Categories
Creator economy future of work newsletters

#36 – Twitter takes on Substack; A new revenue opportunity for writers.

Thinking big 💡

Last week Twitter announced it has acquired Revue, a newsletter platform for writers and publishers. Their first move into building out long-form content on the platform and getting into the subscription revenue space.

Twitter wants all creators to join the platform – experts, curators, journalists & publishers and will offer an all-in-one integrated service that “will all work seamlessly within Twitter” said Product Lead Kayvon Beykpur and VP of Publisher Products Mike Park. They will add new features that help writers connect with their audiences, like allowing them to host chats with their subscribers and invest in community resources and other revenue streams later on. 

The platform will be free for all users, and Twitter will collect just 5% of paid subscriptions revenue compared to Substack’s 10%. They say writers will get paid compensation for how many Twitter users they convert to subscribers. It will strengthen its relationship with writers of all kinds who want a platform to share their content and ideas.

Twitter has been heading in this direction for a while. First, they expanded the character count on tweets, then stopped including photos and links in the count so you can write more. Then they introduced threads, so you can build a story. Last year they talked about acquiring a newsletter company, and there were rumours they were going after Substack, which co-founder Hamish McKenzie said was not going to happen. Of course, they want to keep writers on the platform – right now they publish their long-form content elsewhere.

I thought they might go for Medium given its history with Twitter, but Revue makes sense as it’s a small company and presumably hasn’t cost too much. They will remain an independent brand within Twitter, and Twitter will expand the Revue team over time.

Following the announcement, Hamish tweeted comparing the social media companies’ efforts to oil companies trying to be more environmentally friendly, but then wrote this post welcoming the competition. The media ecosystem needs a shakeup, competition is healthy, and platforms that put writers and readers in charge are better. Creators also need proper business models.

There are now more than 500,000 paid subscriptions across Substack, and the top ten writers collectively make more than $15 million a year. It’s still early days, but this thing is happening – Hamish McKenzie, Substack co-founder.

Newsletters are booming and of course, tech firms and publishers want a slice of the Substack pie. Facebook is also working on a newsletter tool for journos and writers (launching this summer). Forbes has launched a massive expansion into paid newsletters and has a 10-year history in this space with its contributor network.

There’s Ghost, Lede, LinkedIn, Podia, Patreon & many more. Mailchimp has bought Courier Media – the best mag, newsletter and podcast for small businesses and entrepreneurs. Hubspot has bought The Hustle, an email newsletter and content company in a deal valued at roughly $27 million.

Why are we newsletter nerds? Because the web is a vast space and cluttered. We don’t have time to filter through the crap to find the good stuff, and we want a personal subscription service that delivers content straight to our inbox. We’re happy to pay trusted curators to do the job. I look forward to reading daily Morning Briefings in my inbox – no more trawling through news sites, doom scrolling and dodging pop-ups and paywalls.

Niche media is a powerful tool.


A new revenue opportunity for writers ✍️

Substack has said it will remain ad-free, but the pressure is on. At least three startups – Swapstack, Upstart.me and Letterwell have begun helping small newsletters find interested advertisers. We’re already seeing some Substack newsletters running ads and sponsorship so it will be interesting to see how they respond if this becomes widespread. If writers can make money without turning on the paywall it’s not great news for Substack as that’s their business model – the platform is free for writers. They may have to rethink that decision.

I’ve signed up to Swapstack so let’s see how it goes. Good to have alternative income streams as I’m not comfortable pushing paid subscriptions in the middle of a global pandemic and recession – which is why I also have a tip me button. It also means you can keep your work accessible to all and not behind a paywall.


