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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


Welcome to my bookshop! 📚

I’ll be sharing books in my bag and recommended reads on Bookshop.org. They pay a 10% commission on every sale and give a matching 10% to local bookstores, an integral part of our culture and communities. Check it out here.


Work with me 🙋🏻‍♀️

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

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

☕️ Tip me! My Ko-fi page

📩 Subscribe to The Shift here

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Advice. Opinions. Conversation.

The Shift: Issue #25

Finding freelance work; The rise of the media artisan; Creative Coalition 2020; Interview with TikTok star Kirsteen Atom. ⚡️

November’s NUJ meeting was on surviving and thriving as a freelancer—tips on finding new work and diversifying with trainers Louise Bolotin and Steve Mathieson. Steve works as a freelancer mainly on tech and government—both growth areas and runs data journalism and freelance courses. He’s had steady work during lockdown and has taught himself how to teach online.

In some ways, the world has been catching up with how many freelancers work, and arguably that has given us a head start. We are often used to working remotely.

Louise has worked for BBC Radio Manchester and launched a local news site. She now works as a sub-editor mostly, doing commercial editing work. She was laid off from her local paper just before lockdown and lost her commercial work, so was left with nothing. She’s busy trying to bring work back and has invested in a new website, logo and training.

Most of it has involved spending my way out of the mire, because you sometimes need to spend a bit to earn a bit.

She pledged to do two things a day to find new work and her efforts have paid off—she was fully booked this month for the first time since March. See more.

Categories
Newsletter

The Shift: #Issue 19

The rise of the creator economy; the ‘unbundling of work’; paid newsletters; the Second Renaissance is coming…

Over the past 10 years, we’ve seen enormous growth in the Creator Economy—independent creators making money from online content. It’s down to the rise of the gig economy, better tech—5G, faster internet, and new social networks & products. COVID-19 is speeding things up – we’re at home and online more.

There’s also been a shift in consciousness towards caring more about being happy in our jobs, having control over our time, and being our own boss. We want to make a living doing work we’re passionate about that creates change. Gen Z’ers grew up with the internet and social media and place a high value on self-expression. I can see how my daughter and her friends interact online.

According to Li Jin, we’re in the process of the ‘unbundling of work’ i.e. moving from companies to independent solo businesses.

A new report from Signalfire takes a deeper view of the ecosystem to give us some context, a history of the creator economy and trends to watch. It’s a fascinating read—useful for investors looking for opportunities and creators needing help… Read more.

Categories
Advice. Opinions. Conversation.

The Shift: Issue #17

Job hunting, The Social Dilemma, a history of Silicon Valley, slow journalism, how do we live ‘a good life’ in 2020?

I had a chat with two recruitment agents this week. Things are picking up – briefs are coming in and companies are hiring–mostly remote work. Employers are investing in remote training for staff and reassessing office space, so remote working is here to stay. Both were furloughed and are just back at work.

It’s good news for multi-skilled freelancers – we’ll be more in demand as employers may want fewer people on the payroll. We’re also flexible, agile, and used to working remotely.

Skills check–MS Office, Photoshop, InDesign (you can download the free trial for 30 days and do a YouTube tutorial to learn the basics). Google Analytics, HTML, SEO, & social media.

I made a one-page CV on Canva–wasn’t sure if it’s long enough, but they liked it. “It’s good to have it condensed on one page and you can expand as required.” Read more.


Categories
Advice. Opinions. Conversation.

The Rise of Email Newsletters (here are some you’ll love…)

The email newsletter is having a moment. Just reading about how they are part of the ‘Passion Economy’ in this month’s Courier. I see a new one launch every day, and women are on it. They’re a more intimate form of communication with people who actually want to read your stuff. Mine will focus on writing, creativity and work culture.

What else do I want this year? More fun. Deeper connections. To prioritise my own projects and happiness (getting up an hour earlier to work on my own stuff). To sort out my health. I have rheumatoid arthritis and want to find out what’s causing it and get it into remission. It’s no fun when your fingers keep getting stuck when you write for a living. Over the past year, I’ve been working with Gayle Merchant on my nutrition and have just done a comprehensive gut test to try and get to the bottom of it! (literally – stool samples in mum’s fridge over Christmas). I also want to feel stronger, so as well as running, which keeps me sane, I want to try some weightlifting this year. 

I also love a good tattoo so have decided to go for it and get a full sleeve 🙂

More travel. To read a book a month. Better paid work. I’ve signed up to the Hoxby CollectiveThe Dots, and I’m checking out The Allbright, a members’ club for women. Interesting event programme and some inspiring women on board – member spotlights. It would also be great to have a regular coworking space in London. 

So, if you want to take your working life up a notch and set some goals this year, check out The Professional Freelancer by Anna Codrea-Rado. How to set freelance goals you’ll actually stick to, and the importance of distinguishing between outcome goals – things you don’t have any control over like “getting a book deal” and process goals – actionable steps you can control like “emailing five agents this week”. Why it’s important to do both. Here’s some more freelance friendly content to check out, via @JessicaAnneLord.

What I’m reading

How to escape your phone and other life hacks

Family life suffers from always-on work culture

‘I quit life as a BBC journalist to live as a jade carver in China’

Resounding NUJ victory in landmark equal pay case. A wake-up call to all employers!

