Axios Pro Exclusive Content

Newsletter tech is booming

Kerry Flynn
Apr 14, 2022
Illustration of a fountain pen with a pixelated paper airplane as the nib.
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The momentum of the newsletter business is not waning as the tech products supporting the industry grow and media companies continue to invest in the medium.

Why it matters: We're a bit biased on the power of newsletters. But it's clear more investment has been going into the content and tech side of the format.

Driving the news: A recent New York Times story on Substack highlighted some data on the platform's growing business.

  • As Substack announced in November, it has more than 1 million subscribers. That's up from 50,000 in mid-2019, per the Times. Though, Substack did not disclose how many subscribers are free versus paid.
  • Substack's vice president of communications Lulu Cheng Meservey shared in a Twitter thread taking issue with the Times piece that the team has grown ninefold.
  • But it's not just Substack. Newsletter products are available across Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook, the Times noted. Publishers like Axios (obviously), Forbes, The Atlantic and the Times also have invested in growing new newsletter offerings.
  • "The only thing worse than being copied is not being copied," Substack CEO Chris Best told the Times.

State of play: Newsletters aren't new products, but they've gained renewed attention.

  • Kerry moderated a panel Wednesday featuring Front Office Sports CEO Adam White, Workweek COO Becca Sherman and 1440 Media CEO Tim Huelskamp about their newsletter businesses.
  • White says FOS put more attention on newsletters early in the pandemic and has since seen waves in consumer interest, with its newsletters close to reaching 1 million "active" subscribers.
  • Sherman, who was an early employee of the business newsletter The Hustle, says new tools have made it "so easy" to start newsletters and turn them into a business, whereas before her team was "piecing together dashboards."
  • "What's nice is there's more technology out there than ever before," White says.
  • All three executives spoke highly of beehiiv, a tech platform that provides tools for creating and monetizing newsletters.

What we're watching: Substack execs told the Times it hopes to take the company public. It raised $65 million in Series B funding in March 2021, valuing it at around $650 million.

Go deeper