I am ambivalent about the various platforms for publishing newsletters, and I have tried a bunch. Tiny Letter, Mail Chimp, Patreon, Medium, Substack, and Revue, to name only the most well-known in the group.
Medium has zigged and zagged so many times in its ‘strategies’ about supporting writers that I can’t count all the twists and turns. In particular, Medium has changed direction on how (and if) writers can make money writing there over and over again.
Substack has been fairly consistent in its direction — a straightforward subscription model — and has done a great job of attracting high-visibility celebrities along the way. It is evolving its leaderboard model of promoting writers, and has a Substack Reader tool in beta, so there’s a lot of forward momentum.
I tried Revue several years ago but ran up against its limits: at the time — and perhaps even now— Revue newsletters were limited to one post a day, which seemed to me an arbitrary barrier. So I haven’t paid much attention since.
On an abstract level, the various services provide the same basic experience: posting updates to a newsletter publication, directing those updates to readers, collecting email addresses of readers, helping to convert readers to paid subscribers, collecting subscriptions, and delivering the writer’s take. (Note that in the case of Medium, a newsletter writer is rewarded by a blended algorithm involving claps, and reading time, not a direct subscription model.)
The differences are going to come down to the various contexts in which the newsletters reside. What will it mean for Twitter to offer its users a platform for newsletters? Revue provides the basic use case and has an integration with Twitter that allows a writer’s tweets to be displayed in an ‘inbox’. But Twitter must have more in mind.
Revue is just the newest entry in the Twitter-is-more-than-just-tweets storyline, as David Pierce points out:
In just the last few months, Twitter has rolled out Fleets, a Stories-like feature; started testing an audio-only experience called Spaces; and acquired the podcast app Breaker and the video chat app Squad. And on Tuesday, Twitter announced it was acquiring Revue, a newsletter platform. The whole 140-characters thing (which is now 280 characters, by the way) is certainly not Twitter's organizing principle anymore. So what is?
Pierce quotes Jack Dorsey, the CEO, about what Twitter is:
At its core Twitter is public messaging. A simple way to say something, to anyone, that everyone in the world can see instantly.
But sending out a tweet doesn’t make writers money, at least not directly. The Revue acquisition is intended to help Twitter writers make money, as Twitter's Kayvon Beykpour and Mike Park wrote in the announcement about the deal:
Revue will accelerate our work to help people stay informed about their interests while giving all types of writers a way to monetize their audience.
I can think of smart ways to make an integration work. For example, imagine automatically creating a tweet thread based on headings in a newsletter issue, which is something I do manually now. Likewise automatically adding ‘please subscribe’ tweets to the thread, too.
Note that this deal is the likely fallback to failed discussions to buy Substack:
Another way of looking at Substack is as a kind of Twitter Premium — a place you can pay for more content from your favorite journalists. And that synergy has caught the attention of some at Twitter itself, where the notion of acquiring the newsletter company has been discussed internally, a person familiar with the conversations said. (Executives at both companies declined to comment on the speculation, but after this column was published, Hamish McKenzie, a co-founder of Substack, tweeted that a sale to Twitter was “not going to happen.”)
But it’s not clear whether Substack will continue to be the venue of choice for all of its stars. Mr. Greenwald wrote that he’d been exploring “the feasibility of securing financing for a new outlet” that would challenge what he sees as the “groupthink” of the left in the Trump era. And roiling anger in Silicon Valley with tough media coverage of companies and investments means there are deep pools of money for a new assault on big media.
Now that Twitter has dropped the fee on Revue subscriptions to 5%, we might anticipate Substack following suit, and cutting some of the cream out of its 10% fee.
It’s clear that the trajectory is away from social networks like Facebook and Linkedin — and maybe Medium, which is a sort of Linkedin for the tech/entrepreneurial world — and toward newsletter platforms.
I’m going to keep my eye on Twitter’s Revue, but continue with Substack, transitioning Work Futures over from Medium.
Pardon our dust.
Twitter’s Revue of Monetization | M.G. Siegler:
I think Twitter’s deal to buy the newsletter startup Revue is interesting. Which I recognize is just about the least interesting thing one could say. So I’d point to two of the best newsletter writers I know: Ben Thompson and Casey Newton. In a way, both have the same general take, but with different areas of emphasis which give them a different bent. That is, both seem to think it’s generally a good idea for Twitter to try something like this given the Twitter user base and product, but whereas Casey is certain Twitter will fuck it up, Ben is just pretty sure they will.
Ben Thompson’s take is behind his newsletter paywall:
Twitter Acquires Revue, Twitter’s Opportunity, Twitter’s Achilles Heel
Twitter’s acquisition of Revue points to a huge opportunity for the company; can the company execute well enough to take advantage?
As is Casey Newton’s:
Twitter comes for Substack
There's reason to celebrate — and to worry
Which illuminates one of the downsides of newsletters: a barrier to open conversations on important issues.