The advice 💬

2021 will be the year that publishers start to form strategies to deal with the “Substack problem”. By that, I mean they’ll need to find ways to discourage their star writers from leaving to launch their own Substack newsletters. In the most likely scenario, they’ll make deals with writers to launch the newsletter under the media company’s banner. They might structure the deal, so the writer gets to keep their current salary and then some percentage of the subscriber income they generate – similar to the advances and royalties that book publishers dole out. This will entice the writers because they get to maintain job security while also benefiting directly from their success. They can also grow their audience much more quickly with the help of the media company. It’s a win-win for both parties. – Simon Owens’ Media Newsletter


Go deeper 🕵🏻‍♀️

📩 Revue asked its readers to predict how newsletters will evolve in 2021

✍️ A new revenue opportunity for writers: Ads emerge on Substack’s ‘ad-free’ newsletters

🎧 Axios Re:Cap digs in on Substack and the future of media

👻 The Ghost team on how to build a sustainable newsletter growth machine

💻 A joy to read! Robin Rendle on Newsletters; or an enormous rant about writing on the web


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Work with me 🙋🏻‍♀️

Leopard print, always. Worry less and rock a red lip. Remote work evangelist, problem solver, internet person.

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Categories
Creator economy future of work Social media technology

The Shift: #33

My first week on Clubhouse; 5 tips; their new ‘Creator Pilot Program’, nuggets.

The Big Idea 💡

Clubhouse 👋 – A buzzy, invite-only audio, social media app.

A new type of social product based on voice [that] allows people everywhere to talk, tell stories, develop ideas, deepen friendships, and meet interesting new people around the world.

In May 2020, it was valued at $100 million in beta despite having just 1,500 users. By December, it had 600,000 users. A cross between an audio version of Twitter threads, live podcasts and a party – the next step up for podcasts.

I’ve been on it every day this week and loving it. It’s fun, vibrant and organic – I learn something new every time I tune in. They’ve hosted events on the tech exodus from Silicon Valley, Covid-19 and the gut, a beginner’s guide to Cryptocurrency, the pros & cons of 5G, & live performance of Antigone.

I can see why it’s flying during lockdown. We’re desperate for human connection and conversation and something that’s not Zoom. You can give your eyes a rest and have it on in the background – great if you work alone.

There’s a room for every topic under the sun

Millionaires Answer Questions; Be a Real Estate Boss; Music Networking No Egos; The Power of Social Media; Tech Talks, Womxn in Business – it’s US-heavy right now but growing fast. One guy said he’d just finished hosting an 8-day property room (he sounded manic). There’s also celebrity talk shows, live music, stand-up comedy, speed dating, political discussion, and performances. The Lion King had a 5,000 audience, 41 cast members and narrators, profile pics changing the scenes – a great opportunity for the theatre industry. And a 30-day festival coming up…

I prefer smaller rooms as they’re more intimate and you get a chance to speak. The larger rooms have a very different energy, some are heavy sell, lots of egos & too many mods – who can choose who they want on stage. Rooms full of men have different energy to those led by women. I’m enjoying Relaxed Business Networking, every day at 10.30 am – we had a good chat this morning about financial planning for women. You can pitch your business, ask for help, build your network, mentor others, hear diverse perspectives.

Getting started on Clubhouse – 5 tips

1/ Do your bio. The top three lines are important as they come up in the search so use keywords and emojis related to your field. You can’t add links to your bio, but you can link Twitter and Instagram and respond to DMs there (they’re working on a chat function). People are finding ways to monetising their bios – Cash App, tip jar, CH tip sheets to get you on their mailing list…

Be wary of gurus and experts. I don’t think anyone’s a CH expert yet, not even the founders 😉

2/ Be strategic and intentional. What info do you want to receive? What do you want to be known for? You don’t need to get all your updates from one platform. Be selective in who/what you follow. Curate your space & who you follow for a better feed, and exit rooms that give you a bad vibe.

3/ Get stuck in. Raise your hand even when you don’t know what you’re going to say. Start a room (it can be open to all, your contacts or private). You need to host three rooms to apply for a club, and people have suggested applying for a club first as there’s a backlog.

4/ Join the Clubhouse Town Hall on Sundays, 5 pm GMT – updates, best practice, and ask the founders.

5/ Keep a notebook handy – audio is fast and fluid, you’ll want to write down names, contacts, books. I’ve heard so many nuggets this week, a thread below👇

Clubhouse ‘Creator Pilot Program’

Where’s the money at? Right now, we’re not paying to enter rooms which has democratised it, but this will change. CH has said they won’t monetise it via ads which is a smart move, but there are other options: ticketing, tips and subscriptions.

