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Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Substack on Monday said there are more than 1 million paid subscriptions to publications on its platform, up from about 250,000 last December.

Why it matters: Substack's growth underscores the willingness of audiences to pay for content from their favorite writers directly — a trend that's been expedited by the pandemic.

The big picture: Newsrooms and tech companies have been investing in their own newsletter platforms in an attempt to cash in on Substack's momentum.

  • But despite losing a few writers to platforms like Substack, Lede and Ghost, news executives feel mostly optimistic that Substack's success will help encourage people to get in the habit of paying for quality content, thus bolstering their own subscription efforts.
  • "I would regard anything that is about helping make the market for paid digital journalism is good," New York Times CEO Meredith Kopit Levien told investors this month. "This is still a forming market. And I would regard all efforts to get more people to think about paying for high quality journalism is a positive thing."

Substack takes a similar position. "These are subscriptions that didn’t exist before — they’re not being siphoned off from traditional media outlets or redistributed from other platforms," Substack co-founder Hamish McKenzie wrote in a blog post announcing the news milestone.

  • "They represent a rush of new money into the media ecosystem, the vast majority of it going directly to writers."

Yes, but: The independent newsletter revolution, like the blogging and social influencer eras before it, still tends to favor a small portion of top creators.

  • Substack says that the top 10 writers on Substack collectively generate $20 million in annual revenue. A year ago, the top 10 publishers made $7 million.
  • Not all newsletters charge the same amount on Substack. Most charge between $5 and $15 monthly.

Go deeper: Substack plots growing global footprint

Note: This article has been updated to reflect that the top 10 writers on Substack collectively generate $20 million in annual revenue, not $25 million.

Go deeper

Big media strikes back at Substack

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Pressure from new publishing platforms has finally pushed newsrooms to create programs that give writers more pay, autonomy and flexibility. Those changes are attracting some independent writers back to traditional news companies.

Why it matters: The Substack threat to newsrooms was overblown. Newsrooms have been quick to react to the idea of the independent-operator model while journalists have been sharing its challenges or detailing why they decided to return to newsrooms.

3 hours ago - Health

Meta removes over 600 accounts linked to COVID disinformation effort by China

Facebook's corporate headquarters campus in Menlo Park, California. Photo: Josh Edelson/AFP via Getty Images

Meta announced Wednesday it has removed over 600 Facebook and Instagram accounts linked to a Chinese influence operation that claimed the U.S. was pressuring the World Health Organization (WHO) to blame COVID on China.

Why it matters: Though Meta said the network was unsuccessful, it marks yet another COVID disinformation campaign instigated by China in an effort to discredit the U.S.

Stacey Abrams launches second campaign for Georgia governor

Photo: Eze Amos/Getty Images

Stacey Abrams, voting rights activist and former 2018 candidate for Georgia governor, is running for the position again in 2022. Abrams would be the first Black female governor in the country.

Why it matters: Abrams caught national attention in 2018 by narrowly losing an election to Republican Gov. Brian Kemp in a state held firmly by the GOP for nearly two decades.