The personal website of Chris Coyier

The Tenuous Promise of the Substack Dream

I’m super intrigued by Substack for the same reason everyone is: there seems to be money there. Steven Levy’s article at WIRED gets into it. Here’s a bit from Casey Newton, who wrote newsletters for Vox:

[Casey] sees newsletters as something he’ll be doing for his whole career. And if he draws a relatively modest paying audience, he can match his previous salary. “I only need to have 3,000 subscribers to have the best job in journalism,” he says.

A lot of paid newsletters are asking $100/year. With 3,000 subscribers, that’s $300,000. Even with Substack taking 10% off the top, that’s $270,000/year, which is very very good money. I think you need to build an audience first in order to make it work, but once you have, knowing there is a tool that’s working for people at this scale is mighty appealing.

I feel like I’ve got too many things going on to try it right now, but I’m sure I’ll be writing about the web forever, so maybe I’ll it after my first retirement. I’d attempt to do it by making big promises about delivering educational value. (Tech-wise, though, I’m sure I’ll be tempted to manage it myself.)

Steven doesn’t think the stars will stick around for long, just because the better writer you are…

… big talents ultimately seek bigger stacks.

Which makes sense to me. Money is cool, but so is fame, and your fame is gonna fade if the only people you talk to is the sub 1% of people you converted over to this new model.