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The problem with Substack’s ‘platform or publisher’ conundrum: The Media Roundup

The problem with Substack’s ‘platform or publisher’ conundrum

Another day another dig at poor old Substack. This time it’s James Ball having a go in the Observer. The problem, again, is that Substack is trying to steal away big-name writers from big-name publications and ignoring everyone else in the process.

The core of the controversy for James is media-tech’s classic ‘platform or publisher conundrum.

Is it a platform for hosting newsletters and helping people discover them? Or is it a new type of publication, one that relies on stoking the culture wars to help divisive writers build devoted followings?

Well, if you’re paying people to feed the outrage engine you’re more than a platform. And you can’t blame the people that joined Substack for the easy-to-use newsletter tools if they start looking for a less controversial platform.

Traffic to UK local news sites surged in 2020, but revenue plummeted

Press Gazette is reporting an increase in traffic to local news sites in the UK last year. The top sites saw 44% more visits in 2020 than in 2019. Unfortunately there’s been no matching rise in revenue. According to AA/WAR digital revenue to local news brands was down 23.3%. Google, Facebook and some properly poor web UX are probably to blame for that.

Inside The Wall Street Journal’s push for new subscribers

Lots of subscriber chat is about retention at the moment, but The Wall Street Journal is on a subscriber acquisition spree. It debuted its ‘Trust Your Decisions’ brand marketing campaign last week, and next month will temporarily drop its paywall to let would-be subscribers see what they’re missing out on.

Introducing a new self-guided course on building memberships

Last year The Lenfest Institute partnered with the Membership Puzzle Project to launch The Membership Guide, a ‘tactical, practical guide to membership models’. Now it is offering a 13 week email course for publishers wanting to launch, grow, or develop their membership programmes.

This content originally appeared in The Media Roundup, a daily newsletter from Media Voices. Subscribe here: