Casey Newton recently announced that he was leaving The Verge, the website where he has covered tech industry since 2013, to write a subscription newsletter hosted by Substack, a three year old platform that is growing in popularity.

Mr. Newton is joining the ranks of journalists who have left the relative comfort of an established publication to try their luck at Substack, including the culture writer Anne Helen Petersen and political writer Matt Taibbi.

Mr. Newton, 40, said in an interview that he would start his newsletter, Platformer, next month. The time was right to go solo, he added, because of the changing relationship between readers and media outlets.

''You might follow a publication,'' Mr. Newton said, ''but it's more likely you care about an individual reporter or writer or YouTuber or Podcaster. People are increasingly willing to pay to support those people.''

Most Substack writers offer a mix of paid and free email newsletters. They make money through subscriptions, not ads.

For all the editorial freedom and entrepreneurial opportunities it offers, Substack exists at a remove from the Internet. Journalists who go the subscription route end up writing mainly for their fans, instead of tossing their work into the web, where it can be praised or torn apart by a wide variety of readers.

Edith Zimmerman, a former editor of the Hairpin, whose Substack newsletter, Drawing Links, features a slice-of-life comics, also noted the similarity between Substack writers and bloggers of yore.

“They seemed to be having fun in a way I hadn’t seen in a while,” she said. “People were creating these spaces for themselves to be goofy and a little protected from the turbulence of just throwing yourself at the entire internet.”

''We're making money because we don't have start-up costs,'' said Aleksander Chau, the Discourse blog publisher, ''But if we're going to grow into a full-fledged publication, we're going to need more robust product.''

Substack is not the only platform of its kind. Its competitors include the opensource Ghost, TinyLetter and Lede, the group that combines WordPress, the design agency Alley and the payment service Pico. 

As it matures, Substack has started behaving more like a publisher., offering editing help, health insurance and access to Getty images photographs to some writers. Ms. Petersen, who left Buzzfeed News this summer to focus on Culture Study at Substack, said she would have an editor for longer features.

And instead of giving Substack a 10 percent cut, she accepted upfront money, along with an agreement to take 15 percent of subscription revenue, for one year.

She has roughly 23,000 subscribers, more than 2,000 paid, she said. She wondered aloud if some of Substack's soloists would eventually join forces to make it easier on subscribers. “People don’t want to do this a la carte, paying for six subscriptions, Ms. Petersen said.

Mr. Best said Substack’s reliance on email - rather than social media or search engines-promoted a one-on-relationship between writers and readers, something that should be prized at a time of online noise.

“It’s not about getting the most retweets,” Mr Best said. “It’s about convincing people to part with their money because they trust you.”

He added “People will hate-read things, but they won’t hate-pay things.” 

The World Students Society thanks author Marc Tracy.


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