinds of things, including shitposting, where I regularly remind my followers about The Sizzle!

Surprisingly, Ozbargain has been a great source of paid subscribers. Posting discounts everynow and then on a subscription to The Sizzle usually gets a few extra customers.

cyberpunk1Q842 karma

General tips for people who want to work in the same field? Are writing portfolios good and what should they have/types of pieces? How did you enter the professional writing field and how did you make it your full time job? Thanks!

decryption6 karma

Yes, you absolutely need a portfolio of articles/content you are proud of. Nobody hiring you to write is going to hire you without seeing evidence you can write!

In my opinion you need at least 3 solid articles suitable for publication in the outlet you're aiming to write for. For example, if you're trying to get a gig reviewing PC hardware, you want a few articles of product reviews.
I got my start publishing my own blog, back when blogs were a thing people read and stumbled upon (when I started the iPhone didn't exist, haha), and I'd be asked if I wanted to write something for another publication and get paid for it.

I also approached editors and outlets I respected and simply asked them if they have any freelance contributor budget, with links to my work. Most said no, but a few came back to me over time when they needed an article in a specific area they thought I could cover well (back then it was Apple products, as I had a track record of writing good quality articles about Apple).

After a while I became more confident, met more people and had more connections in the journalism space, so when a full-time job appeared (I'd find them on social media by following the outlets or editors I enjoyed reading, or on technology journalist specific forums/mailing lists) I would apply for it. I got knocked back almost always, but I would often be asked to do freelance work which happened often enough for me to be a full time freelancer, if that makes sense?

SnowedOutMT2 karma

Did you have a background or employment in tech before you started writing? I guess I'm asking which came first, the writing or the tech?

decryption7 karma

The tech, absolutely. Before I was a full-time writer, I was a systems administrator and had every intention to make that my career.

I finished school in 2002, went to TAFE in 2003 to do an Advanced Diploma in Electrical Engineering, but changed to a Diploma in Network Engineering in 2004, which I finished in 2005 along with a Cisco & Microsoft cert. I tried to do a degree (Bachelor in IT) in 2006, but dropped out mid-way as I struggled with the lack of guidance, plus found it very boring compared to the more hands-on stuff I did at TAFE.

While studying I did on-site home tech support and worked at an Apple reseller (Computers Now). When I dropped out of uni I worked as a systems administrator (mostly Macs and a few Linux systems) at RMIT Uni and Uni Melb until about 2008 when I quit those jobs and worked full time on MacTalk - an Apple forum I ran that made a decent amount of money. That would probably be the point I realised people would pay me to write!

I've had other short contracts and casual IT jobs since to make some spare cash while my journalism career grew, but haven't done any proper IT work for about 3 years now as the income I get from writing is enough for me to live off.

mvyrmnd2 karma

I never knew you worked at CompNow! I worked for CompNow in 2004-5 when they bought iCorp where I was at the time and we all got absorbed into the South Melbourne shop.

decryption3 karma

Yeah! I worked at the Malvern store from 2005 to 2006, about 18 months I think. Was a good job, I have fond memories of it. I wasn't the best salesperson in terms of raw figures (I struggled upselling customers and getting them to use Flexirent instead of cash/credit), but I loved hanging around all the Apple gear at the time.

wisie2 karma

Loving The Sizzle.

What are you using for pushing content? Considering something in a different area and Shortstack jumped out.

decryption3 karma

I use ActiveCampaign for email sending. It's not the "best" email platform but it's one of the most flexible with a very detailed API and one of the few that lets me disable link tracking.

Thanks for checking out The Sizzle!

AintPatrick2 karma

Have you thought about putting your topics on a site with a metered paywal, just like newspapers do so they benefit from people sharing the stories and when someone clicks it’s a chance to grab an email?

decryption3 karma

I used to do this many years ago. I made a little script that would turn the text of the article in the email into an image that could then be shared on social media where there would be a link to sign up for a free trial. It rarely got any new subscribers and was a pain to maintain :(

detailed_fred2 karma

How many hours would you realistically work on a given day?

decryption6 karma

On a normal day, I would spend 4-ish hours writing an issue of The Sizzle. The rest of the day I would spend doing business-side stuff like finding ways to get more subscribers, brainstorming or researching new ideas for the business, or writing content for other publications as a freelancer to earn spare money.

tcn332 karma

Thought about franchising out the Siz brand? Sizzle but for X could be the new 2022 trend.

decryption4 karma

I'm surprised nobody's copied The Sizzle to be honest. Maybe writing daily is a bit of a moat I've got that most people can't match.

IndridFrost11 karma

Anything huh?

Do you think Mike Tyson could feasibly knock out a horse?

decryption3 karma

He's a strong man, I'd bet money he could KO a thoroughbred.

televis11 karma

Rather than email subscriptions, how about a blog/forum with RSS members-only capability? So people can go back and forth based on the article category/topic?

decryption4 karma

I actually did this about 2 years into The Sizzle. People could log in to a forum and see all the news items I added in each issue as their own post and thread. I thought it was cool, but hardly anyone used it. People vastly preferred an email in their inbox so I closed the forum down as it was a pain in the arse to publish in two places each day.

Technically, The Sizzle works better as a website you can log into as a member, get an RSS feed for and read back issues etc. I could even fix typos after I publish! (Can't do that with an email, once its sent I can't recall it and fix any mistakes). But people just aren't into paying for content like that compared to a newsletter subscription. It's a psychological thing I guess.

koopz_ay1 karma

What are your thoughts on Benjamin Richard "Yahtzee" Croshaw and his work over the years?

Did any of Yahtzee's work influence you in the past?

decryption2 karma

I'm not really a big gamer, so don't follow him closely - but I remember Yahtzee from aagggess ago making funny videos well before YouTube was a thing. Respect.

FEwood1 karma

Do you know Pixy Misa?

decryption2 karma

Pixy Misa?

I have absolutely no idea who that is. I did a quick Google and it's an anime character?

blahjedi1 karma

Remember this monstrosity?


decryption3 karma

I think part of it is still lodged somewhere in my small intestine.

kaydo1 karma

Love the sizzle. Any consideration for merch? I need a laptop sticker always

decryption5 karma

Email me ([[email protected]](mailto:[email protected])) and I'll send you some stickers! I have heaps here: https://imgur.com/a/0efRE7K

IamA-GoldenGod0 karma

What’s it like living in a totalitarian state?

decryption0 karma

Because it is 2021, I'm not sure if this is a joke or a genuine cooked unit that thinks Australia is oppressed.

type0P0sitive0 karma

Did they ever catch that dingo?

decryption5 karma

Nah mate, it's still out there eating babies! One day we will catch the fucker.

Lotsaa1-7 karma

820 ppl that give you $5 each per month seems like a load shit, and we are supposed to believe this?

decryption9 karma

I know it's unbelievable (sometimes I can't believe people pay me either!) but it's true - check out my Stripe dashboard: https://imgur.com/a/kkw0Jz5

I use Chargebee to handle customer subscriptions, I have 816 there: https://imgur.com/a/uo8AbXX

(4 people pay me via cash because they're afraid of using their credit card online)