Summary of The Substackerati

Looking for the article?
We have the summary! Get the key insights in just 5 minutes.

The Substackerati summary

Editorial Rating



  • Analytical
  • Eye Opening
  • Overview


The Substack company offers freelance writers a new forum for generating income even as traditional media companies are cutting newsroom jobs. Some freelancers find they can produce newsletters on Substack that generate a meaningful income. However, this new journalistic pathway has limits. Substack itself states that it is only a “platform,” not a “publisher,” however, it intends to provide an infrastructure for writers who publish on its site. Anyone can start a newsletter, though the successful writers Clio Chang cites in her article in the Columbia Journalism Review are primarily white and male, with large, active Twitter followings – thus exemplifying current trends. 

About the Author

Brooklyn freelance journalist Clio Chang writes about politics, culture and media.


Substack connects journalists’ newsletters to readers.

During the ten-year period from 2009 to 2019, full-time writing jobs contracted by 23%. This left many writers seeking new ways to make a living. Founded in 2017, Substack provides a mechanism for writers to create newsletters, charge readers for access to them and earn money – in some cases, a lot of it.

Substack began when journalist Chris Best wrote an article contending that “clicks, retweets and likes” were taking over substantive journalism. His friend Hamish McKenzie – now his partner in Substack – accused him of making quite an obvious point and challenged him to find a solution. The two agreed upon a “paid newsletter” business model.

Substack earns money when its writers do by taking 10% of their subscription fees. Its mission statement says the company is reinventing the newspaper business much as Lyft and Uber reinvented transportation.

Patrice Peck, a Black journalist in New York City, wanted to write about COVID-19 for her community. She created a newsletter on the Substack platform. Her first piece for Coronavirus News for...

Comment on this summary

More on this topic

The Passion Economy and the Future of Work
The Supply of Disinformation Soon Will Be Infinite
The Internet Is Rotting
She Helped Wreck the News Business. Here’s Her Plan to Fix It
Out of Nowhere
Life Beyond Email: Chatbot Marketing

Related Channels