Co-founders Chris Best and Hamish McKenzie. Photo: Substack

Substack, a San Francisco-based startup that provides users with tools to publish paid (or free) subscription newsletters, has raised $2 million in seed funding.

Why it matters: The media industry has been scrambling to figure out how to pay for journalism and content, and a growing number of organizations believe subscriptions can be a solution.

Substack is betting on two content business elements: newsletters and subscriptions.

  • “Newsletters are a really good way to deliver content in a pattern,” co-founder and CEO Chris Best tells Axios. Readers can get through the entire email and be done, they come to the readers instead of the other way around, and are not dependent on algorithms to arrive. “And it’s also perhaps one of the last remaining platforms Facebook can’t touch,” added co-founder Hamish McKenzie.
  • Best and McKenzie say they and third co-founder Jairaj Sethi were inspired by successful paid newsletters like Ben Thompson’s Stratechery, whose readers are happy to pay for a consistent stream of content they find unique and valuable. “They’re paying for a trusted relationship or a trusted voice that they follow,” said Best, adding that curating content can be just as valuable to readers as producing original reporting.

But, but, but: Even though more readers are willing to pay for news, there's no guarantee that small newsletter writers will be able to build an audience and getting it to pay for content.

Substack says it’s not planning to integrate advertising features to its newsletter service, but does think about written content beyond news emails. For example, journalist Matt Taibbi is publishing his book, “The Business Secrets of Drug Dealing: Adventures of the Unidentified Black Male,” in the form of a newsletter via Substack.

Investors: The Chernin Group, Fifty Years, Zhen Fund, Garage Capital, Twitch CEO Emmett Shear, and Zynga co-founder Justin Waldron. It participated in Y Combinator's accelerator earlier this year.

Note: Axios contributor Bill Bishop is a Substack customer and early investor but had no involvement with this story. The story has been updated to add Substack's third co-founder and Bishop as an investor.

Go deeper

Republicans and Dems react to Coney Barrett's Supreme Court confirmation

President Trump stands with Judge Amy Coney Barrett after she took the constitutional oath to serve as a Supreme Court justice during a White House ceremony Monday night .Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)

President Trump said Judge Amy Coney Barrett's Senate confirmation to the Supreme Court and her subsequent taking of the constitutional oath Monday was a "momentous day," as she she vowed to serve "without any fear or favour."

  • But as Republicans applauded the third conservative justice in four years, many Democrats including Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) warned of consequences to the rush to replace the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg ahead of the Nov. 3 election, with progressives leading calls to expand the court.
Ina Fried, author of Login
40 mins ago - Science

CRISPR pioneer: "Science is on the ballot" in 2020

Photo: "Axios on HBO"

In her three decades in science, Jennifer Doudna said she has seen a gradual erosion of trust in the profession, but the recent Nobel Prize winner told "Axios on HBO" that the institution itself has been under assault from the current administration.

  • "I think science is on the ballot," Doudna said in the interview.

Why it matters: That has manifested itself in everything from how the federal government approaches climate change to the pandemic.

Ted Cruz doesn't think the Hunter Biden attacks are working

Republican Sen. Ted Cruz told "Axios on HBO" he doesn't think the Trump campaign's focus on the Biden family's business dealings are having any sway with voters.

The big picture: After watching the Trump-Biden debate with "Axios on HBO" on Thursday night, Cruz said he thought Trump had done very well. But when asked whether he thought voters were moved by the release of the Hunter Biden emails, Cruz replied, "I don't think it moves a single voter."