A startup newsletter platform called Substack has attracted a much larger audience than CNN’s new streaming service at a fraction of the price.
The people have spoken: Independent voices are in.
Substack and CNN Plus have both made headlines in recent weeks, but the similarities between the two ventures pretty much end there.
According to Substack, which is five years old, its paid subscribers have grown in number from 50,000 in mid-2019 to more than 1 million in late 2021.
- Because Substack gives a monetizable platform to independent journalists and other writers with minimal moderation, the company has been pegged as a threat to corporate media’s profits and gatekeeping role.
- Some critics on the left have accused Substack of “platforming” dangerous bigotry and misinformation.
CNN Plus’ rollout, on the other hand, has been a disappointment to Warner Bros. Discovery, the newly formed media conglomerate that owns the network.
- In the two weeks since its much-hyped launch, the streaming network has failed to meet audience projections, leading to talk of huge funding cuts and layoffs.
THE LAST WORD
“When Substack appeared and had a run of success, news executives treated it as something traitorous and horrifying, being sure now the independents were to blame for their audience crop failures,” journalist Matt Taibbi wrote in his popular Substack newsletter in November.
- “These firms to the last were convinced their own problems were either being caused by podcasters and Substackers (who therefore must be bad), or by Fox (which, they all agree, should just be outlawed),” Taibbi continued.
- “They were making the same mistake they nearly all made with Trump, confusing symptom with cause. Yes, a few independents have done well, but that’s mainly because the overall quality level of mainstream news plunged so low so long ago, audiences were starved for anything that wasn’t rancidly, insultingly dishonest.”