The business model for newsletters revolves around moving an author out of an existing publication and into a self-sustaining subscription revenue stream. Such an enterprise seems to justify the startup models of the two leaders, Substack and the Twitter acquired Revue. Each takes a cut of paid subscriptions while offering creation and distribution services that give writers a chance to develop a property worth paying for. If there were other reasons besides subscription revenue, it might be difficult for this bubble to survive as it currently stands.
Luckily, there’s a whole economy out there that can make good use of these independent media efforts in and of themselves. Indeed, Revue is now a service stream for Twitter and its existing customers, the tweeters, marketers, consultants, and companies who want to broadcast messages to a global and micro-targeted audience. At least for now, 5% of monthly subscription fees is small potatoes even for companies like Twitter who operate at huge ongoing deficits. Even if you aggregate other viral media plays like Twitter Spaces or Clubhouse, the net effect is to project power into the broader media ecosystem.
For the creator, the appeal is palpable: free onramp to the mediaverse, whatever that means. The rewards are multifold — brand nurturing, cross media reach, editorial control, the excitement of a gold rush financial and reputational. The downside is opportunity cost, what you’re not doing with the time commitment you’re investing. You make your own hours, you’re your own boss, and it’s hard to get yourself fired.
For the client, whether it’s a company or a community, the rewards are perhaps even more valuable. Harnessing the network effects of the social moment can steamroll the competition if things jell, and there’s always the constant incentive of the same opportunity being available to others. The fluidity of these tools is exhilarating; ideas present themselves unexpectedly when you discover underlying coincidences and memes in the soup of news, emotion, and purpose. It’s a heady brew.
The phrase You don’t know what you don’t know has a corollary in You don’t know what you’re about to find out. Check out Protocol’s article on the Square/Tidal deal. Although the thesis of the writer is conjecture — moving Tidal’s artist relationships from a decaying record company role to Square’s services platform — applying that to other deals and strategies may prove much more likely than the individual application.
The newsletter bed offers a roadmap into what the editor thinks is important, mixed with the reader’s choice of what else may be moving the needle. The synthesis builds over time, with an orchestral effect fashioned from themes, restatements, counterpoint, release of tension, humor, and other juxtapositions. Keeping it random, fate, it’s up to you.