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…
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:
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.
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”.
The death of print student newspapers?
Boy, do I have mixed feelings on this story:
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.
- 🔫 What happened to The Drudge Report? Looks like it might be Drudge-less.
- 👴🏻 widely linked, but absolutely worth reading if you haven't seen it already: What Facebook fed the Baby Boomers
- 😤 On a related note: The political news in 173 people's Facebook feeds. I've had “control chips in vaccines”, “all COVID tests are wrong” and “the World Economic Forum wants to reset the world” in my Facebook feed (normally via comments). How about you?
- 🚆 A reminder that local news means, well, local news.
- ⛓ And we come full circle: link posts out-performing photos in the Facebook feed.
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