10 Substack writers earn 15 million.
The big fish eat the little fish?
Yesterday, one of the co-founders of Substack sent out a newsletter to announce that Facebook and Twitter are getting into the newsletter space. He said he genuinely believes Twitter and Facebook getting into paid newsletters is good for writers and a positive development for the media ecosystem.
Buried in his post was this little gem...
“There are now more than 500,000 paid subscriptions across Substack, and the top ten writers collectively make more than $15 million a year.” [source]
Wow, I thought. Wow.
It’s incredible, right? I mean, Substack is only 3 years old. Launched in 2017. To think the top 10 writers here earn 15 million per year, that’s some kind of crazy inspiration, right? So much potential. Right?
Except that we live in a world where Googling is a thing.
So I did. And found this…
In 2019, Substack raised $15.4 million dollars in Series A funding, primarily from the venture-capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, whose portfolio companies also include Lyft and Instacart. They spent a great deal of the funding acquiring top level writers. Some writers were given advances to bring their writing to Substack. (source)
The big fish eat the little fish…?
It kind of sucks, right? Same old same old.
90% of writers on Medium make less than $100/month
Newsbreak offers better terms to writers with bigger audiences
Vocal pays according to how many views you get
Amazon won’t tell authors who their customers are
The big fish eat the little fish.
Will Facebook and Twitter eat Substack? Probably not. They did, after all, spend millions to bring some pretty heavy hitters on board. Which isn’t really all that different from what Medium did.
And I’d wager that Facebook is not going to let writers download their entire subscriber list the way Substack does. That’s just not how Facebook rolls.
They make far too much money selling your audience back to you by way of paid ads.
But a lot of people won’t think of that. They won’t realize the true asset is owning your list. They’ll just think of the size of their follower base on Facebook and Twitter, versus starting fresh on a platform where they have no followers and use that as the criteria to decide where to set up their list.
No mistake, Facebook and Twitter will clean up with paid newsletters. But I don’t think Substack is going anywhere.
I’m sure there will be more funding, and equally sure it will be spent acquiring more heavy hitters. More big name writers who will bring their readers to Substack.
If nothing else, it points out the same thing marketers have been saying for 20 years. The money is in the list. I hope you’re building one.
“You have to respect your audience. Without them, you’re essentially standing alone, singing to yourself." —K. D. Lang
What I wrote this week…
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