Daily Productive Sharing 090 - 新一代媒体平台的崛起

One helpful tip per day:)

(The English version follows)

今天的分享是关于 Substack 这一平台的三篇文章。这是一个近来越来越引人关注的邮件列表平台,很多作家和记者都在上面开设自己的邮件列表,直接向订阅者收费。也算是独立出版的一种形式。三篇文章对比着读很有意思:

  1. CEO Chris Best 之前做了 Kik,就是微信抄的对象;
  2. Substack 把自己定位成为一个平台,而不是媒体公司,而且推崇言论自由;
  3. 当然 Substack 也拿了不少风投融资,不过他们主要把这些融资用于招募新的创作者;
  4. 另一位 Cofounder Hamish McKenzie 认识 Sinocism 的作者 Bill Bishop,请他把 Sinocism 转移到 Substack 上,所以 Substack 当天,Bill Bishop 就带来了三万个用户,产生了六位数的收入;
  5. Bill Bishop 目前还霸占 Substack 付费榜的第一位。前十位的年收入总和超过一千万美金;
  6. 当然 Substack 也有一些潜在的挑战:1. 独立出版 VS 大品牌背书,2. 长时间沉浸阅读 VS Twitter 类的短平快,3. 风投模式 VS 言论自由

没错,我们的邮件列表也放在这一平台上,当初我们选择这一平台无非基于以下几点:

  1. 使用免费,只有向订阅用户收费之后,Substack 才会抽成10%;
  2. 邮件可以直达用户邮箱。前几个月我们把 blog 放在 Posthaven 上,但时常碰到读者打不开的情况(可能需要科学上网),而 Substack 只要订阅成功之后,就会自动把邮件发到订阅者的信箱里;
  3. 简便易用,收费/定时发送等等功能都内置了,比起自己搭一整个工具链要省事很多。

The appeal of running your own newsletter is obvious and simple: instead of working for a boss, you can work for yourself.
Before Substack, I was a co-founder of a company called Kik Messenger.
And so we now live in this weird in-between time where everything should be really great, and yet, a lot of us feel like the things we read are kind of breaking our brains.
The only way to make a real change is to change the underlying laws of physics that apply, change the rules of the game, change how people are making money, have a new and better business model for independent writing and make that thing work.
One thing that might be interesting here that I think about as CEO is: what are you optimizing for? What do you need to optimize for, for the company to win? And I think this goes into: what is the right culture for your company?
We’re going to try that. We’re going to see what about it works and what doesn’t work. We’re going to actually get that feedback from them and we’re going to let that shape our thinking, and the length of time that it takes to do one of those cycles really influences your speed of learning because ideally, every time you’re actually going to change. The next thing you build is going to be different based on what you learned from that contact with reality. And so we focus a lot on tight iteration cycles, basically.
One thing that was really counterintuitive is that on Substack, when you’re a paid writer, you’ve got a subscription publication and you’re asking people to come and pay, your intuition is very much “I’m going to take my best stuff and I’m going to put it behind the paywall because my paying readers need to be paying for something.”
And there’s some truth there, you do have to put stuff behind the paywall, but actually a good rule of thumb is you should take your best — or at least your most accessible — stuff and make a lot of it free even when you’re paid.
People find out that you’re a writer that they trust and has good ideas, and they want to invest the time and money to subscribe and pay. And the only way they’re going to do that is if they get to read real, good things that you’ve done. So “make your best stuff free” is a counterintuitive thing that we didn’t expect and it runs counter to a lot of writers’ intuition.
So our focus has always been on being very comfortably default alive, which we currently are. Basically, if we continue to grow at our current rate, we would become profitable quite quickly if we didn’t grow expenses.
And what that means for me in practice is I want to be in a position where any money we’ve ever raised, we’ve treated it as the last money that we raise, so we can say, “if we never raise money again, this company is going to work and we have a healthy margin to do it.”
What we want to do instead is construct our business model in such a way that in order to be successful, we have to do the right thing, that we’re as aligned as possible with readers and writers.
The thing that’s magical about a newsletter is that it’s the one place you can have a direct relationship with your readers and get a push notification onto their home screen, without having to go through the Facebook algorithm and without having to get them to download an app.
Listen, we take a pretty strong stance that we want to promote freedom of the press and extend it to as many people as possible. That’s not coming from a political nowhere — that’s a belief that we hold.
One thing that’s interesting is we don’t have any one writer that’s some huge fraction of our revenue, although there’s concentration among the top — the top 10 people on Substack make $10 million a year collectively.

Can Substack CEO Chris Best build a new model for journalism?

