Journalist’s Flock to Hamish McKenzie’s Substack
“Between the collapse of newspapers, the misfortunes of digital media, and the economic wreckage of the coronavirus pandemic, writing for a living can feel like a cold, dreary, morale-sucking march to the unemployment office. And yet, there’s a hopeful sentiment heard lately in journalist circles: It feels like the beginning of the gold rush. That gold rush is Substack, Joe Pompeo writes for Vanity Fair. And a co-founder of Substack is the COO, New Zealander Hamish McKenzie.
Substack’s thousands of writers span left and right, conventional and contrarian, old media and new. It’s got reporters, academics, talking heads, political strategists, finance wonks, Christians, controversials, and crypto enthusiasts, Pompeo writes. To date, there are more than 250,000 subscriptions across the network. At the top of the ladder, tens of thousands of people pay $5 a month to read A-listers like Matt Taibbi and Andrew Sullivan or breakthrough historian Heather Cox Richardson.
When Substack launched in July 2017, McKenzie published an essay likening it to the penny newspapers that sprouted up in Victorian America, revolutionising the industry with their dirt-cheap newsstand price and cornucopia of ads. “Benjamin Day radically altered the future of journalism with a tweak to its funding model,” McKenzie wrote, referring to the publisher of the original New York Sun. “Almost two centuries later, the news industry is ready for another reinvention.”
McKenzie is the author of Insane Mode: How Elon Musk’s Tesla Sparked an Electric Revolution to End the Age of Oil.
He lives in San Francisco.
Original article by Joe Pompeo, Vanity Fair, November 18, 2020.