In the last few months, we've been surrounded by bleak news from the media industry, as budgets have been slashed (UK advertisers pulled £1.1bn during lockdown) and mass redundancies made (Reach recently cut 12% of its workforce).
But reading this feature gave me some hope for the future of journalism, which, let's face it, is having a tough time at the moment.
Talented writers are turning to newsletter platforms to share their gift, engage with new audiences and give us all much needed respite from the constant negative news cycle and bombardment we experience on social media. Escaping the confinements of social media and media advertising is a massive draw for these writers; the ever-changing feed algorithms have forced journalists to think about clickbait headlines over authentic content, and ultimately these tech giants have complete power over who sees their work. Similarly, many traditional publications are now reliant on display advertising for revenue, whereas newsletters have the freedom to be much more reader-centric and original.
"For writers buffeted by the media industry in the last decade, the newsletter boom offers more than just a financial lifeline: it’s a reassurance that their craft has value."
As the article states, we're starting to see a shift from a heavy dependency on advertising revenue and prioritising 'likes', moving towards high-quality, tailored content that keeps us engaged for longer, and newsletters are the perfect way for writers to achieve this on their own.
Newsletters are booming right now: since the pandemic started, the number of readers and ‘active writers’ on Substack have both doubled, and other providers such as Mailchimp have seen similar spikes in users. Newsletter platforms are attracting big names: Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibbi, New York Magazine columnist Andrew Sullivan and Buzzfeed’s Anne Helen Petersen have all recently quit high profile publishers to launch publications on Substack. With the traditional media industry cutting budgets and making mass layoffs, individual writers are turning to newsletters to, in effect, become media brands themselves.