Listen on Spotify

To date, there are more than 250,000 subscriptions across the network.
As Petersen put it, the writers joining Substack are “regaining control of our own journalism.”
The company, which was incubated by Y Combinator in 2017 before raising $15.3 million last year in a Series A round led by venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, remains relatively small. As of this fall there were 18 employees, including Best’s two cofounders, Hamish McKenzie (COO) and Jairaj Sethi (CTO).
He (Chris Best) grew up outside Vancouver and studied systems design engineering at the University of Waterloo in Ontario.
For all of Substack’s visionary tough talk, it’s hard to imagine a mass exodus—a voluntary one, at least—from major media organizations.
In just over a year, Heated racked up 32,527 total subscribers and about 3,500 paying ones. (Her paid subscribers get the full smorgasbord of content.) She made about $230,000 in 2020, before subtracting Substack’s 10 percent cut and other expenses.

As Journalists Flock to Substack, Is There a Limit to the Newsletter Boom?

Substack, established in 2017 by three tech-and-media guys—Chris Best, Hamish McKenzie, and Jairaj Sethi—is a newsletter platform that allows writers and other creative types to distribute their work at tiered subscription rates.
Emily Atkin, who runs Heated, on the climate crisis, told me that her gross annual income surpassed $200,000—and among paid-readership Substacks, she’s ranked fifteenth.
Substack gave her a $3,000 stipend and a $25,000 advance (in the latter arrangement, Substack takes 50 percent of her subscription fees until the advance is paid off, but if she doesn’t reach that number, Harvin won’t owe Substack the rest).
“Paid newsletters” felt more familiar, personal, trustworthy—and more monetizable.
To get the future started, they recruited some contributors. The first was Bill Bishop, someone McKenzie knew from his time in Hong Kong. Bishop already ran a popular free newsletter, Sinocism, analyzing China-related news, and was thinking about going behind a paywall. He agreed to move his subscriber base—thirty thousand readers—to Substack. On launch day, in October 2017, he turned his newsletter into a six-figure business. (Bishop also became an angel investor in Substack.)
Using its venture funding, the company has offered financial assistance to some newsletter writers—from small, no-strings-attached cash grants to $25,000 advances and $100,000 fellowships.
But as you peruse the lists, something becomes clear: the most successful people on Substack are those who have already been well-served by existing media power structures.
Substack’s founders are open about the fact that media and VC money typically don’t mix well; McKenzie told me that journalists who are VC-skeptical feel “burned for good reasons.”

The Substackerati

如果你想更好地管理时间,并且减轻自己的压力,不妨试试 BRNR List

如果你也想成为更高效的人,欢迎加入我们的 TG group

也欢迎订阅我们的 TG channel


Today's share is two articles about Substack, a platform that has become increasingly popular recently. It's a mailing list platform that has been gaining attention lately, and many writers and journalists are starting their own mailing lists on it, charging directly to subscribers. It's also a form of independent publishing. It is interesting to read the two articles in contrast.

  1. CEO Chris Best had previously made Kik, which was the copycat target of WeChat.
  2. Substack positions itself as a platform, not a media company, and pushes freedom of expression.
  3. Substack has taken on quite a bit of venture funding, but they use that funding primarily to recruit new creators.
  4. Another Cofounder, Hamish McKenzie, knew Bill Bishop, the author of Sinocism, and asked him to transfer Sinocism to Substack. On the launch day, Bill brought 30k users, and generated a six-figure income.
  5. Bill Bishop also currently holds the #1 spot on Substack's paid list. The top ten have a combined annual income of over $10 million.

Yes, our mailing list is on this platform, and we chose it for a number of reasons.

  1. Substack is free to start, and it will take a 10% cut if it charges subscribers.
  2. Mails can be sent directly to subscribers' mailboxes. We put our blog on Posthaven a few months ago, but we often run into situations where our readers can't open it, whereas Substack automatically sends emails to subscribers' mailboxes as soon as they subscribe.
  3. It is easy to use, billing/scheduled delivery, etc. are all built in, which is a lot less hassle than building a whole tool chain yourself.

