The Supercreator Interview: Fadeke Adegbuyi
The lead writer of Cybernaut — a new internet culture newsletter — on the advantages of writing within a collective, the value of community and the process of “writing her way to the point.”
We’re in a media moment where the novelty of newsletters has kind of worn off. In other words, it’s no longer enough to simply launch a publication. Creators must have both a singular voice and vision to stand out in an overwhelming sea of sameness. It’s clear Fadeke Adegbuyi got the message: Cybernaut, her new newsletter published by the business collective Every, promises to offer a fresh slant on the global network we rely on to work, live, discover and connect.
“If we want to make great stuff online, we need to understand how vibrant communities are formed and survive, and how others become overwhelmed by spam and performativity,” Dan Shipper, co-founder and CEO of Every, said to The Supercreator. “Fadeke loves the internet, and she is amazing at bringing the best, the weirdest, (and sometimes the worst) of it to her readers.”
I caught up with Fadeke over the weekend to find out Cybernaut’s origin story, how she defines “internet culture” and what her next must-read will be about. Our conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
The Supercreator: Congrats on the newsletter launch! How does it feel for it to finally be out in the world?
Fadeke Adegbuyi: Thanks so much, Michael! We met last year through On Deck where I was noodling around on early ideas of what a newsletter on internet culture from me might look like. At the time, the Substack revolution was on, but we hadn’t quite reached Substack Supremacy like we have now. I was actually considering a blog at the time, not a newsletter.
How did this partnership with Every come about? What made writing a newsletter within a collective more attractive than launching one on your own?
Back in 2019, I worked on a Guide to Using Twitter with Holloway, a company publishing expert-written guides on entrepreneurship, career growth, and more. I had the privilege of working with Rachel Jepsen, an extraordinarily talented editor, and kept in touch after we worked on that guide. She joined Every as an editor and with her own podcast, The Long Conversation about the craft of writing. She encouraged me to pitch my own newsletter to the bundle.
I had followed Every (then, the “Everything Bundle”) for a long time, reading both Divinations and Superorganizers and thought their content was fantastic! However, I was a bit hesitant to join their bundle. I wasn’t keen on the idea of writing about business subjects and I already cover productivity in my day job at Doist. I pitched what I actually wanted to write, a newsletter on internet culture, and they loved the idea.
To test whether someone might do well, they often have writers pen guest posts first. I wrote about LinkedIn’s Alternate Universe in December and another on Creeping as a Service (CraaS) earlier this year. The former became one of the most viewed articles on Divinations ever. Both were widely-read, well-received, and were featured on the front page of Hacker News, a popular discussion forum for techies. This led to a full publication deal with Every.
Publishing with a collective provides unparalleled distribution and editorial support, compared to publishing alone. I get to work with an editor for every piece, and being a part of the bundle means having access to their established distribution channels. Everyone in the collective is generous with their time and feedback. Additionally, it’s just an added layer of publishing accountability that’s hard to apply to yourself.
Were there any writers or newsletters that served as reference points or inspiration as you developed the point of view for Cybernaut?
My point of view isn’t static; it’s in constant flux and I only expect it to change and evolve! However, there are tons of talented writers that I’m inspired by including Jenna Wortham, Taylor Lorenz, Nathan Jurgenson, Anne Helen Peterson, Terry Nguyen, Venkatesh Rao, and Aaron Z. Lewis. They all have their own weird and wonderful ways of exploring and describing online phenomena.
You work a full-time job in marketing at Doist. In what ways have your workflow evolved to accommodate your newsletter deadlines?
Cybernaut will publish three times per month. I expect this will be manageable alongside work, though this is a project I’m happily spending evenings and weekends on. I was already wasting time on the internet, so now I have an excuse! I can funnel anything interesting I come across into the newsletter.
How is writing marketing content different from (or similar to!) writing your newsletter?
Content marketing is quite different at Doist from other companies, a point of pride for us. We write in an incredibly crowded niche, productivity, but are intent on writing the most interesting and value-packed articles in the space. We don’t keyword stuff, try to stay away from being formulaic and aim to publish writing that’s novel and interesting even if the end goal is gently promoting our products.
In that way, Cybernaut is similar. Internet culture writing is increasingly popular, and my aim is to find topics that are distinct and interesting to bring to readers. Though different, there’s also still some level of “selling” involved, as I want readers who enjoy my free articles to consider subscribing to the Every bundle.
In terms of the actual writing process, there’s a certain structure to content marketing — I’ve always been able to research, create an outline, and sit down to write something in a linear way.
I’m finding this approach has not translated to the kind of writing I’m working on with Cybernaut. Sometimes I have to write my way to the point or restructure an entire piece mid-writing.
There’s been an upswell in “internet culture” coverage the past few years. Why do you think this is? And what does the term mean to you?
It’s wonderful to see! Despite growing up on the internet, I still believe that the internet is in its infancy. The web impacts every part of our lives and I’m glad it’s slowly getting as much coverage as anything else — politics, finance, tech, et cetera. I find it fascinating that some level of derision towards this beat. To me, it signals a lack of attention to what the internet has become. Influencers are building businesses and making millions of dollars, there are more eyeballs on TikToks and YouTube videos then traditional media, and people are online en masse — whether that’s a Discord server for discussing music or a QAnon forum. The online world is deserving of reporting, analysis, and cultural critique.
As for the term “Internet culture”, it’s a quick identifier and a short-hand, but the online world and the real world have collapsed into one and can’t be detangled. Internet culture writing is culture writing.
We met in the first cohort of the On Deck Writer Fellowship. What’s been the value of community in your creative practice?
On Deck was a lovely experience and valuable in everything from idea generation to editing and critique. One of my favorite parts of the program was weekly calls in small groups facilitated by the indefatigable Natalie Toren, On Deck’s Writing Partner. This was a great space for ideas big and small, plus getting kind but critical feedback. Our cohort ended months ago, but I’m still in touch with many alumni who have been helpful in sharing ideas with and lending advice, including you.
Are there any upcoming stories you’re working on that we should be looking forward to?
I’m writing a piece on Clubhouse. I’ve spent, conservatively, at least a hundred hours on the audio app since June 2020, listening to all kinds of conversations. I’ve been fascinated by the progression on the platform over the last year.
What’s the first thing you plan to do when the pandemic is finally over? Is there anything else you think I should know?
A lot of people I know are making wild re-entry plans. I’ll likely have a much slower introduction back into the world, and take a quick trip to Vancouver to visit a few friends at some point in the fall.
Ask Fadeke anything!
On Tue 4/27 at 1 p.m. EST, Fadeke will join me for a pop-up discussion on The Supercreator to answer your questions on internet culture, creativity and technology. You can add your thoughts to this post starting now and Fadeke will drop by to participate in the discussion and answer your questions for 30 minutes to an hour next week. See you inside the discussion!