Substack: the platform that promoted newsletters


In just a few short years, the newsletter platform Substack has grown a lot. We look at where they came from.

The new blogs are newsletters. Or the latest podcasts. This type of format, which is based on something as old as e-mail, has made a big comeback in the last few years. There are many reasons for this, but they all seem to have something to do with the fact that there is too much information and people want content to be curated. in recent times. And Substack is growing to be the biggest newsletter service.

Substack is a platform for sending out newsletters. It is designed to be a “turnkey” service for writers, journalists, and other people who want to start writing on it. It doesn’t cost anything to use, unless the person who writes the newsletter puts up a paywall on some or all of the content or issues. There, Substack keeps 10% of what the newsletter owner makes. The last time the platform tried to collect, it was worth about $650 million. This shows that it is a growing business.

More from us: The newsletter platform Substack is now an RSS client

In the U.S., the platform has grown to make it easier for well-known journalists to make their own newsletters. One well-known example is the tech journalist Casey Newton, who still works closely with the website he used to work for, The Verge, but now spends most of his time working on his newsletter.

Substack has become a compass for content creators in the mobile Economy of passion. Substack has more than 500,000 paying subscribers at a time when many media publications have paywalls, acting as an intermediary between huge titles and independent authors.

It recently put out an app for iOS that promotes both the podcast and the podcast. But it has been criticised for not using e-mail, which is the natural way to send newsletters.

How Substack came to be

Substack was started in 2017 by Christ Best, Hamish McKenzie, and Jairaj Sethi. The company is based in San Francisco, California. Best had been an entrepreneur for almost a decade before he started Substack. In late 2009, he helped start the company Kik Interactive, which makes the messaging app Kik Messenger.

As the company’s chief technology officer (CTO), Best was able to grow the app to have millions of active users in a world where they had to compete with companies like WhatsApp.

He also met his other co-founders, McKenzie and Sethi, through Kik. After graduating from the University of Waterloo in Canada in 2011, Sethi joined Kik and worked his way up to become their platform manager.

McKenzie, on the other hand, did not go in the same direction. This New Zealander was a journalist by trade and had worked as a reporter for a number of news organisations. In 2012, the tech site PandoDaily, which no longer exists, hired him to write about Tesla and Elon Musk.

Musk then hired him as the “head writer” for the automaker in January 2014. McKenzie worked there for a little over a year, but he quit because he didn’t want to write for Tesla. Instead, he wanted to write about Tesla, so he started writing what would become a book called Insane Mode.

McKenzie decided to help Kik Interactive with press work on the side so he could make some money. He and Best would become friends soon after that. In the end, they both decided to leave Kik and start working on Substack at the beginning of 2017.

Ben Thompson, who made a name for himself with his Stratechery newsletter, was a big influence on Substack. Thompson made a good living by charging people to access his content. He was one of the first people to do this in a world where advertising was the norm and everyone was trying to get the user’s attention.

Between possible strength and weakness

Best and McKenzie knew in theory that people would pay for good content. Now, all they had to do was check out this idea. They hired Jairaj Sethi as CTO and Nathan Baschez, who built the first version of the popular Product Hunt website, to help them build the first version of the app.

To test the idea, they chose not to let anyone write on the platform from the start (like Medium did), but instead to work with some of the best writers and journalists in the world.

Bill Bishop, who helped start MarketWatch, was one of the first. In October 2017, he used Substack to launch Sinocism, a newsletter about China.

That was the beginning, and in just 5 years, it grew to have more than tens of thousands of newsletters and a million readers. It all started with a proposal that was similar to Patreon’s, but also took a look at the media.

In the Substack manifesto, the company’s founders wrote:

News organisations and other groups that pretend to be them are doing more and more desperate things to stay in business. So, we have content farms, clickbait, listicles, pointless but popular debates about optical illusions, and an epidemic of “fake news.” Just as bad, news content has lost a lot of what consumers see as its value, especially when it comes to dollars.

Even so, it has been criticised, especially during COVID, when hundreds of denialists used Substack as their main tool.

Several analysts have doubts about the long-term success of such a young company and its business model, especially since it is based on an idea that Twitter and Meta have already tried out and doesn’t have too many technological barriers. But it’s clear that Substack has made a place for itself in a very short amount of time.

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