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History of Substack

Substack is a platform that has revolutionized the way writers create and monetize newsletters. Founded in 2017 by Chris Best, Jairaj Sethi, and Hamish McKenzie, Substack has quickly become a popular choice for writers looking to connect with their audience and earn money on their own terms.

The idea behind Substack was to create a better future for writers by giving them a way to earn money directly. With Substack, writers can create newsletters on any topic and send them directly to their readers. They can also monetize their work by putting it behind a paywall. This has given writers more control over their work and has allowed them to build a loyal following.

If you are interested in learning more about Substack, there are several resources available online. You can learn how to choose your Substack newsletter name, create a Substack newsletter, and discover what Substack is and how it empowers writers to create and monetize newsletters. Check out the Related Posts section below for more information.

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Origins of Substack

Substack is a newsletter platform that was launched in 2017 by Chris Best, Jairaj Sethi, and Hamish McKenzie. The company was founded with the aim of providing writers with a platform to publish their work and earn money directly from their readers.

Founding Members

Chris Best, one of the founding members of Substack, was previously the co-founder of Kik Messenger, a popular messaging app. Jairaj Sethi, another co-founder, was the head of platform and principal developer at Kik Messenger. Hamish McKenzie, the third co-founder, was a former tech reporter at PandoDaily.

Together, the three founders wanted to “build a better future for writers” by giving them a way to earn money directly and on their own terms. They believed that writers should be able to control their own content and build their own audiences without relying on traditional media outlets.

Substack’s founders were able to raise $15.3 million in funding from a group of investors that included Andreessen Horowitz, Y Combinator, and Fifty Years. The platform has since grown to become one of the most popular newsletter platforms on the internet.

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Substack’s Business Model

Revenue Generation

Substack’s business model is based on a revenue-sharing system with its writers. The platform offers a free service to its users, but it takes a 10% cut of the revenue generated by paid subscriptions. This means that writers can monetize their content by offering paid subscriptions to their readers. Substack takes care of the payment processing and distribution of the subscription fees, and pays out the remaining 90% of the revenue to the writer.

Substack also offers a tipping feature where readers can voluntarily pay extra money to their favorite writers. This is an additional way for writers to earn money on the platform.

Free vs Paid Content

Substack allows writers to offer both free and paid content to their readers. Writers can choose to offer some content for free to attract readers and build their audience, while reserving exclusive content for paid subscribers. This model allows writers to monetize their content while still maintaining a free presence on the platform.

Substack’s business model has proven successful for many writers, with some earning six-figure incomes from their newsletters. The platform’s simplicity and ease of use have attracted many writers who are looking for an alternative to traditional media outlets.

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Growth of Substack

User Base Expansion

Since its launch in 2017, Substack has seen a steady increase in its user base. As of 2022, the platform has over 500,000 paid subscribers and more than 100,000 writers, according to The New York Times. The platform’s popularity can be attributed to its user-friendly interface and the ability for writers to monetize their work by putting it behind a paywall.

Furthermore, Substack has expanded its user base by allowing writers to import their content from other platforms such as WordPress and Medium. This has made it easier for writers to migrate their content to Substack and grow their audience.

High Profile Writers

Substack has also attracted high-profile writers, including journalists, academics, and authors. These writers have brought their loyal fan bases to the platform, contributing to Substack’s growth.

One of the most successful writers on Substack is Heather Cox Richardson, a history professor who has over a million paid and unpaid subscribers. Other notable writers on the platform include Glenn Greenwald, Andrew Sullivan, and Matt Taibbi.

These high-profile writers have not only contributed to Substack’s growth but have also brought attention to the platform’s potential as a viable alternative to traditional media outlets.

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Impact on Journalism

Independent Journalism

Substack has had a significant impact on independent journalism, providing a platform for writers to publish their work without the constraints of traditional media outlets. This has allowed for a more diverse range of voices to be heard, as writers are free to cover topics that may not be of interest to mainstream media. Additionally, Substack allows writers to monetize their work directly through subscriptions, which has led to a resurgence of independent journalism.

Traditional Media

While Substack has been beneficial for independent journalists, it has also had a negative impact on traditional media outlets. As more and more writers move to Substack, traditional media outlets are losing talent and subscribers. This has resulted in a decline in quality and diversity of content in traditional media, as well as a loss of revenue.

Despite this, some traditional media outlets have attempted to adapt to the Substack model by launching their own newsletters. For example, The New York Times launched “The Morning” newsletter on Substack, which has been successful in attracting subscribers. However, it remains to be seen whether traditional media can successfully compete with the independent writers on Substack.

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Controversies and Criticisms

Content Moderation

Substack has faced criticism for its handling of content moderation. Some writers have accused the platform of not doing enough to prevent harassment and hate speech. In response, Substack has implemented new policies and tools to address these concerns, including a feature that allows writers to block specific subscribers and a system for reporting abusive behavior.

Despite these efforts, Substack continues to face criticism over its content moderation practices. Some writers have called for more aggressive action to be taken against those who engage in harassment or hate speech on the platform.

Payment Issues

Another area of criticism for Substack has been its payment policies. Some writers have accused the platform of not being transparent enough about its payment structure and of favoring certain writers over others. There have also been concerns raised about the amount of money that Substack takes from writers’ earnings.

In response to these criticisms, Substack has made changes to its payment policies, including providing more information about how payments are calculated and offering advances to writers who need them. However, some writers remain skeptical about the platform’s commitment to fair and transparent payment practices.

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Future of Substack

Business Projections

Substack has been growing steadily since its launch in 2017, and it shows no signs of slowing down. The company has raised significant funding, with the latest round valuing the company at over $650 million. In addition, Substack has been able to attract high-profile writers, which has helped to increase its visibility and credibility.

Substack’s business model, which allows writers to monetize their work by putting it behind a paywall, has been successful so far. The company takes a 10% cut of the revenue generated by writers, which is a relatively small fee compared to traditional publishing models. As more writers join the platform, Substack’s revenue is likely to continue to grow.

Potential Challenges

While Substack’s future looks bright, the company faces some potential challenges. One of the biggest concerns is the issue of content moderation. Substack has faced criticism for allowing writers who promote hate speech or misinformation to use its platform. The company has stated that it is committed to free speech, but it may need to take a stronger stance on harmful content in the future.

Another challenge for Substack is competition. Other platforms, such as Medium and Ghost, offer similar services to Substack, and it’s possible that these platforms could start to take market share away from Substack. To stay competitive, Substack will need to continue to innovate and improve its platform to attract and retain writers and readers.

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