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When podcast met newsletter: Substack puts two hot media trends together

Substack announces a new audio feature, merging podcasts into its email newsletter platform.

When podcast met newsletter: Substack puts two hot media trends together
[Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash]

The rise and rise of podcasts continues. Just yesterday, Spotify CEO Daniel Ek stated that he’s willing to spend $500 million this year (noted as part of announcing Spotify’s acquisition of Gimlet Media and Anchor), and Himalaya, another podcast network launched  with $100 million in funding. Amid all the big money, and big media entering podcasting, there are concerns that individuals will be squeezed out of what has largely been a DIY phenomenon.

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Stepping into this potential void, Substack, a startup that heretofore has focused on helping people set up their own subscription email newsletters, is today adding audio to its suite of tools for content creators to build an audience, and be paid by that audience directly. The subscription podcasting feature works in the same way as its newsletter publishing platform, with audio posts sent out to subscribers, who can listen on Substack’s web player.

Much like Substack’s original premise with email newsletters, CEO Chris Best says that just as writers can use email newsletters to build their own personal readership and create revenue directly, now so can podcasters. “It’s better for a reader to have a direct relationship with an author, getting communication directly from them, and paying them directly,” he says. “That’s the core value of what Substack is, and we’ve thought this could work for audio content for a while.”

Just like its newsletter product, Substack gets a 10% cut of subscriber fees. Although that’s a higher fee than Patreon, many podcasters who use Patreon are often frustrated by payment processing problems and concerns that its significant funding (more than $100 million) will lead to less focus on their needs.

The first Substack user on the new audio tool is Anthony Pompliano, who publishes a popular daily email newsletter analyzing cryptocurrency news called Off The Chain, which will now include a daily podcast for subscribers. “Substack for him is this all-in-one distribution channel,” Best says, “and to be able to get his content out to people in a frictionless way is a powerful thing.”

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About the author

Jeff Beer is a staff editor at Fast Company, covering advertising, marketing, and brand creativity. He lives in Toronto.

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