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The 30 Most Popular Articles on The Honest Broker
Today we celebrate our first birthday, and rank the most popular articles from the 134 published here in the last 12 months
I launched The Honest Broker one year ago today, with no idea what I was getting into—and it has been a whirlwind. When I originally considered launching on Substack, I thought I might write once or twice per week—but I ended up publishing 134 articles during the year.
This thing sorta feeds on itself, as I’ve learned.
The Honest Broker is a reader-supported guide to music, books, and culture. Both free and paid subscriptions are available. If you want to support my work, the best way is by taking out a paid subscription.
I began The Honest Broker as an experiment, attracted by a platform that gave me more direct contact with readers, and no constraints. I wanted to take chances here—do something more than the bite-size journalism so prevalent nowadays. I hoped to provide honest and trustworthy commentary, address the powerful forces shaping our world (especially those controlling media and entertainment), and deal with a range of important cultural issues—past, present, and future—ignored elsewhere.
In other words, I was not aiming to write a blog, in the typical meaning of that term. I wasn’t interested in offering short, observational commentary on the buzz du jour, but instead hoped to build a reader-supported platform focused on longform journalism, historical inquiry, expansive cultural criticism, and in-depth analysis.
I had a hunch readers would join me in this effort, and I’ve been gratified by the response. For those who measure things in clicks, we’ve generated millions. I prefer to call it readership, and it has been growing like gangbusters—at 10% compounded per month. I’ve found, to my surprise, that articles here will get licensed, translated, discussed on radio and podcasts, and actually get my face on national TV (a mixed blessing, that, at best). Even better, they have had some impact, providing momentum to the more positive forces still active in our culture.
The quality of any audience is harder to measure, but I know for a fact that many readers of The Honest Broker are smart, experienced individuals—and they teach me new things every day. So I give my thanks to each of you. Kierkegaard once described his audience as “the individual who is my reader”—and I’ve always liked that way of viewing things. The single biggest reason why I started The Honest Broker was to find a way of writing that honored and nurtured that direct connection between writer and reader.
And the readers here have been as unconventional as the writing. For example, I’ve been pleasantly surprised that longer in-depth essays have been more popular than the shorter observational posts. Again and again, the ‘challenging’ essays published here have gotten the most clicks. This runs counter to everything we’re told by media experts nowadays, and I believe it is a very revealing fact.
You can see that yourself in the rankings of the most popular post, which I’m sharing below.
Clearly there’s demand for precisely the kind of in-depth writing that is getting squeezed out of other media outlets. I’ve long had a hunch that might be true, but after a year of studying the metrics on The Honest Broker, I know it for certain.
I also want to call attention to the wide range of topics addressed in the most popular posts. Another piece of stale advice for writers—which seems more worthless to me with each passing year—is that they should stay focused on the narrowest possible specialty. I’ve had people tell me that I should only write about jazz or maybe blues, but as you can see many of the most popular posts here are personal memoirs, or analysis of the entertainment business, or opinion pieces on contemporary society, or even personal advice columns. A satirical work of fiction even made its way into the top 30. The jazz and music writing has been well-received, but I note that record reviews—that cornerstone of music journalism—only account for one out of the most popular posts here.
Finally, I want to thank especially those who support the site with a paid subscription. You have made it possible for me to continue in this endeavor. And I hope to make it rewarding for each of you in year two—I already have many surprises in store, including a big one I will announce next month. Even though it has been a whirlwind in year one, things will not slow down here.
And now let me share the 30 most popular posts on The Honest Broker in the last year (ranked in order of page views).