Welcome to Disruptor

Why I'm launching my own newsletter on Substack

As a journalist and author, I’ve written hundreds of stories over the past 30 years. There’s my Vanity Fair article about the drug smuggling megachurch preacher, and my book on the Lennon and McCartney of computer games. In another book, I chronicled the fight for civil rights in America’s most legendary suburb. For Rolling Stone, I covered the rise and fall of the first bitcoin kingpin, and the story behind the greatest story ever tweeted. And I wrote a memoir, which later became a podcast, about the murder of my brother when I was a kid.

Today, I’m excited to announce my next chapter: writing for my own newsletter, Disruptor. Woohoo, etc.!

Okay, so why? And what can readers expect?

The “why” part is pretty simple: independence. With Disruptor, I have the freedom and flexibility to tell the stories I want however I see fit, and at whatever length feels right. I’ve always enjoyed telling stories in different formats - graphic novels, podcasts, radio - and with a newsletter I can incorporate audio, video, comics, photos, NFTs, and more. Plus, my pieces can come out as often as I want. And thanks to the tools Substack provides, I can do much of it myself.

Reporting and writing narrative nonfiction, however, means more than just sending my words to your inbox. When I taught journalism at Princeton University and New York University, I stressed the importance of the editorial team behind the scenes. To that end, I’ll be employing an editor, a copy editor, and a lawyer for anything I report on Disruptor

Any reader will get most of what’s on my newsletter for free, and I’ll be posting at least a couple times per week. (For an archive of my magazine feature stories, go to my website). For $5 per month or $50 per year, paid subscribers will get access to in-depth interviews, community threads and longer, serialized nonfiction.

Paid subscribers will also have exclusive access to my next book, which — I’m excited to share — I’ll be publishing exclusively on Disruptor. It’s a follow-up to my first book, Masters of Doom: How Two Guys Built an Empire and Transformed Pop Culture, and it’s called Masters of Disruption: How the Gamer Generation Built the Future. It will include new interviews with the protagonists of my first book, along with innovators they inspired.

Masters of Disruption will explore where they’ve been, where they’re going, and how they plan to get there. It’s a story of creativity and ambition told by the key players who are, as legendary programmer John Carmack put it to me recently, finding a “shortcut to the future.” From augmented reality to virtual reality, esports to blockchain gaming, NFTs to online community, it’s a story of the people behind the breakthroughs and the breakthroughs to come.

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It’s fun and invigorating to create a new form of “book” specifically for the newsletter format. Masters of Disruption will be serialized, but include elements beyond just the text: voice notes, audio interviews, playlists, videos, and whatever else helps tell the story. Instead of chapters, the book will be made up of different kinds of posts.

It’s a style of longform nonfiction that doesn’t yet exist in the public consciousness or have a name. There are audiobooks, e-books, flipbooks, but I’m calling this a postbook: both a book made of posts, and a “post” book in the sense of a new approach to storytelling. The shorter pieces on Disruptor will, similarly, be poststories.

As I was considering what to call this newsletter, I tried to think of what, if any, overarching themes there might be to my writing. I’m drawn to David and Goliath stories, the tales of underdogs, individuals vs. systems, troublemakers, innovators, outlaws, gamers, geeks... disruptors.

I liked the sound of Disruptor, because it reminded me of an arcade game that I would have poured all of my quarters into as a kid. 

Thanks for reading!