Jan 4, 2024 - Business

Substack writer Eric Newcomer says his revenue surpassed $1M in 2023

Photo: Courtesy of Newcomer

Eric Newcomer, the founder and author of Newcomer, an independent newsletter covering startups and venture capital, generated more than $1 million in top-line revenue in 2023, he told Axios.

Why it matters: Newcomer joins a growing list of journalists who have been able to build up an independent media business through a newsletter platform.

Context: Newcomer left Bloomberg after six years as a technology reporter to launch his newsletter on Substack in 2020.

  • At the time, many journalists were exploring ways to go independent via newsletter startups that allowed them to build their own editorial businesses without being burdened by the tech, payments and infrastructure processes.

Details: Today, Newcomer says his media venture is profitable, and earned more than $1 million in revenue in 2023 from subscriptions to his Substack email and events.

  • That number is calculated after the 10% cut Substack takes from its writers' newsletters as the cost of using its platform.
  • The "Newcomer" newsletter has more than 75,000 free subscribers and more than 2,000 paid subscribers, he said. Subscribers pay $200 annually for access to his content, up from the $150 annually Newcomer charged at launch.
  • In addition to newsletters, Newcomer hosts an ad-supported podcast and makes money from events tied to his brand. In March, Newcomer co-hosted his first major event with the voice AI game company Volley. His second "Cerebral Valley AI Summit" with Volley in November was sponsored by HP and Oracle.
  • Newcomer said he plans to launch a wider slate of events for 2024, focusing on the intersection of startups, venture capital, and emerging technology.

Zoom in: Newcomer declined to disclose how much money he made specifically from newsletter subscriptions versus event sponsorships, but the math would suggest he makes roughly $300,000 to $400,000 on newsletter subscriptions (before Substack's cut).

  • He said his venture has "multiple hundreds of thousands of cash on hand from profits generated by the business."
  • Newcomer owns his media venture outright and hasn't raised any money to support his company. He said Substack offered him a " tiny" advance that he didn't end up taking.
  • "They did not bet on a Newcomer with a big pro deal," he said, but noted that Substack "deserves a lot of credit, especially in the beginning just for making it super easy to quit and do it."

What's next: To spearhead growth, Newcomer said he has hired his first reporter to join him, Madeline Renbarger, who covered startups and venture capital for Business Insider.

  • Renbarger becomes Newcomer's second employee. He also employs Riley Konsella to lead his business operations, which include events and sponsorships.

The big picture: While not all journalists are able to build independent businesses, many — including Casey Newton, Bill Bishop, Ben Thompson, and others — have succeeded by providing insights specifically targeted to high-end business professionals who are willing and able to pay for niche insights.

  • Newcomer says his newsletter audience is mostly technology professionals, venture capitalists, and startup founders.
  • He told Axios that he doesn't "imagine ever moving beyond that" but is looking at ways to expand his events business to more topics outside of AI, including banking and the business of gaming.
  • He doesn't imagine ever returning to a traditional newsroom.

What to watch: Substack is currently mired in a controversy over the way its executives have responded to Nazi content on the platform.

  • Some writers, including Newton, have threatened to leave the platform if Substack doesn't "remove all pro-Nazi material under its existing anti-hate policies."
  • Asked about the situation, Newcomer said, "I don't think Substack should allow pro-Nazi writers to earn money on its platform. I've written before that Substack has a responsibility to moderate its platform and this is one of those cases."
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