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Substack Journalists to the Rescue | Exploring Tech Newsletters from Former Reporters

Apr 11, 2024 Lisa van der Pool

As the media landscape continues to be roiled by a tough economy and seemingly continuous layoffs and closures, we’re also monitoring the positive stories. 

One of the brightest spots to come out of this period since the pandemic? Journalist-operated newsletters. 

Substacks and newsletters have emerged as potential new outlets and money-makers for journalists away from more traditional media outlets. Since 2020, dozens of influential journalists have not only launched Substacks and newsletters, but a few have built successful businesses on those platforms.  

Currently, there are over 17,000 authors on Substack who have paying subscribers for their newsletters.

While launching these other modes of communication can be an alternative path for journalists amidst an increasingly unstable job market, the market is crowded, and many have chosen to launch newsletters while still working at their day jobs. In some cases, a newsletter can serve simply as an insurance policy of sorts — for an unpredictable future to still capture eyes and ears.

Popular — and influential — tech newsletters we follow include:

  • Newcomer
    One of the first we’ll look at is Eric Newcomer, who launched his startups and VC-focused Substack Newcomer in 2020 after leaving his job as a tech reporter at Bloomberg. Newcomer recently shared that he generated $1 million in revenue in 2023, a number derived from both paid subscriptions and Newcomer-branded events. According to Axios, Newcomer counts more than 75,000 free subscribers plus 2,000 paid subscribers.  A subscription to Newcomer currently costs about $200 per year. 

  • Substack
    Meanwhile, Substack itself, which first launched in 2017, has more than three million paid subscribers. The company is a VC-backed venture that generates revenue by taking a 10 percent cut of all paid subscriptions on its platform, per a recent story in Axios.  

  • Platformer 
    Previously the Silicon Valley editor for The Verge,  Casey Newton launched Platformer in 2020 to cover the tech industry. The newsletter currently has 170,000 subscribers. Newton initially launched Platformer on Substack but ultimately made the decision in early 2024 to move to the publishing platform Ghost.  Most of the articles on Platformer are for paid subscribers, who pay about $100 per year. 

  • Second Opinion 
    Chrissy Farr, an influential journalist in the healthcare space, is a former CNBC, VentureBeat and Reuters reporter (among others) who launched her health tech substack Second Opinion in 2020.  Readership is about 20k with about 260 paid subscribers, according to a recent Tweet

  • Supervised 
    Matthew Lynley, formerly of Insider, TechCrunch, BuzzFeed and the Wall Street Journal, launched his Supervised newsletter to cover AI, machine learning and analytics in early 2023. 

  • Edtech 
    Matthew Tower writes about the intersection of business and education for his edtech Substack ETCH, which has over 7K subscribers. 

  • Head in the Cloud
    Ron Miller, a longtime TechCrunch reporter,  recently launched his own tech newsletter Head in the Cloud, on Ghost. His day job is still as a reporter for TC, but he also shares his feelings on journalism and  on covering the tech industry in his newsletter. 

In one recent column from February, he offered some thoughtful words about the shaky journalism industry and hope for the future (including newsletters!): 

In fact, platforms like the one I’m using to publish this newsletter offer a way to publish without a big platform owner.  … We need a lot more small teams with independent owners producing news that matters if we are to save journalism from the billionaires and the hedge fund managers. There’s been a lot of bad news lately in this profession, but let’s look to a future where the writers control the media instead of the large corporations because that clearly hasn’t worked.”

— Ron Miller, Enterprise Reporter, TechCrunch

Our Advice on Substack Journalists? Keep an Open Mind 

Some of these newsletter authors can be pitched, and others can’t. For most, the situation is fluid as authors gather paid subscribers and develop their business models. For PR professionals, the best advice is to stay close to influencer reporter contacts, following them as they move jobs, whether to another big publication or a newer Substack. 

We’re always keeping watch on the changing landscape and PR trends to prepare for what’s next in the great, big world of media and communications. 

Speaking of, have you heard of our newsletter rethink PR? Subscribe today to stay connected with more news like this!

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