Jan 26, 2021 - Economy

Newsletters are growing up and leaving the coop

Illustration of a small newsletter next to a medium-sized newsletter, followed by a large newsletter

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

After 10 months as a collection of newsletters created via Substack, the team behind the Everything Bundle is breaking out on its own with $600,000 in seed funding, its own content and newsletter software built in-house, and a refreshed brand as Every.

Why it matters: While services like Substack have made it easier than ever to start a personal newsletter and even generate income from paying subscribers, some authors are figuring out they need more than an internet connection and writing ideas to build out their business.

  • The Everything Bundle's original incarnation came last April, when solo newsletter writers Nathan Baschez and Dan Shipper decided to offer subscriptions to both of their newsletters as a bundle. They've since added other contributors and newsletters.

The big picture: After an explosion of newsletters from solo writers in the past year, a small-but-growing number are leaving Substack as they become more full-fledged media outfits whose needs when it comes to their tools are no longer served by the company.

  • Among them: Defector Media, A Media Operator, The Generalist, and Fintech Today.
  • While most cite the need for more robust feature sets to support their activities, some also find it hard to get a more flexible business model. Substack, has for example, said it does not plan on working to build tools for advertising.

Simultaneously, we're seeing experiments in how newsletter businesses are structured—and even more importantly, how writers are compensate.

How it works: At Every, which describes itself as a "writer collective," writers are autonomous, but get access to resources like editors, and content gets a quality review from Shipper and Baschez to ensure it meets basic standards.

  • Nascent writers first begin as freelance contributors to existing newsletters, and can later build their own newsletter as part of the bundle for paying subscribers.
  • In that case, Every will pay them about half of the subscriber revenue they bring in to the company, which the company determines by asking subscribers to identify which writer's work they've primarily signed up to read.
  • "We want to measure who would leave with you if you left the bundle," says Shipper to describe the metric the company refers to as "marginal churn contribution."
  • Every also works out custom minimum monthly payments with those writers if they need a guarantee to offset income they'd be losing if they pursue a newsletter. It also works out custom agreements with writers who already have an existing newsletter with a paying audience.
  • Similarly: Forbes recently announced its foray into “entrepreneurial journalism” with writer-driven newsletters that lets authors employed full-time by the company also rake in part of the revenue generated by paid subscribers.

What they’re saying: "It's always an exciting point when a company is proposing a new model to give writers a new model for writing on the internet," Bedrock Capital managing partner Eric Stromberg tells Axios of the firm's lead investment in Every.

  • "I think what Every is proposing, of building a writer collective, that’s somewhere between the New York Times and writing on Substack," adds Stromberg, who is also on the board of subscription-based sports media company The Athletic.

"We're rooting for them and were proud to host them on Substack," Substack co-founder Hamish McKenzie told Axios via email about Every's departure from the service.

The bottom line: After being unbundled into simple newsletters written by an individual writer, media companies are being re-bundled in new ways that need new tools and structures.

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