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Sunday Briefing: On writing online, and how Bill Hwang lost it all

Sunday Briefing: On writing online, and how Bill Hwang lost it all

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Welcome to the Sunday Briefing newsletter where we share some of the interesting lessons in life, business, and investing that we’ve come across during the week.

What we’ve been reading

Sovereign writers and Substack. The internet is starting to unleash the market value of the best writers and Substack is currently leading the way in the movement. Ben Thompson’s great piece discusses the unbundling of editorial and the viability of Substack’s business model.

This is what makes “the intent interest of media makers and observers” so baffling. There is a very easy and obvious answer to “how that money is split up and distributed”: subscriber money goes to the person or publication the subscriber subscribes to. That’s it! Substack is a tool for the sovereign writer; the sovereign writer is not a Substack employee, creator, contractor, nothing. Users quite literally pay writers directly, who pass on 10% to Substack; Substack doesn’t get any other say in “how that money is split up and distributed.”

The mess at Medium. Read it with the above to get a sense of how the world is moving down the independent publishing route.

Opinions vary on how threatened Williams feels by Substack, but managers often bragged about Medium’s superiority as a place to work, employees said. “Internally it has always been messaged as, ‘we’re better than Substack, we have more integrity, we’re more up front about our business model,’” one current staffer told me.

How Bill Hwang lost it all.

The sudden implosion of Hwang’s Archegos Capital Management in late March is one of the most spectacular failures in modern financial history: No individual has lost so much money so quickly. At its peak, Hwang’s wealth briefly eclipsed $30 billion. It’s also a peculiar one. Unlike the Wall Street stars and Nobel laureates who ran Long-Term Capital Management, which famously blew up in 1998, Hwang was largely unknown outside a small circle: fellow churchgoers and former hedge fund colleagues, as well as a handful of bankers.

Quote of the week

Howard Marks on humility.

We think humility is essential, especially concerning the ability to know the future. Before we act on a forecast, we ask if there’s good reason to think we’re more right than the consensus view already embodied in prices. As to macro projections, we never assume we’re superior.

A thought

Consider the totality of risk and effect. Look always at potential second-order and higher-level impacts.

Have a great coming week,
Oliver Sung

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