Essential evergreen content, the Substack revenue question and the future of student media: this week’s key links

A digital basic people still struggle with, some thoughts on the newsletter opportunity — and an influencer's façade crumbles…

Adam Tinworth
Adam Tinworth

Put your stock in evergreen content

Over the years, I've come to realise that one of the characteristics of a media company that is approaching digital maturity is understanding what the right balance is between:

  • stock (evergreen) content
  • flow (newsy, time-specific) content

This equation is informed by their audience, their subject matter and their business model, of course. But it's still an under-discussed and ill-understood topic.

Many journalists struggle with it: they became journalists to do news, dammit. Planning for long term content decisions, which deliver traffic in a steady river rather than a short-lived torrent is something that does not come naturally to them. And the fact that news reporting tends to be the route to the editor's chair exacerbates the problem.

I really need to write more about these issues, but this excellent piece from David Tvrdon catches some of the issues nicely:

The content struggle: Play the long game or chase short term gain
How to balance between investing in the long game of evergreen content and chasing the short-term gain of peak news events

What are the biggest Substack writers earning?

Guzey has done some back of the envelope calculations. The numbers show why so many people will think it worth taking a roll of the dice on going solo.

One thought: for all the talk of subscriptions fatigue, there's only one writer on that list I'm likely to pay for. Maybe two at a real push. And that suggests that we're far from saturation yet, because there are plenty of unfulfilled niches.

The most we can say about earnings of Substack’s top writers - Alexey Guzey
Substack (a) brands itself as a “place for independent writing” where the writers can “start a newsletter” and “make money from subscriptions”. Most recently, Substack was in the news for becoming the new home of several famous journalists who (often with a scandal) left the publications they were w…

Will newsletter stars get sucked in by big media's gravity?

Steven Levy takes a more sceptical look at the newsletter boom. His argument is that most big newsletter writers will go back to big news organisations when the right offer comes in:

I suspect that in the long run, star writers like Newton or the former Rolling Stone scribe Matt Taibbi, another Substack luminary, will eventually rejoin bigger publications, just as orbiting objects in space are inevitably sucked in by Earth’s gravity. Among other things, it’s simply more fun to communicate with potentially millions of readers as opposed to a few thousand paying customers.

Well, maybe. I suspect the combination of control and independence will be seductive for some, and hard to give up. And I, personally at least, find the idea of writing for a few thousand highly engaged and communicative readers much more interesting than writing for millions of "drive-bys".

When the influencer façade crumbles

An influencer couple who have built a business on telling others how to make their relationship successful… are getting divorced.

Let's be honest: I didn't particularly enjoy the tone of this piece. It's got far too much schadenfreude about it to be comfortable reading. But it does give some insight into the realities that lurk behind the façade of what the author describes as “curated authenticity”.

One might even describe it as “highly selective authenticity”.

Rachel Hollis, Mommy Blogger and Relationship Coach Is Getting A Divorce
In case you missed it, women are shook because mommy blogger (turned lifestyle guru and relationship coach) Rachel Hollis just announced that she and her husband of nearly 20 years are getting a…

The death of print student newspapers?

Boy, do I have mixed feelings on this story:

Death of student newspapers could thwart efforts to diversify the industry
Half of student titles could cease publication this year amid slashed funding. For budding journalists with no friends and family in the industry, this could severely impact their chances to start a professional career

On one hand, you wouldn't be reading these words without student print media. I began my career on Imperial's Felix, before going on to edit Queen Mary's Cub. On the other hand, I find the idea that an inability to publish print newspapers as a barrier to building a journalistic career frankly wrong. That's what's under threat here: the ability to put out print editions. The costs of running a digital student newspaper are negligible compared to the costs of running the presses.

Digital media skills are hugely in demand, so if the funding isn't there for print, throw yourselves up a really good WordPress or Ghost site, and go from there.

In fact, here's an offer: if you're running a student newspaper and want some free training for your team via Zoom on basic SEO, social and audience engagement skills, drop me a line.

Rebuilding local radio from podcasts upwards

This is a great and inspiring watch:

Lifestyle pitches wanted

Talking of lifestyle writing, a recent client are looking for pitches. They're a delightful team, and I recommend give them a pitch…

Getting to train lovely people is the best part of my job.

evergreen contentstock and flowcontent strategyinfluencerssubstack

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Adam is a lecturer, trainer and writer. He's been a blogger for over 20 years, and a journalist for more than 30. He lectures on audience strategy and engagement at City, University of London.