This is not the first time the internet created a gold rush around content. Blogging, Podcasting, YouTubing(?) and the like have all brought creators out from under the thumb of gatekeepers and put their content front and center to the end user. As those mediums grew, monetization got squeezed, and created a narrower path for up-and-coming creators on those platforms. Not to mention the rush by leftists to censor and demonetize creators for mainstream views.

Along comes Substack a platform that allows simple paid and unpaid subsrcitopns to Newsletters. Writers like Matt Taibbi, Curtis Yarvin and Glenn Greenwald are already killing it on the platform.

In return for the services offered by the professional platform, Substack then takes 10% from the sales that are generated by the known content creator using the platform. Despite this, not a lot of people actually know that the San Francisco-based start-up took inspiration from WeChat, a Chinese super app that was operated by the internet giant known as Tencent Holdings.

According to an article by the South China Morning Post, although the e-mail newsletters have been around ever since the internet’s own inception, Substack caught a brand new wave of influencer-style journalism in this current age where certain traditional media has found it hard to even grapple along with recommendation-driver type of content algorithms.

This trend has also seen certain readers turn towards the new niche content and also writers with quite an original or even expert voice turning away from the more general, aggregated content with a known pay-for-it all or even not-at-all delivery model.

Tech Times

The concept is nothing new. Paid subscription news are a business as a old as time, however a fresh, easy and simple tech first approach to the industry create a new revenue stream for existing content creators, and may even help launch the career of some. The space is believed to be so large, Twitter recently acquired a competitor to Substack, called Revue.

In an era of mass media consolidation, layoffs, and disappearing employment opportunities at both national and local journalism outfits, Substack has emerged as a kind of Patreon alternative that allows reporters and commentators to easily create their own subscription-based sites with limited moderation. (Substack is essentially a combination of a newsletter service and a blogging platform like Medium.) It surged in 2020, inspiring all manner of takes and thinkpieces about whether it represents the future of news. Some of the highest-profile Substack converts have been journalists and bloggers with huge Twitter followings, such as Glenn Greenwald, Andrew Sullivan, and Matthew Yglesias, who staged dramatic breaks with their prior employers. But other users include former BuzzFeed culture writer Anne Helen Petersen, former Verge tech journalist Casey Newton, newspaper columnist David Sirota, rock critic Robert Christgau, academics, and humorists.

So it’s not surprising that Twitter—without which many of these writers and editors would have struggled to build audiences independent of their employers at all—wants a cut of the pie. According to the New York Times, Twitter executives had actually discussed buying Substack outright before the idea was shot down outright by co-founder Hamish McKenzie.


Twitter has a controversial history of censorship in the recently. It would serve the interest of those who enter the newsletter space to know that when either of these companies, or new competitors that emerge, grow large enough, they will probably start censoring their creators just like all the other major platforms have in the past. It may serve those creators to use those platforms to grow, and quickly pivot to a platform they own. Unlike serving video or a social network, newsletters are easy enough to deliver without these platforms, which are sure to become censorious.