Thank you from Duffel Blog
Read this before you eat turkey.
Very few people read the first Duffel Blog story published in 2012—which came true a few years later—but I kept at it and wrote a new article every few days, posting to social networks and sharing with friends. Some laughed. Others asked, “wait, wtf? Is this real?” And then, one day, I got an email from a bored soldier in Kuwait, wondering if he could write, too. He was published later that month and undoubtedly enjoyed the hell out of roasting his platoon leader online. So did soldiers who read it.
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Since then, Duffel Blog has published thousands of stories by active-duty military and veteran writers, including:
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis once mentioned Duffel Blog in his online biography and said he “enjoyed every bit” of us making fun of him... and we sure had a lot of fun doing it. Senators have taken our articles seriously. (Funny? Sad? It’s actually both.)
And yet the most amazing result has been seeing Duffel Blog stories generate debate, discussion, and hilarious jokes from the ranks. Some even tell us our brand of humor has helped them overcome hard times and post-traumatic stress.
“You guys rock! I work in the Pentagon, and I share your articles often!” a reader told us recently. “Keep it up!”
Duffel Blog has a professional-looking logo and social media accounts, so most people mistakenly assume we’re making millions of dollars, which is kept in a secure vault at our massive headquarters. In reality, this newsletter has a full-time staff of one (me) editing stories written by dozens of military writers. Duffel Blog World Headquarters is, in fact, an 8x10 office shed in my backyard.
About two years ago, I shared a peek behind the curtain of Duffel Blog when I announced that we’d be moving from a website littered with ugly banner advertising to the Substack newsletter platform.
I didn’t share my worries then, but things weren’t looking great financially, and this was like jumping off a cliff. The banner ads on the site were annoying to readers but brought in just enough money to pay the bills, sometimes less. It was only a matter of time before it all went kaput. Yet Duffel Blog was still making some money, and Substack didn’t have advertising at all; it focused on paid subscriptions.
Making the move was terrifying, but it seemed like the least bad option as our social media reach fluctuated and advertising revenue declined. And so we jumped. I’m beyond grateful that thousands of readers have stepped up to catch us and keep us going since then.
“I’ve been a faithful fan ever since you all started publishing!” one reader told us.
“I am proud to support you and your splendid team,” said another.
Today, Duffel Blog is read by hundreds of thousands of readers on the web each month. We now have about 27,000 free and over 1,600 paid newsletter subscribers (just under 6% of our audience). And thanks to the support of those paid subscribers, we have so much to celebrate, including:
Substack recognizing Duffel Blog as a “Featured Publication” in 2021
Being able to increase writer pay for the first time ever
Hiring a veteran/social media guy to create hilarious memes like this:
Hearing directly from our audience in the comments and a reader survey in which 85% said they enjoyed the military jokes and humor, 78% said it brightened up their day, and a whole lot of them said really wonderful things about Duffel Blog, like:
“It gives me a great ab workout because I laugh so fucking hard every time I read an article.”
“There is nostalgia value for me in reading these stories; it helps me recall and think about my own experiences as a soldier. I also find it humorous that some things never change.”
“It's funny as hell and is often spot on.”
“I love to share relevant posts with my veteran buddies.”
“Just keep up the good work! Best freakin $5 I spend all month.”
So again, thanks to all of you who have opened your wallets and thrown us a few bucks each month. Duffel Blog literally could not do this without you. Your support means so much.
Happy Thanksgiving! We’re thankful to have you as a reader. With your help, Duffel Blog will continue to serve the military community in 2023 and beyond.
Founder and Editor of Duffel Blog