Substack, Media Fragmentation & PR

Peter Himler
6 min readApr 13, 2021

How the Explosion in News Creators Affect Comms Pros

It was inevitable. The ability to profit from a personal news brand through the creation and distribution of original content has gotten even easier. “We the media” started 15+ years ago with CGM/blogging and, to a lesser degree, podcasting and has evolved to the point where established journalists (with decent social followings) are jettisoning prestige jobs at venerable news organizations to go it alone. (They should also thank their employers on the way out for facilitating their large followings.)

Ben Smith, David Carr’s most worthwhile successor at The New York Times, explores the rise of new content-distribution platforms that pave the way for anyone with something to say and a dedicated following to earn a living wage. In addition to Substack, other emerging publishing platforms include Ghost, Outpost, Revue, and Lede. Smith writes:

“Substack has captivated an anxious industry because it embodies larger forces and contradictions. For one, the new media economy promises both to make some writers rich and to turn others into the content-creation equivalent of Uber drivers, even as journalists turn increasingly to labor unions to level out pay scales.”

Such prominent breakaway journalists include Casey Newton, Jessica Lessin, and Graydon Carter who respectively left The Verge, The Wall Street Journal, and Vanity Fair to start their own subscription-based newsletters. Newton’s six-month-old Platformer reportedly now has 20,000 subscribers (at $10/month). In contrast, Lessin’s The Information has many more than that (at $39/month for professionals). The Information is considered one of the most influential tech news media brands today, constantly breaking big stories.

Meanwhile, Sara Fischer who writes for another similarly-started news org Axios today reports that former VF editor Graydon Carter’s AirMail newsletter, launched in 2019, expects to employ 40 people by year’s end, up from 30 today.

Peter Himler

Founder, Flatiron Communications; President, PCNY; Editor, Medium; Blessed w/ 3 exceptional sons & a most fabulous wife; Music & tech; Maker of the sauce. #NYC