Thinking big 💡
Last week Twitter announced it has acquired Revue, a newsletter platform for writers and publishers. Their first move into building out long-form content on the platform and getting into the subscription revenue space.
Twitter wants all creators to join the platform – experts, curators, journalists & publishers and will offer an all-in-one integrated service that “will all work seamlessly within Twitter” said Product Lead Kayvon Beykpur and VP of Publisher Products Mike Park. They will add new features that help writers connect with their audiences, like allowing them to host chats with their subscribers and invest in community resources and other revenue streams later on.
The platform will be free for all users, and Twitter will collect just 5% of paid subscriptions revenue compared to Substack’s 10%. They say writers will get paid compensation for how many Twitter users they convert to subscribers. It will strengthen its relationship with writers of all kinds who want a platform to share their content and ideas.
Twitter has been heading in this direction for a while. First, they expanded the character count on tweets, then stopped including photos and links in the count so you can write more. Then they introduced threads, so you can build a story. Last year they talked about acquiring a newsletter company, and there were rumours they were going after Substack, which co-founder Hamish McKenzie said was not going to happen. Of course, they want to keep writers on the platform – right now they publish their long-form content elsewhere.
I thought they might go for Medium given its history with Twitter, but Revue makes sense as it’s a small company and presumably hasn’t cost too much. They will remain an independent brand within Twitter, and Twitter will expand the Revue team over time.
Following the announcement, Hamish tweeted comparing the social media companies’ efforts to oil companies trying to be more environmentally friendly, but then wrote this post welcoming the competition. The media ecosystem needs a shakeup, competition is healthy, and platforms that put writers and readers in charge are better. Creators also need proper business models.
There are now more than 500,000 paid subscriptions across Substack, and the top ten writers collectively make more than $15 million a year. It’s still early days, but this thing is happening – Hamish McKenzie, Substack co-founder.
Newsletters are booming and of course, tech firms and publishers want a slice of the Substack pie. Facebook is also working on a newsletter tool for journos and writers (launching this summer). Forbes has launched a massive expansion into paid newsletters and has a 10-year history in this space with its contributor network.
There’s Ghost, Lede, LinkedIn, Podia, Patreon & many more. Mailchimp has bought Courier Media – the best mag, newsletter and podcast for small businesses and entrepreneurs. Hubspot has bought The Hustle, an email newsletter and content company in a deal valued at roughly $27 million.
Why are we newsletter nerds? Because the web is a vast space and cluttered. We don’t have time to filter through the crap to find the good stuff, and we want a personal subscription service that delivers content straight to our inbox. We’re happy to pay trusted curators to do the job. I look forward to reading daily Morning Briefings in my inbox – no more trawling through news sites, doom scrolling and dodging pop-ups and paywalls.
Niche media is a powerful tool.
A new revenue opportunity for writers ✍️
Substack has said it will remain ad-free, but the pressure is on. At least three startups – Swapstack, Upstart.me and Letterwell have begun helping small newsletters find interested advertisers. We’re already seeing some Substack newsletters running ads and sponsorship so it will be interesting to see how they respond if this becomes widespread. If writers can make money without turning on the paywall it’s not great news for Substack as that’s their business model – the platform is free for writers. They may have to rethink that decision.
I’ve signed up to Swapstack so let’s see how it goes. Good to have alternative income streams as I’m not comfortable pushing paid subscriptions in the middle of a global pandemic and recession – which is why I also have a tip me button. It also means you can keep your work accessible to all and not behind a paywall.
The advice 💬
2021 will be the year that publishers start to form strategies to deal with the “Substack problem”. By that, I mean they’ll need to find ways to discourage their star writers from leaving to launch their own Substack newsletters. In the most likely scenario, they’ll make deals with writers to launch the newsletter under the media company’s banner. They might structure the deal, so the writer gets to keep their current salary and then some percentage of the subscriber income they generate – similar to the advances and royalties that book publishers dole out. This will entice the writers because they get to maintain job security while also benefiting directly from their success. They can also grow their audience much more quickly with the help of the media company. It’s a win-win for both parties. – Simon Owens’ Media Newsletter
Go deeper 🕵🏻♀️
📩 Revue asked its readers to predict how newsletters will evolve in 2021
✍️ A new revenue opportunity for writers: Ads emerge on Substack’s ‘ad-free’ newsletters
🎧 Axios Re:Cap digs in on Substack and the future of media
👻 The Ghost team on how to build a sustainable newsletter growth machine
💻 A joy to read! Robin Rendle on Newsletters; or an enormous rant about writing on the web
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Work with me 🙋🏻♀️
Leopard print, always. Worry less and rock a red lip. Remote work evangelist, problem solver, internet person.
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