📑 The Substackerati

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Clio Chang reports on the rise of Substack. Established in 2017 by Chris Best, Hamish McKenzie, and Jairaj Sethi, it was designed as a platform that allowed users to earn an income. A part of this move is to approach potential contributors. The problem is that it still replicates the patterns of marginalization found on other platforms. In addition to this, there is something sacrificed in going solo:

Writing is often considered an individualistic enterprise, but journalism is a collective endeavor. And that is the paradox of Substack: it’s a way out of a newsroom—and the racism or harassment or vulture-venture capitalism one encountered there—but it’s all the way out, on one’s own. “Holy shit, I work anywhere from fifty to sixty hours a week,” Atkin, of Heated, told me. “It’s a lot.” Harvin, the Beauty IRL writer, said she missed the infrastructure—legal and editorial—of a traditional outlet. “I just know how valuable it is to have a second ear to bounce ideas off of, someone to challenge you,” she said. “I’m very not big into writing in a vacuum, and I think that is the thing I miss the most.” Kelsey McKinney, a journalist whose literary Substack, Written Out, has accounted for about a third of her income during the pandemic, doesn’t do any reporting for her newsletter because of the lack of legal and editorial backing. Investigative journalism seems particularly difficult as a solo enterprise on Substack, which doesn’t reward slowly developed, uncertain projects that come out sporadically.

Chang closes with a reflection on some of these limitations and why it still is not necessarily the answer.

This piece me thinking about the Substack newsletters I am subscribed to:

I still wonder about Chris Aldrich’s point about ‘yet-another-platform’.

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