The durability and sustainability of the digital-newsletter model remain to be seen. Carving out new ways for writers to make money from their work is surely a good thing: the United States lost sixteen thousand newsroom jobs this year, and many mainstream publications have struggled to overcome issues like discrimination, clubbiness, and prohibitively low compensation. But whether Substack is good for writers is one question; another is whether a world in which subscription newsletters rival magazines and newspapers is a world that people want. A robust press is essential to a functioning democracy, and a cultural turn toward journalistic individualism might not be in the collective interest. It is expensive and laborious to hold powerful people and institutions to account, and, at many media organizations, any given article is the result of collaboration between writers, editors, copy editors, fact checkers, and producers.
Nothing could be far from the truth. The truth is that mainstream press is beholden to the specific agendas of polarisation and click-baits. I have seen these arguments popping up before- when the blogs were the rage and the newspapers were struggling to find their “internet model”. I have seen the major newspapers silencing independent blogs through threats and coercion. Now, in an interesting twist of fate, while the newsletter subscription business possibly has paid a huge sum for the “placement” because the lifeline for the mainstream “reputable” magazines is article commissioning. How it works in the background, remains a mystery to me. I am cynical enough to know that these ideas are not conjured out of thin air.