The appeal of running your own newsletter is obvious and simple: instead of working for a boss, you can work for yourself.
Before Substack, I was a co-founder of a company called Kik Messenger.
And so we now live in this weird in-between time where everything should be really great, and yet, a lot of us feel like the things we read are kind of breaking our brains.
The only way to make a real change is to change the underlying laws of physics that apply, change the rules of the game, change how people are making money, have a new and better business model for independent writing and make that thing work.
One thing that might be interesting here that I think about as CEO is: what are you optimizing for? What do you need to optimize for, for the company to win? And I think this goes into: what is the right culture for your company?
We’re going to try that. We’re going to see what about it works and what doesn’t work. We’re going to actually get that feedback from them and we’re going to let that shape our thinking, and the length of time that it takes to do one of those cycles really influences your speed of learning because ideally, every time you’re actually going to change. The next thing you build is going to be different based on what you learned from that contact with reality. And so we focus a lot on tight iteration cycles, basically.
One thing that was really counterintuitive is that on Substack, when you’re a paid writer, you’ve got a subscription publication and you’re asking people to come and pay, your intuition is very much “I’m going to take my best stuff and I’m going to put it behind the paywall because my paying readers need to be paying for something.”
And there’s some truth there, you do have to put stuff behind the paywall, but actually a good rule of thumb is you should take your best — or at least your most accessible — stuff and make a lot of it free even when you’re paid.
People find out that you’re a writer that they trust and has good ideas, and they want to invest the time and money to subscribe and pay. And the only way they’re going to do that is if they get to read real, good things that you’ve done. So “make your best stuff free” is a counterintuitive thing that we didn’t expect and it runs counter to a lot of writers’ intuition.
So our focus has always been on being very comfortably default alive, which we currently are. Basically, if we continue to grow at our current rate, we would become profitable quite quickly if we didn’t grow expenses.
And what that means for me in practice is I want to be in a position where any money we’ve ever raised, we’ve treated it as the last money that we raise, so we can say, “if we never raise money again, this company is going to work and we have a healthy margin to do it.”
What we want to do instead is construct our business model in such a way that in order to be successful, we have to do the right thing, that we’re as aligned as possible with readers and writers.
The thing that’s magical about a newsletter is that it’s the one place you can have a direct relationship with your readers and get a push notification onto their home screen, without having to go through the Facebook algorithm and without having to get them to download an app.
Listen, we take a pretty strong stance that we want to promote freedom of the press and extend it to as many people as possible. That’s not coming from a political nowhere — that’s a belief that we hold.
One thing that’s interesting is we don’t have any one writer that’s some huge fraction of our revenue, although there’s concentration among the top — the top 10 people on Substack make $10 million a year collectively.

Can Substack CEO Chris Best build a new model for journalism?

Listen on Spotify

To date, there are more than 250,000 subscriptions across the network.
As Petersen put it, the writers joining Substack are “regaining control of our own journalism.”
The company, which was incubated by Y Combinator in 2017 before raising $15.3 million last year in a Series A round led by venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, remains relatively small. As of this fall there were 18 employees, including Best’s two cofounders, Hamish McKenzie (COO) and Jairaj Sethi (CTO).
He (Chris Best) grew up outside Vancouver and studied systems design engineering at the University of Waterloo in Ontario.
For all of Substack’s visionary tough talk, it’s hard to imagine a mass exodus—a voluntary one, at least—from major media organizations.
In just over a year, Heated racked up 32,527 total subscribers and about 3,500 paying ones. (Her paid subscribers get the full smorgasbord of content.) She made about $230,000 in 2020, before subtracting Substack’s 10 percent cut and other expenses.

As Journalists Flock to Substack, Is There a Limit to the Newsletter Boom?

Substack, established in 2017 by three tech-and-media guys—Chris Best, Hamish McKenzie, and Jairaj Sethi—is a newsletter platform that allows writers and other creative types to distribute their work at tiered subscription rates.
Emily Atkin, who runs Heated, on the climate crisis, told me that her gross annual income surpassed $200,000—and among paid-readership Substacks, she’s ranked fifteenth.
Substack gave her a $3,000 stipend and a $25,000 advance (in the latter arrangement, Substack takes 50 percent of her subscription fees until the advance is paid off, but if she doesn’t reach that number, Harvin won’t owe Substack the rest).
“Paid newsletters” felt more familiar, personal, trustworthy—and more monetizable.
To get the future started, they recruited some contributors. The first was Bill Bishop, someone McKenzie knew from his time in Hong Kong. Bishop already ran a popular free newsletter, Sinocism, analyzing China-related news, and was thinking about going behind a paywall. He agreed to move his subscriber base—thirty thousand readers—to Substack. On launch day, in October 2017, he turned his newsletter into a six-figure business. (Bishop also became an angel investor in Substack.)
Using its venture funding, the company has offered financial assistance to some newsletter writers—from small, no-strings-attached cash grants to $25,000 advances and $100,000 fellowships.
But as you peruse the lists, something becomes clear: the most successful people on Substack are those who have already been well-served by existing media power structures.
Substack’s founders are open about the fact that media and VC money typically don’t mix well; McKenzie told me that journalists who are VC-skeptical feel “burned for good reasons.”

The Substackerati

Try our sustainable productivity tool BRNR List

Subscribe to Sustainable Productivity

Sign up now to get access to the library of members-only issues.
Jamie Larson
Subscribe