It will be a platform for content creators to make money. They are testing an invite-only ‘Creator Pilot Program’ with more than 40 CH influencers including regular meetings with one of the founders and early access to special tools. Interesting to read that several of the people in the pilot programme are in their 40s and 50s and may not have big followings on other platforms – “not the Gen Zers and millennials most people imagine when they think of influencers.”

It seems tech investors are warming to the idea that being a content creator is a legitimate form of business – analysis from tech reporter Taylor Lorenz.

I feel like something has palpably shifted in the past year among investors, and it seems like everyone is talking about the creator economy now and investing in creator tools. Li Jin, founder of Atelier, a V.C. firm investing in the influencer economy.

Creators are passionate and take their businesses seriously. Serving them is a good business strategy.

The murky world of moderation  

If they want to keep users happy, CH also needs to be a safe space that’s well moderated. What are they doing to tackle hate speech, racism, misogyny and trolling? Here’s Tatiana Estévez on the recent issues and harassment of Taylor Lorenz, and the challenges of setting up an effective moderation system that protects women & other marginalised groups.

I’ve been at the CH Town Hall and they are responsive to comments and adding to their to do list. According to their Community Guidelines, rooms are now being temporarily recorded so they can check complaints, and you can ban and report users.

Maybe have CH users vote someone on to the board to deal with data/privacy issues – for transparency and to show you are committed to users’ views. It would be a good way to demonstrate bottom-up leadership.


The beauty of Clubhouse is that it’s live and easy to use. Please don’t add too many features – I’m really not bothered about messaging on the app. Being able to hop off onto other platforms during an event is a strength and keeps it sticky.

Please take off the follower count! It’s about adding value, not how many followers you have.

Brand accounts and podcast recordings – seen ‘em! Not sure how they fit in but keep them separate.

Those who are hearing and visually impaired aren’t being catered for now – live transcription would help.

It will be interesting to see what happens over the next six months. There’s much talk about whether it will lose exclusivity if it gets too big. I don’t think so. It’s different from existing social platforms and serving a need: human connection. Business networking is changing. I’ve heard many people say they prefer online events as they’re more accessible & affordable. We may not want to go back to the travel and expense post-pandemic, so this will be super useful.

As Li Jin said, creator platforms flourish when they provide opportunity for anyone to grow and succeed.

Ps, they’re hiring (Android launching in March) – apply here.


Toolkit 🛠

💻 The Verge: The $100 million start-up is learning the hard way that content moderation comes first.

👩‍🎨 New York Times: How tech investors are embracing the creator economy.

🗺 SignalFire’s market map to give you a deep view of the creator ecosystem.

💡 Li Jin on building the middle class of the creator economy.


The Advice 💬

Clubhouse nuggets…

The quality of people on this app right now. The networking is fucking amazing. It’s helped me so much with my public speaking.

Focus on energetic exchanges rather than monetary. Seeing the wealth that comes from compassion over sales. Shifting the conversation from monetary seems critical.

The best thing about Clubhouse: Not getting a suntan from the fridge lights. Before, I was spending a lot of time in the fridge. Now I’m spending it on Clubhouse.

The first real app that allows true interactivity. It’s revolutionary for the way we speak to each other.

I heard some techies talking about future of CH, people will come on with different voices.

I’d describe Naples as Liverpool with a suntan. They are very similar cities.

The world is full of amazing people. Any single mums on here? Struggling? Give us your PayPal email, and we’ll transfer some cash.


Welcome to my bookshop! 📚

I’ll be sharing books in my bag and recommended reads on Bookshop.org here. They pay a 10% commission on every sale and give a matching 10% to local bookstores, an integral part of our culture and communities. Please spread the word and help support the high street.


Work with me 🙋🏻‍♀️

Leopard print, always. Worry less and rock a red lip. Internet person, global citizen, flâneuse, problem solver.

💡 Thoughts, ideas, feedback? Leave a comment or email nicci@niccitalbot.com.

☕️ Tip me!

📩 Subscribe to The Shift here.