Why Forbes's new newsletter platform is a big deal

It's the first example of a media company trying to copy Substack's formula.

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Forbes launches massive expansion of paid newsletters

Link: [Axios]

This seems like a big deal. It's the first mainstream media company that I know of that will actually partner with writers (i.e., giving them a cut of revenue) to launch newsletters.

This aligns almost perfectly with a prediction I made at the beginning of this year. As I wrote:

2021 will be the year that publishers start to form strategies to deal with the Substack Problem. By that, I mean they’ll need to find ways to discourage their star writers from leaving to launch their own Substack newsletters. In the most likely scenario, they’ll make deals with writers to launch the newsletter under the banner of the media company. They might structure the deal so the writer gets to keep their current salary and then some percentage of the subscriber income they generate – similar to the advances and royalties that book publishers dole out. This will be enticing to the writers because they get to maintain job security while also benefiting directly from their success. They can also grow their audience much more quickly with the help of the media company. It’s a win win for both parties.

According to Axios, the initial Forbes newsletter writers will be paid a salary and a 50/50 revenue split. Currently, Substack turns over 90% of earnings to its writers, but Forbes will presumably be able to provide its marketing heft toward growing a newsletter’s audience. It’ll also sell ads within the newsletters, something Substack has sworn off.

Forbes’s success in this venture will depend largely on execution. It’s not exactly surprising that it’s the first legacy publisher to experiment with this model, considering it launched the Forbes Contributor Network a decade ago. After I shared the Axios article on social media, several people pointed out that the Forbes Contributor Network hasn’t always been great about quality control; in fact it’s been accused many times over the years for tarnishing the Forbes brand. One would hope that the magazine’s editors will be more judicious in choosing which newsletter writers to partner with.

After the Resistance, What's Next for the Crooked Media Podcasting Empire?

Link: [Hollywood Reporter]

We'll soon see whether Crooked Media can consistently replicate its success outside of politics. On the one hand, diversifying its offerings could be good for business, but I've seen plenty of media companies fail after attempting to broaden from their niche. Examples: PolicyMic, Daily Dot, Mashable.

How a leading fintech events company pivoted to virtual events

In the leadup to 2020, LendIt Fintech was hosting multiple conferences a year that attracted up to 5,000 attendees each. Then came the Covid lockdown: “In March of last year, we were faced with an existential crisis. We quickly came to the conclusion that our audience needed us now more than ever, and we couldn't wait for the return of physical events to get answers to their questions,” co-founder Bo Brustkern told me. “So we really just said, ‘all right, we're a digital media company now.’”

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Creator platforms emerge as a front in misinformation battles

Link: [Digiday]

It’s only a matter of time before extremist figures start migrating to Substack. So far the platform’s founders maintain that they want to have as little content moderation as possible, arguing that a decentralized email platform is much different than a centralized platform like Twitter or Facebook, but those founders have yet to feel the political pressure that comes when truly odious, repugnant figures are using your platform to distribute hate-filled invective. Remember, Reddit tried to resist hands-on moderation for years before finally giving in and banning lots of far-right subreddits.

Jemele Hill Builds a Podcast Network at Spotify to Elevate Black Women

Link: [Bloomberg]

Jemele Hill is a good case study in how you can now use your perch at a mainstream outlet (in her case, ESPN) as a launching pad to build out your own media brand.

Apple Mulls Podcast Subscription Service to Chase Spotify

Link: [Bloomberg]

Anybody else getting tired of reading about all the various ways that Apple is "mulling" a more aggressive podcast strategy? It was over a year ago that we first read reports that it was in talks to develop all sorts of original podcast programming, and the company still has little to show for it.

Meanwhile, Spotify and Amazon have moved at lightning speed acquiring exclusive content and building out tech products. Just consider the fact that a year ago we had no idea Amazon was planning to dive into the podcast space, and yet over the past few months it opened both Amazon Music and Audible to podcast submissions, signed a whole bunch of exclusive deals, and acquired an entire podcast network for $300 million.

I’m starting to get the sense that Apple wants to signal that it’s taking podcasts seriously, but there’s nobody at the top that’s pushing the company forward on key initiatives.

Content strategy. Audience development strategy. Monetization strategy

Learn how you can hire me to work with your organization to take its content game to the next level. [link]


Link: [Vanity Fair]

Politico's Playbook newsletter commands up to $300k a week from advertisers and generated $10 million in 2020.

Gannett aiming for 10 million digital subscriptions within five years, CEO says

Link: [USA Today]

Newspaper chains like Gannett would see a lot more success if they bundled all their newspapers into a single subscription to maximize value. In Gannett's case, including USA Today in the bundle would definitely drive a lot of subscriptions.

Can you help me with an experiment I’m running?

Normally this is the space where I’d ask you to recommend this newsletter on social media, but this time I’m doing something slightly different. Yesterday I tweeted out some encouragement for people to sign up for my newsletter with specific language that I think will make them more likely to subscribe. If you happen to have a Twitter account, could you retweet that tweet? Here’s the tweet in question.

I basically want to see if that’s a better approach than simply a generic call to action. Thanks in advance!