Little Black Book – A Toolkit for Working Women

DCW chief Swati Maliwal hospitalized after fainting on 12th day of hunger strike

Bittersweet legacy of a blazing talent – Motherwell: A Girlhood

Elizabeth Wurzel and the illusion of Gen-X success

CES 2020 – all the latest news and highlights – the joy of tech!

What I’m listening to

#237 Emma Forrest: Writing & Transcendental Meditation. Dreams and creativity. Keep a pen handy. You are most creative when you don’t realise you’re doing it.

Lana Del Ray – Norman Fucking Rockwell

Where I’m going

StartUp 2020 – the UK’s biggest start-up show of the new year.

The Allbright

Nicci Talbot is a freelance journalist and copywriter. She can be reached at nicci@niccitalbot.com or follow her on Twitter @niccitalbot.

Photo by Lee Soo hyun on Unsplash

Categories
Advice. Opinions. Conversation.

Copywriting: Wealth from Words

NUJ training with Eugene Costello and Nick Saalfeld 

Copywriting and branded content creation pay two or three times more than conventional journalism and there is near-insatiable demand for skilled practitioners. Join Eugene Costello and Nick Saalfeld to learn how to delight clients and what it takes to command truly stellar day rates.

So, I went along to find out more… a really enjoyable course, funny, entertaining and inspiring with lots of anecdotes, jokes and useful tips. Eugene focuses on B2C work and Nick, B2B and thought leadership so good insight into the pros and cons of both and different rates of pay.

Key takeaways: Do corporate work. There’s lots of it out there and it pays well. Know your worth and charge a decent day rate. Don’t do piecemeal or project work – sites like People Per Hour and Upwork are saturated. Look for niche areas like tech/blockchain, where there isn’t as much competition. Focus on building a relationship with a client. I also love the idea of having a ‘capability statement’ instead of a CV.

Types of copywriting:

·      Advertising

·      Business writing

·      Blogging for clients

·      In-house journalism

On finding work:

·      Contact small businesses and individuals with high net worth and ask if they need help

·      Contact advertising agencies via LinkedIn

·      Facebook groups – A Few Good HacksJourno ResourcesNo 1 Freelance Media Women, & copywriting groups… Eleanor GooldJackie Barrie

·      Have your own website with slides/logos on it featuring your best clients and an online portfolio. Blog about the companies you’re working with or want to be. Eugene got an in-house journalism gig with Octopus Energy by writing a blog post about their excellent customer service… which caught the eye of the CEO when he shared it on Twitter… a charity donation and eventually, some work!

·      Serendipity – be out there talking to people, go to meetups – Nick runs one for Pharma professionals in London, carry business cards

·      Find your niche – for Nick, it’s thought leadership. Think about where your work fits into the company – do your research and then produce 10 pieces. Move from piecemeal to transactional work to relationship building and make yourself valuable. He jumps at the chance to go in-house, meet people and work out how he can contribute. “Get out of the transactional crap into long-term value work.”

·      Create a ‘capability statement’ instead of a CV, a two-page document showing clients, sectors, logos, agencies worked for, reference examples, 6 referees, commercial boilerplate. Nick has one and updates it every three months. “It knocks the socks off a CV!”

·      Nick also hires writers and looks for: critical thinking, logic and structure in complexity, curiosity, conscientiousness, business sense, horizon scanning, adaptability, flexibility, creativity, emotional intelligence, self-motivation, prioritisation and time management, embracing and celebrating change

·      Learn about new areas where there’s less competition – e.g. cryptocurrency, tech, blockchain

·      Content management agencies – worth signing up for but be selective as the pay can be terrible. Check out www.stickycontent.com and www.thewriter.com

What can you earn?

·      You get what you expect – rates can vary between £150-500 a day

·      On knowing your worth – Eugene asked for £500 per day at Octopus Energy and thought he’d fluffed it as things went quiet… but he held out rather than going back with a lower offer and they offered him £400 per day to be their in-house journalist

·      If there’s something they like about your work don’t be afraid to ask for more. It’s a good thing to try and hold your rate

·      Avoid project rates or piecemeal work – develop a sense of your own value

On writing:

·      Forget the tone of voice corporate bullshit. Speak to people as humans. Be warm, personal, concise, & write as you speak. Innocent Drinks had a revolutionary way of communicating with consumers

On freelance journalism:

·      “Writers are going down the rabbit hole of chasing ever-diminishing work.”

·      “Print journalism has trodden journalists down until they have no respect left for themselves.”

On copywriting:

·      “It’s a nice life. I can cherry-pick between commercial work, which is well paid and other work – features, press trips.”

·      “Anyone can write and get Grammarly. Clients are paying you for your intelligence, ideas, and perspective – not to write!” They pay you to turn up on time, get on with the team, make coffee etc. Consider how you make people feel and know that ALL your interactions matter

·      Ethics – only work with clients you feel comfortable with.

Also, at £15, this course was a steal and far cheaper than equivalent commercial courses I’ve seen advertised. One of the many perks of being an NUJ member!

Contact:

www.eugenecostello.co.uk

www.wellspark.co.uk

www.nuj.org.uk

Photo by Hannah Grace on Unsplash