Unbundling Journalism | Chris Best on Venture Stories

Check out the Venture Stories Podcast Page

Key Takeaways

  •  The business model for writers is dead. Writers write to please social media algorithms and advertisers instead of their audience. 
    • Chris Best started Substack to help writers connect with their readers and help writers monetize their work
      • It also lets readers vote with their dollar, and support writers they believe are producing good work
  • News companies lost a ton of revenue because platforms such as Facebook could deliver more targeted ads and consequently companies shifted their ad money towards social media platforms
    • “Facebook and Google won advertising on the internet” – Chris Best
  • It’s possible to build a structure that aligns incentives for readers and writers and doesn’t depend on click-bait or outrage articles
    • “I think that there’s a future we could build that would be better than anything we’ve seen in the past” – Chris Best
  • There are a wide range of writers on Substack and some even make a full-time living from their newsletters
    • When your readers pay for your writing, they are the only ones who can fire you
      • The conversion rate for paid subscribers is about 10% so if you have 10,000 readers, about 1,000 will pay for your work
  • On Substack, you own your email list. You have the autonomy to transfer to other sites.

Intro

About Substack

  • “Substack is a place for independent writing” – Chris Best
    • You can create your own blog and newsletter and people can subscribe to writers they love and trust 
      • You can also directly support the writers you read
  • The internet killed legacy media without giving people a satisfactory replacement
    • Craigslist killed classified ads
    • Google killed advertising
  • The business model for writers is dead. Writers write to please social media algorithms and advertisers instead of their audience. 
    • Chris started Substack to help writers connect with their readers and help writers monetize their work
      • It also lets readers vote with their dollar, and support the writers they believe are producing good work
        • “I trust this writer, I want to support them and be part of what they’re doing and I want them to have the incentive to serve me faithfully.” – Chris Best
  • There are a wide range of writers on Substack and some even make a full-time living from their newsletters
    • When your readers pay for your writing, they are the only ones who can fire you
      • The conversion rate for paid subscribers is about 10% so if you have 10,000 readers, about 1,000 will pay for your work
  • On Substack, you own your email list. You have the autonomy to transfer it to other sites.
  • Since there are now a ton of readers and writers on Substack, the company will try to find ways to connect people with more writers that they would enjoy reading 
  • A few writers Chris and Erik recommend checking out:

Medium vs. Substack

  • Why write on Substack over Medium?
    • Medium is basically doing the job of a legacy publication and acting as the middleman which doesn’t let readers and writers connect  
      • On Substack, writers can directly email their audience
  • Medium is still figuring out their business models; they initially tried ads but now use a subscription model
  • Substack doesn’t use algorithms to tell people what to read, they allow people to read and follow whoever they want

Thoughts on Journalism

  • The internet both helped and hurt journalism
  • News companies lost a ton of revenue because platforms such as Facebook could deliver more targeted ads and so companies shifted their ad money towards social media platforms
    • “Facebook and Google won advertising on the internet” – Chris Best
  • The internet allowed stories to be read anywhere in the world and made people more accountable for their actions
  • When social media and news site optimize for engagement, you get certain failure modes such as fake news dissemination
  • It’s possible to build a structure that aligns incentives for readers and writers and doesn’t depend on click-bait or outrage articles
    • “I think that there’s a future we could build that would be better than anything we’ve seen in the past” – Chris Best

Additional Notes

  • “Crypto is a way to organize people around one set of shared beliefs when there’s zero trust. Everyone agrees what’s in the ledger.” – Chris Best
    • However, when it comes to writing, people need trust
      • “Creating a blockchain thing where nobody trusts each other isn’t actually a solution for what we need for written culture” 
  • Patreon is a similar service to Substack but it is donation driven.
Venture Stories : , , ,
Notes By Alex Wiec

More Notes on these topics

Top Insights and Tactics From

31 Best Podcasts of All Time

FREE when you join over 35,000 subscribers to the
Podcast Notes newsletter

No Thanks