The Problem of Growth

I don’t write on this blog often and the main reason is the problem of growth and reach.

In this post I’d like to give you an idea what I do lately and tell you about my other outlets where I write today. This doesn’t mean that I will close this blog, no way, after all it was this blog that made me somewhat popular in the chess world.

I started this blog in 2014 and my weekly newsletter some time after that. I wanted to reach as many people as possible with the hope that my thoughts on chess would be beneficial to them. Now, looking backwards, I see that these attempts were not very successful.

To share some numbers. I wrote my weekly newsletter for more than 6 years without an exception, never skipping a Saturday. Over 300 emails were sent over this period using a mailing list and a mailing client. Can you guess the number of subscribers I had at the end of that period (ending in February 2023)?

Six years is a long period and I expected bigger growth, but I only managed a bit over 700 subscribers. I found this very depressing. Like shouting into a void.

Some time in 2022, a reader of my newsletter, Martin B. Justesen (he has a very good Substack called Say Chess on chess history, chess publishing and adult improvement, give him a follow and subscribe if you can), suggested I move to Substack. I was thinking about it even before that, seeing that it’s a growing platform with good interaction with the readers.

After overcoming some technical issues I made the jump from my mailing client to Substack in February last year. I brought over my mailing list and in a bit over a year I more than doubled my subscribers.

Another example of incredibly slow growth (is it growth if you’re moving too slow? Aren’t you even further falling behind if the others move much faster?) is my Twitter following. I’ve been on Twitter since February 2014. I’ve posted regularly, my content is generally well-accepted. The number of my followers? It’s only recently that I went over 3K (3,029 at the time of writing). In other words, I’ve been shouting into a void for 10 years.

When I see people reach tens of thousands of followers in a matter of months, I despair. It seems I am doing what is generally suggested to do to grow your following: post regularly, engage with the audience, be helpful etc. but it doesn’t really seem to have an effect.

In order to increase my reach I re-activated my YouTube channel. I observe the same story as with my newsletter and Twitter: people like it a lot, comment, want more of my content, but the numbers are not showing this. At the time of writing, my number of subscribers is 1.5K.

As with my old newsletter using a mailing client, the reach of my blog has decreased substantially over the years. I have limited time to write, so I have to choose to write where I can get the maximum impact. This is the main reason I have moved from the blog to my Substack. I’d recommend you subscribe there, so every Saturday you will receive an email on a chess topic with a link to my weekly video. If you feel like it, you can even support me with a small montly amount that will give you access to the full archive of my posts. On my YouTube channel I also post Shorts almost every day, so consider subscribing there, too.

I don’t know if I’ll ever reach big enough numbers on these platforms that will enable me to make a difference in the chess world. I can only try.

I will still publish posts on this blog, I have never been one to abandon people and places. Old loves die hard.

Alex Colovic
A professional player, coach and blogger. Grandmaster since 2013.
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