One of my regular Substack newsletter reads has opened up paid subscriptions and it’s made me think about something I think is an innate flaw in Substack’s paid newsletters model. Were I to want to pick up paid memberships, say, in my five most-read Substack subscriptions it would probably run me at least a combined $25/month.
As I write this, you could subscribe to all of The New York Times, The Washington Post, and Medium for $17/month. That’s dozens and dozens of writers for less than it would cost to support five Substack newsletters. That seems financially untenable, ultimately, for Substack. At some point, they are going to look into giving their writers a way to group themselves together in subscription packages.
Better yet, or at least in the interim since this might be easier and quicker to establish on the backend, establish a way in which higher-performing and monetized newsletter writers can “adopt” lower-tier newsletters which can’t yet financially support themselves. Adoptee newsletter writers would get a cut of what the adopter writer brings in each month. It would be an exercise in community-building, and a way for successful newsletter writers to leverage that success to help build up the work of others.
Without some way to allow subscribers access to a larger number of authors for their monthly fee, I don’t see how Substack’s model will work over the longterm except for a select few, which is basically what you see on their leaderboard, which is a terrible metric to have in the first place.
ETA: Yes, I did do a test-run on Substack for awhile. Outside of the fact I clearly don’t have enough unique or interesting things to say for people to want to chip in to support me in saying them, the newsletter model ultimately doesn’t work for me anyway, because I post too frequently. Which is why I went back, here, to old-school blogging.