Remember when newsletters were hot?
This was all the way back in 2020 and 2021: Big Name Writers were leaving Well-Known Publications to start one-person publishing operations, and some of them were making a lot of money doing it. Serious people were asking whether Substack, the email platform of the moment, was a threat to the New York Times. Facebook and Twitter wanted in on it.
That was then.
Now newsletters are less … heated. Some writers who’ve gone out on their own have decided that they’d like a full-time job working for someone else, just like the old days. Substack has struggled to raise funding and has laid off some of its staff. Twitter doesn’t talk much about its newsletter plans anymore. And a year after launching Bulletin, its own Substack platform, Facebook has put the project on the “back burner.”
Which doesn’t mean newsletters have gone away. At all. Just some of the hype surrounding them. And in its place, there’s a more realistic attitude about the format and the business you can build around it: Newsletters, it turns out, are just like blogs and podcasts — they’re super simple for anyone to create. But turning them into something beyond a hobby — let alone turning them into a full-time job — requires talent and sustained effort.
“I don’t think it’s an easy path to fame and riches,” says Judd Legum, who has been writing his Popular Information newsletter since 2018. “But that was a thing that I never believed.”
Legum, whose muckraking newsletter focuses on the way big companies interact with public policy — he recently pressured Match Group, the dating app operator, to stop donating money to the Republican Attorney Generals Association following the demise of Roe v Wade — is doing quite well. He says he has more than 15,000 subscribers paying at least $50 a year, which means he is likely grossing more than $750,000 annually. And that revenue has given him the ability to hire two full-time employees for his micropublishing company.
Link to the rest at Vox and thanks to R. for the tip.